Pastor Thorpe to run for County Commission
Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
Local pastor and Democrat Kevin Thorpe has registered as a candidate for the Alachua County Commission District 4 seat currently filled by Commissioner Susan Baird, which is up for grabs in November 2014.
Thorpe, 39, is the senior pastor at Faith Baptist Church of Gainesville, better known as Faith Church. He joined the congregation as a pastor in 1998 and spent a few years commuting from Jacksonville, where he was born and raised, before moving to Gainesville in 2001.
Thorpe said that, after years of working with grassroots organizations to influence policy from the outside, he is ready to help create policy from the inside as a county commissioner.
He said he started doing grassroots work around 2002 after seeing the differing levels of opportunity in Jacksonville versus Gainesville.
“After coming from a larger city such as Jacksonville and seeing that there were so many opportunities for employment and growth and development (there),” he said, “and then to come to Gainesville and not find it as plentiful as it was in Jacksonville, it just became a passion of mine to try and help families as much as possible.”
Thorpe is a member of the board of directors for a few organizations, including Gainesville HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) and the ACTION (Affiliated Congregations To Improve Our Neighborhoods) Network.
Gainesville HIPPY is a learning program that trains parents on how to be the first teacher their children have, Thorpe said, while the ACTION Network is a coalition of religious organizations that represents over 6,000 families in the Gainesville area and does community outreach in local neighborhoods.
The ACTION Network is related to PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) United Florida, a state-level organization for which he serves on the board of directors. PICO United Florida is part of the PICO National Network.
Now that he has decided to run for County Commission in 2014, Thorpe said he is doing a listening tour with local municipalities, area elected officials and community leaders that is meant to give him a better grasp of the county's needs.
He said he has to develop a broad understanding of what the community as a whole perceives as the county's strengths and weaknesses in order to determine what problems he should focus on as a candidate and potential commissioner.
“The process that I am engaged in is actually creating that agenda,” he said.
To Thorpe, becoming a commissioner is about serving the community and helping local people in a new capacity.
“I don't see it as running against her,” he said of Baird.
He sees his campaign as “running on behalf of the people.”
Morgan Watkins is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.