Familiar faces lining up to replace Long on County Commission


Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.

Following a slow period over the holidays, the Governor's Office has received a spate of applications for the vacant District 5 seat on the Alachua County Commission.

From Jan. 3 through Thursday, eight applicants threw their names into the ring, raising the total to 12.

The field seeking Gov. Rick Scott's appointment now includes former County Commissioner George Dekle and former Gainesville City Commissioner Jim Painter. In addition, former four-term County Commissioner Penny Wheat sent an email to county commissioners stating that she's faxed a letter to the Governor's Office expressing interest.



Wheat, a Democrat, said she plans to formally apply today.

The vacancy opened when Democrat Rodney Long resigned in December with nearly a year left on his term. Down to four members, the board has now found itself headed for deadlocked votes on some issues.

One example: On Tuesday, a vote on a maintenance agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation for a stretch of South Main Street was delayed when it was headed for a 2-2 tie.

Here is a glimpse at the most recent applicants:

Mark Cohen, 63, no party affiliation. He is the owner of a real estate firm, Eyemark Realty, according to his resume. In his application, Cohen wrote that he favored “fiscal responsibility, conservative values and smaller limited government on all levels.”

George Dekle, 65, Republican. A self-employed real estate broker, Dekle was a county commissioner from 1988 to 1992. Dekle said in his application that his business and political experience give him knowledge of county government and the local community and economy that would be valuable as a commissioner.

Walter “Wally” Grant, 51, Republican. Grant owns a small business, L and S Auto Trim. In his application, he said he felt the current majority of the board was “unfriendly to business” and the governor had an opportunity to “change the liberal make-up of our commission and encourage growth bringing new jobs to our area.”

Jerome Leckel, 60, Republican. Currently unemployed, Leckel served in the Air Force and worked in the aviation industry, according to his application. He described himself in the application as a “people person” who knows that residents want the county to “grow” and “prosper.”

James Painter, 60, Republican. Painter was a Gainesville city commissioner from 1990 to 1996 and had two stints as mayor during that time. Painter is the co-owner of Painter Masonry and serves on the Florida Works Workforce Board. His application highlighted his political experience and his knowledge of the community as a longtime resident and business owner.

Kevin Riordan, 57, Republican. A member of the county's Economic Development Advisory Committee, Riordan works in real estate and insurance sales. He was a candidate for County Commission in 2008 and has started a 2012 campaign for the District 1 seat. He said Thursday that he would end that campaign should Scott require that as a condition to be appointed. Riordan wrote that he understands the “diversity” of the community and would be “able to work in a bipartisan way.”

Seth Simmons, 29, Republican. Simmons is vice president of Beach Construction. In his application, he described himself as a “fiscal and social conservative” who believes the county needs “sound leadership” to push through the economic downturn.

Thomas Stewart, 65, Democrat. Stewart previously worked more than three decades in the auto and marine industry and now owns an apartment complex in southeast Gainesville's Historic Bed and Breakfast District. Stewart wrote that, if he were appointed, his “deep roots” in Gainesville and business experience would be assets.

The other hopefuls are Republican Michael Bowie, independent Terry Martin-Back, and Republicans Jennifer Flinn and Victor Smith.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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