City election is Sept. 19

Three open seats were whittled down to one on the ballot.

Incumbent, Ire Bethea and Reginald Landers

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Posted September 13, 2023 | Staff report

Three seats were open in the city of Ocala government this election cycle: two on the city council and the mayoral seat. Only one city council seat, however, will be on the ballot for the Sept. 19 election.

City councilmember Kristen Dreyer did not draw opposition, so she automatically received a second term.

Only one person, Ben Marciano, filed to run for mayor after Kent Guinn, who has served as the city’s mayor for 12 years, announced in April that he would not seek reelection. Marciano will become mayor on Dec. 5.

Councilmember Ire J. Bethea Sr., who was elected to represent District 2 in 2020, drew one opponent, Reginald Landers. District 2 encompasses the city’s northwest/west neighborhoods.

It is a nonpartisan race, and all registered 37,779 voters who reside within city limits may vote in the election from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 19.

Only 3,437 city voters requested mail-in ballots, and 1,676 had returned them as of Sept. 13.

Voters can also take advantage of early voting, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 14- 16 at the Supervisor of Elections Office, 981 NE 16th St., Ocala.

Voters can find their polling place by visiting

About Bethea

“My major reason for running, period, is to bring people together,” Bethea said in a “Gazette” profile in April. “I try to make our city a better place to live, work, and prosper. Now, I know that’s a slogan used by cities, but communication is key, and, you know, a lot of times it’s how you communicate,”

A lifelong resident of Ocala, Bethea, 70, hasn’t been a dissenting voice or lone wolf on issues. He has often voted with the council on ordinances and other measures.

Bethea graduated from Ocala High School and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Saint Leo University.

He retired after a combined 30 years of service with the city of Ocala and the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County.

Bethea has continued to stay active in West Ocala over the years. He is a graduate of Leadership Ocala/Marion Alumni, Class XVII, and served on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Advisory Committee.

“Let me say this,” Bethea explained in a fatherly tone in the profile. “During your first few years on the city council, you are learning the ropes, what needs to be done. You’re learning policy, ordinances and you learn who’s who in Ocala, and things of that nature.”

Bethea says his proudest moments go back 10 years ago, when he started talking about building a library and the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place.

“I was employed by the city at that time as the recreation division head,” Bethea explained. “We took people from city management, growth management and (former) Councilwoman Mary Sue Rich down to Winter Garden to look at a state-of-the-art facility that had just been erected there. … (Later), Ms. Rich was able to talk to the council and they thought it was a great idea.”

It was a long process, but community leaders were able to see the plans through, Bethea said, adding that the talks, reports and moving parts of building a major community complex helped him better understand all that’s required to be a city representative.

Bethea was inducted into the African American Museum of Marion County in 2015. He is a Past-Polemarch of the Gainesville Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He received the Man of the Year Award in 2006 from the Alumni Chapter, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

He is chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission. He was awarded the city’s Racial Harmony & Cultural Awareness Unsung Hero Award in 2011, NAACP’s Service and Uplift to the Community Award in 2015, and the Rotary Service Above Self Award in 2019.

Family is a big part of Bethea’s life. He has been married to Gloria F. Bethea for three decades, and the couple has seven children and 12 grandchildren. One of his sons lives in Atlanta and the rest of the children live in the Ocala area.

A deacon at New St. John Missionary Baptist Church, Bethea says he likes to spend his downtime attending his grandchildren’s after-school games and, when it comes to TV, he’s less about Netflix and more about watching reruns of “Gunsmoke.’’

About Landers

Reginald Landers doesn’t consider himself a politician. The 53-year-old Ocala native has been a physical education teacher and coach for nearly three decades, the past six years at College Park Elementary School. He also is active in his church and in the West Ocala community.

Landers made his first bid for Ocala City Council District 2 in a special election in March 2020. He is on the ballot again for the same seat in the rematch with Bethea.

A Forest High School graduate, Landers has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and political science from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from National Louis University.

He is engaged to Sandra Weaver, who spends downtime with him enjoying live music and relaxing to smooth jazz.

Landers is also big into golf. When asked in a profile in April if he teaches golf, he self-deprecatingly joked that the school would be better off calling in a pro to teach his students to score a hole-in-one.

Business development has been a central focus of Landers’ platform. He has been active in civic organizations such as the West Ocala CRA, the Ocala/Marion Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership and the Greater Ocala Community Development Corporation to attract commerce to West Ocala.

“We have to be mindful of our comprehensive plan so that we are strategic in how we develop our community going forward,’’ he said in the profile earlier this year. “We have to keep that balance.”

Landers’ other affiliations include an executive committee membership with the Marion County Republican Party, and he is a vice chairperson on the board of the Ocala Housing Authority.

He is on the executive board of the Marion County Branch of the NAACP and is a deacon at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

One project he’s especially excited about?

“We are working on putting a brand new state-of-the-art economic hub in West Ocala,” he said.

The office project is planned for the Harris property on State Road 40, where the Marion County NAACP and other community groups will create an interpretive trail honoring the pioneer family.

“We’re creating the Heritage Trail in recognition of those whose shoulders we stand upon,” Landers said.

Community development, Landers said, “is key and essential to the health of not only District 2 but the overall health and well-being of the city of Ocala.”

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