I can vividly recall the moment I realized how special Gainesville is. I was in Mexico for my sister’s wedding and feeling homesick for a place I’d only called home for a short time. Beyond the confusion of feeling such a strong connection to a city I barely knew, I was also aware of how different Gainesville is from the place I had always considered to be my real home: the big city of Atlanta.
With a lifetime of connections, memories, and family tied to Atlanta, why was I yearning for Gainesville? More specifically, what was making me yearn for Gainesville? As I stared across the vast horizon of the Pacific Ocean, determined to pinpoint exactly what was so special about this city, I kept coming back to the people.
Every city has people, but not every city has community, and even fewer cities authentically reflect and defend the values and characteristics of its residents. For me, the qualities which make Gainesville so special are only present because of the community and its leaders.
Like many who have grown into adulthood in Gainesville, I have struggled with our city at times. As with most other college towns, we experience issues with parking, traffic, infrastructure, and dissenting opinions regarding development. Gainesville is a notorious revolving door city, a trap even my wife, Ali, and I have almost fallen into over the last ten years.
There are times when local politics are hairy, and I question if the cost of living is really that reasonable … but my mind always comes back to the unique people who make this city what it is. People who are kind, giving, and caring. People who are unique, intelligent, and innovative. People who are progressive, people who are conservative, people who are young, and people who are old, all living within a city which is also all of those things
. There are many things that Gainesville doesn’t have, but Gainesville will always have people; the question is, what kind of people will make up our city as time goes on? How do we continue to attract the best people for Gainesville, to Gainesville? And how do we encourage them stay?