Experience, economy, environment top District 5 race


FILE PHOTO - Candidates in the Alachua County Commissioner race on stage during the Alachua County League of Cities Candidate Forum in Archer Monday Sept. 17, 2012. From left, Mike Byerly (D) running for the County Commission District 1 seat, John Martin (R) running for the County Commission District 1 seat, Jean Calderwood (R) running for the County Commission District 3 seat, Robert Hutchinson (D) running in the County Commission District 3 seat, Dean Cheshire (R) running for the County Commission District 5 seat, Charles Chestnut IV (D) running for the County Commission District 5 seat.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 5:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 5:01 p.m.

Republican Dean Cheshire has raised more money than state Rep. Charles S. “Chuck” Chestnut IV in the campaign for the District 5 Alachua County Commission seat, but Chestnut has years of political experience the first-time campaigner can't match.

Facts

Candidate Information

Dean Cheshire

Age: 30

City of residence: Gainesville

Political party: Republican

Current occupation: Business consultant and co-founder of 10VOX Entertainment

Political experience: None

Immediate family members: Wife Sarah and son Breck



Charles S. “Chuck” Chestnut IV

Age: 50

City of residence: Gainesville

Political party: Democrat

Current occupation: Manager, Chestnut Funeral Home

Political experience: State representative, six years; Gainesville city commissioner, six years

Immediate family members: Wife Tiffany Watts-Chestnut and children Ashlei and Charlie



K. Siva Prasad

Age: 75

City of residence: Gainesville

Political party: No party affiliation

Current occupation: Operating A1 Professionals Inc., a family business; retired engineer

Political experience: None

Immediate family members: Wife Deepa K. Prasad and son Ananth K. Prasad

Cheshire has never campaigned for a local government office, while Chestnut has served three terms as a state representative and six years as a Gainesville city commissioner.

Cheshire has devoted much of his professional life to 10VOX Entertainment, an Internet technology company he co-founded, and other businesses with which he has worked.

He said he decided to run for the County Commission to bring change to local government.

“This is not a career path,” he said. “I genuinely feel like I can make a difference.”

Cheshire and Chestnut also are competing with K. Siva Prasad, who is running with no party affiliation.

Prasad, a retired engineer and immigrant from India, wrote in a Gainesville Sun column that ensuring people have “the essential needs of stable home economies” — affordable health care, jobs and job security, national security and affordable education — is vital to promote a stable, growing economy at a national level. Voters can learn more about him at www.uscitizens-charterofdemands.com.

Cheshire said he has knocked on more than 1,000 doors already and has heard from voters that their top issues are Gainesville Regional Utilities' biomass plant, the local economy and taxes.

“Out of 1,000 doors, I've only heard one positive on biomass yet, and that was a GRU employee,” he said.

Regarding the local economy, he said there is a “culture of no” in county government. He said he doesn't support throwing out land-use regulations but says they should be evaluated to ensure they aren't stifling opportunity.

Of all election issues, the economy is at the top of everyone's list.

“Make no mistake, this is a pocketbook election,” he said.

As for taxes, Cheshire said the county's gas tax should be removed because its revenue has been used for purposes voters did not anticipate when they approved it.

He said he also doesn't support the “Fix Our Roads” sales surtax for road maintenance on the November ballot because he doesn't feel county leaders have proven they can be trusted to use the money appropriately.

Chestnut said he considers job creation to be a top campaign issue and recommends streamlining the permitting process for businesses. He also said the commission should consider cutting impact fees for development in half to attract businesses.

A second key issue is developing a responsible budget that meets all of the residents' needs, he said.

“We cannot leave out the folks that are less fortunate than we are,” he said.

He said he does not support the commission's decision to cut funding for the Community Agency Partnership Program, which supports local nonprofit organizations.

Cheshire also supports the CAPP program and has proposed a reinvention of it that he calls “CAPP 2.0.”

His version of the program would permit residents and businesses to deduct as much as 5 percent of their county taxes by instead donating money to local charities of their choice.

Beyond CAPP and the county budget, Chestnut said he sees the environment as a key issue and supports protecting the county's open spaces and the Alachua County Forever program for land conservation.

If elected, Chestnut said his first goal would be to select a new, highly qualified county manager.

He said he also would focus on stimulating job growth by fostering discussion among the County Commission and local municipalities on how to bring economic development to the area.

“It has to be more of a team approach to address the job issue in our county,” Chestnut said.

He said he also would aim to eliminate duplicate efforts within the county budget, maximize the county's efficiency and encourage constitutional officers to do the same.

Cheshire's goals, if elected, would be to “relieve burdens and create opportunities for citizens.”

He said he has heard great things about the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida, which is meant to encourage and support businesses.

“But Innovation Hub is the exception to the rule,” he said. “It isn't the rule itself.”

Cheshire said he thinks the county should make “common-sense adjustments” to regulations on a broader scale to reduce the burdens on businesses that want to come to the area and provide quality employment for residents.

“We've had this little petri dish of Innovation Hub to show that it can work,” he said.

As the campaigns gear up for their final efforts before Election Day, both Cheshire and Chestnut said they are emphasizing grass-roots efforts such as door-to-door canvassing to connect with voters.

Cheshire said his business experience sets him apart from his opponents.

“I think this is where our county sees itself going — the innovation economy — and it's where I'm from,” he said. “It's what I've done.”

Chestnut, meanwhile, said his experience in city and state government shows that he has the experience and leadership skills necessary to lead the county through this tough time.

“I'd just like folks to know that I've always been a candidate who listens to the citizens,” he said.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/morganwatkins26.

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