Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn discusses leading the “Horse Capital of the World”

Mayor Guinn sat down with TV20′s Lisa Sacaccio for a “Local Leaders” segment
Mayor Guinn sat down with TV20′s Lisa Sacaccio for a “Local Leaders” segment
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 3:47 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -He’s been the Mayor of the “Horse Capital of the World” since 2011.

“All elected officials should do this,” said Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn. “I mean you’re in business, you’re a public servant. You’re there to help. I really enjoy helping the people of Ocala.”

No job is too small for Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn. Guinn mentioned, “I get calls about state problems, federal problems, problems in the county problems in the other counties and I publish my cellphone number so if you call and ask for the office of the mayor you get my cellphone.”

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Guinn said he received a phone call from a mother of a Lowell Correctional Institution inmate. She asked Guinn if he could fix some of the water fountains at the jail. After one phone call, Guinn exclaimed the answer was, “For you, I’ll get the fountains fixed.”

There is more than 400,000 people living in Marion County, and in Ocala alone there is 65,000 people; and you can tell by the lack of homes for sale and the increase in traffic.

We approved some apartments the other night,” said Guinn. “And that just continues to go go go and construction in Ocala and Marion county is just you know going full throttle.” He also mentioned, “in the daytime between the hours of 7am and 7 pm, there is a quarter of a million people in the city of Ocala.”

Even though Guinn supports expanding roadways, he doesn’t want a median down the middle of highway 200. He said, he refuses to hurt the businesses on the roadway. Guinn told TV20,

“The DOT told me ‘Well Mayor, our job is just to move traffic safely though your city.’ And so I said, ‘But my job is for them to safely pull into the parking lot and support these businesses and stimulate the economy in our city.’”

Guinn said he advocates for expanding healthcare services in the city. This include a new UF Health facility set to open next year.

“It’s not all about, but it is about money,” mentioned Guinn. ”It’s competition. So if I got patients going over here and not coming to my hospital that’s financially an issue, but at the end of the day we are supposed to all be in the business of taking care of the people that we serve.”

Guinn is also offering a solution to residents still waiting for their fire assessment fee checks. The city of Ocala charged residents an illegal fire fee tax from February 2010 to July 2020. The city hired a firm, after a judge ruled the city to pay back about 80 million dollars for collecting that money. “The Notice Company Inc.” sent out checks to repay those impacted. But many Ocala residents claim they either have not gotten their money, or their checks were cashed illegally. Mayor Kent Guinn says if you want information on your check, call City Hall and ask for Ramona.

“And she can sometimes do it within minutes,” said Guinn. So if you call city hall and say ‘hey, my check has not arrived yet, can you help me?’ Ramona can do that and has done that. And a lot of that has been paid out. I think we paid out about $60,000,000.”

Mayor Guinn also said he is confident the City will win their case over a prayer vigil, despite a partial lose at the U.S. Supreme court. Rojas vs the City of Ocala, is over a 2014 prayer vigil the City held in response to a deadly shooting. Plaintiffs argue the vigil violated the separation of church and state. Attorneys for Ocala asked the Supreme Court to end the case, but in January judges sent it back down for the lower courts. Guinn is still optimistic about the City’s case after the Supreme Court ruled last year in favor of a high school coach praying on a football field. He explained,

“I know we were right, we will be proven to be right once it comes back to the district court here In Marion County. And if it does not work out there, I’m sure it will head back to the appellate court and Supreme Court.”

Mayor Guinn was sued separately because he was a councilman at the time, but he won that case.

As for what’s ahead for Ocala, Guinn said he is focusing on making downtown Ocala a neighborhood, like Winter Park, including adding a hotel, parking garage and more residential buildings. Guinn exclaimed, “So I’m going to walk to the courthouse, I’m going to walk to the bank that I work at, I’m going to walk to dinner, I’m going to walk to the Reilly, whatever it may be.”

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