Ire Bethea stresses a cooperative approach to city government

The incumbent Ocala City Council member is running for re-election on Sept. 19.

Home » Politics
Posted April 20, 2023 | By Julie Garisto

Ire Bethea [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Collaboration and community are priorities for Councilmember Ire J. Bethea Sr., who was elected to represent District 2 on the Ocala City Council in 2020. His district encompasses the city’s northwest/west neighborhoods.

“My major reason for running, period, is to bring people together,” he said. “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. He’s running for re-election in the non-partisan election scheduled for Sept. 19.

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 he served on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Advisory Committee.

“Let me say this,” Bethea explained in a fatherly tone. “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 also 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.’’

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