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Wangemann hits house No. 10,000 on door-to-door visits

POSTED: September 4, 2013 11:54 p.m.

It wasn’t a Publishers Clearing House moment, where an unsuspecting homeowner gets surprised with an oversized check, balloons and a bouquet of roses.

But it was a milestone, nonetheless, as Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann met with his 10,000th constituent Wednesday as part of his door-to-door journey through the city.

“Congratulations,” he said to Jennifer Puryear, handing her a gift bag and a $30 restaurant gift certificate.

“Thank you,” she said, standing inside her home in The Village subdivision off Thompson Bridge Road. “This is very nice. What a treat.”

More than three years ago, Wangemann pledged to himself to visit every home in the city.

“I had in my mind this idea, that it would be a nice thing to be able to do,” he said. “I toyed with it for several weeks (before deciding) I was going to do it.”

Along the way, one resident accused the 27-year councilman of campaigning, which “I guess, in a way, you could consider it that, but I’m more interested in my constituents and what their feelings are, in terms of issues and ideas they might have for the city,” Wangemann said.

He also is using the visits to encourage residents to attend meetings and speak at them, if they feel the need.

“I always tell them good, bad or ugly, I just love to hear from our citizens,” he said.

For the most part, he’s encountered few troubles — including no doors slammed in his face — throughout his endeavor.

“I think most people know who I am and what I am doing, and I think in general, they’re glad to see me come around,” Wangemann said.

He said his biggest fear has been a loose dog biting him.

“I got bit when I was 12 years old and ever since then, I’ve been afraid of dogs,” Wangemann said. “I try to keep my cool. Dogs can detect fear.”

On his walk through The Village, he encountered a large, black dog, barking at him as tried to walk up the driveway to a house. Wangemann held his ground, staring at the animal as he carefully edged toward the front door.

The dog followed, his barking subsiding as he went and his tail wagging.

Residents praised Wangemann for the visits, which he has planned by marking up a large city map at home.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Puryear said. “I think it’s a good, personable (effort) to have conversations and (voice) concerns.”

She didn’t have any complaints to air to Wangemann.

“Our services are good: trash pickup, recycling, the water, everything,” said Puryear, who added she serves on the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Board of Directors. “Things are good. Things are improving after going through a rough five or six years.”

Susan Prather, a neighbor of Puryear’s, said of Wangemann’s efforts, “I think it’s wonderful to get people’s ideas and opinions on things.”

Wangemann told Prather she had an “open door” to discuss anything with him.

“If I have any concerns, I’ll call you,” she said.

Prather also told him to “carry on” in his efforts, which Wangemann plans to do. He estimates he has another 3,000 or so homes to hit before he’s done.

“Wherever people live, that’s where I’m going,” he said.

He is planning his next big mission — visiting every business “to see what’s on their minds and find out perhaps how Gainesville can become a little more business-friendly.

“If we can grow the business here in Gainesville, then we can provide an adequate number of jobs.”


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