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Why Gainesville council member Sam Couvillon is running for mayor
Sam Couvillon 2020.jpg
Sam Couvillon represents Ward 1 on the Gainesville City Council.

Approaching eight years on the Gainesville City Council, Sam Couvillon told The Times he hopes his “listening ear” and council experience will help him in his bid to be the next mayor of Gainesville.

 at the Nov. 2 nonpartisan general election.

“When I heard that (Mayor Danny Dunagan) wasn’t seeking reelection, I knew it was time for me to put my hat in the race,” Couvillon, who has represented Gainesville’s Ward 1 since being elected in 2013, said.  “The mayor acts as a face for our city council. And I have the experience of working with and being on our great council, and I feel I would be a pretty good choice as mayor.”

The Gainesville mayoral post will be up for grabs in November, as two-term incumbent Danny Dungan has announced previously that he will not seek reelection.

At the Gainesville City Council meeting on April 20, he affirmed that sentiment during a 2021 State of the City address.

“My mayoral term ends in 2021, and I shall not be a candidate for mayor this year,”

he said. “No, it isn’t health-related; it’s business and just slowing down a little.”

The Gainesville mayoral post has seen some change over the past decade. Previously, the post was filled through rotating council members before it became an elected position.

Dunagan was appointed mayor by his fellow council members in January 2012 before becoming the first elected mayor in 2013. He was then re-elected in 2017. 

Couvillon said that “no one” loved the city of Gainesville more than Dunagan and he hopes that, if elected, he can continue the work he had done in the role.

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“You see how much (Dunagan) loved this city and put his all into making this a great place to be,” he said. “There’s been some good momentum from his time in office, how he worked with our council and staff and I want to further that.”

Couvillon’s term as Ward 1 council member expires in December.

Gainesville operates on a weak-mayor, strong-council system. Under that system, the mayor holds no formal authority outside the council, cannot directly appoint or remove officials and lacks veto power over council votes.

Couvillon said that familiarity with both Gainesville City Council and how the mayoral role works give him a strong foundation for his mayoral bid.

“This isn’t a case of coming in and thinking that I’m going to make massive changes or that I’m going to be the smartest person in the room,” Couvillon said. “It’s continuing to work with the wonderful council members and staff through our deliberations to put Gainesville in the best strategic position.”

Couvillon, in a press release announcing his bid, said two focuses of his campaign will be the city’s infrastructure and education.

“Undoubtedly, the largest issues facing Gainesville today are our outdated infrastructure,” Couvillon said in the release. “As mayor, my top priority will be to improve our transportation network so that your time could be spent with your family or enjoying some of the city’s newly renovated parks or library facilities.”

While Couvillon said that education is an atypical issue for a mayoral candidate, it’s an issue he plans to focus on in the coming months.

“While education may not be a typical issue for a candidate for mayor, it is a passion of mine,” he said. “I am very invested in the future of Gainesville and have spent countless hours volunteering for and being involved with the Gainesville City Schools. I will continue to work hard as your mayor to improve the quality of education for our next generation.”

Couvillon also noted that other focuses of his mayoral bid include midtown and downtown revitalization, improving quality of life in the city and enhancing public safety for all residents.

Gainesville voters will choose the city’s next mayor at the Nov. 2 nonpartisan general election.