Lemuel Betancourt, 47, has announced his candidacy for the Gainesville City Council Ward 3 seat currently held by Myrtle Figueras.
“Our entire community is beholden to Ms. Figueras for her dedication to our city, and her shoes will be very hard to fill,” he said. “We certainly cannot replace Ms. Figueras, but if I am elected, I will do my best to serve all our citizens.”
Figueras announced previously that she did not want to seek re-election in the Nov. 3 race.
Ward 3 includes the city’s historic African-American neighborhoods.
Born a U.S. citizen in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Betancourt graduated from West Technical High School in Cleveland, Ohio, and later earned a master’s degree in Christian education from the Christian University of Philadelphia. He is the father of three adult children.
“Growing up in Puerto Rico, I learned a lot from my father and mother,” Betancourt said in a statement to The Times. “For example, the importance and value of hard work, faith in God and perseverance. Nevertheless, life in Puerto Rico was not without challenges and struggles. Things were never handed to us on a silver platter.”
Betancourt has lived in Gainesville since 2001, when he moved to the area to open a restaurant and, subsequently, a day care center, which he operated for 10 years.
Betancourt believes his business experience lends his candidacy credibility. He is currently employed in various project management roles for an electrical industry staffing firm and is also enrolled in the networking specialist studies program at Lanier Technical College.
Betancourt said he has seven key priorities if elected: supporting seniors, maintaining public safety service levels, education, parks, balancing the city budget, keeping taxes low and making government operate more efficiently.
Betancourt has volunteered in numerous areas, including church missions, church youth outreach programs, individualized counseling for children and families and support services for immigrants.
“In humility, I seek to learn from others because I don’t claim to have all the solutions and there are always many different viewpoints to consider,” Betancourt said. “I promise to keep an open mind and to gather and attempt to understand as much information as possible before making decisions that impact our great city. If elected, my commitment will be to accessibility for all voters, full accountability, and clear transparency.”