District 5 commissioner candidates


Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 3:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 3:57 p.m.

Republican Dean Cheshire has raised more money than state Rep. Charles S. “Chuck” Chestnut 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 BIOS

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
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, 6 years; Gainesville City Commissioner, 6 years
Immediate family members:
Wife: Tiffany Watts-Chestnut
Children: Ashlei, 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
Son: Ananth K. Prasad

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



Election coverage on Gainesville.com

Cheshire has devoted 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 much-needed 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 doesn’t support throwing out land use regulations but says they should be evaluated to ensure they aren’t stifling opportunity in the community.

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 considerably 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 who 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.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top