GAINESVILLE - The Gainesville City Council met in regular session Tuesday night just as the polls for the General Election were closing, and two commissioners expressed their dismay in what turned out to be an extremely low turnout for a municipal election.
Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras told fellow council members she had hoped for a better response at the polls, especially since this was the first time Gainesville voters elected a mayor. (Historically, elected council members have rotated to serve in the mayor's post.)
"It does really dishearten me because so few people will choose to go vote." said Figueras. "That bothers me drastically."
Four people ran for mayor in the first-ever contested race and 1,850 registered voters out of 13,814 cast ballot - a 13.4% turnout. Danny Dunagan, a former city councilman who has served in the mayor's post, won the election with almost 62% of the votes.
Councilman George Wangemann said he wished the mayor's election was the same year as statewide or national elections.
"I can just about guarantee that you'd see the numbers of people who vote go way up if you had the city elections in the even-numbered years."
Wangemann pointed out that state law sets municipal elections during the "off-year," and it would take a move of the state legislature to get things aligned differently.
"Good luck on getting that changed, then," said Wangemann.