Posted: Wednesday, September 4th 2013 at 10:29pm
Gainesville Councilman passes milestone and plans to keep knocking
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE - Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann climbed several steps, set the brightly colored gift bags on the porch landing, approached the door and knocked - something he had done 9,999 times over the past 37 months.
However, today's rap on the raised-panel front door of the home on Village Court just off Thompson Bridge Road in one of the city's northernmost subdivisions represented a milestone.
This Gainesville resident was about to receive the 10,000th hand-written, hand-delivered invitation to attend a city council meeting from the 61-year-old city councilman.
It was apparent that the home was in the process of being remodeled. The young man answering Wangemann's knock said he would get the owner.
Homeowner Jennifer Puryear came to the door and reacted with surprise: she knew Wangemann. Puryear is a citizen board member of the Gainesville Park and Recreation Agency, but by shear coincidence she was receiving Wangemann's 10,000th visit.
"Congratulations!" Wangemann said to the startled Puryear. "You're number 10,000!"
"This, this is your 10,000th visit? And we haven't had a shower today!" Puryear said, laughing heartily and holding her young son, Zach.
Wangemann then asked his usual question as he handed Puryear his hand-written invitation to attend a city council meeting: "Do you have any concerns about your local government?".
At the previous evening's City Council meeting, two recent invitees had taken Wangemann's invitation to heart and were in the audience. They live in the Lanier Club Apartments.
Jean Maddox and Sarah Swoszowski were recognized by Wangemann and said they appreciated receiving his personal invitation to attend. Wangemann later stated that only about two percent of those whom he invites actually attend a council meeting.
Mathematically, that means that only two hundred people have responded, but that's two hundred more than were expected, Wangemann points out.
First elected to the Council in 1986, Wangemann is running unopposed in the November 5th election to represent Ward 4, and hopes to use the time that he might have spent at campaign events to visit the remainder of the estimated 14,000 addresses within Gainesville city limits.
"I have plans to keep on going," Wangemann says. "I figure another year-and-a-half I'll be totally completed with residences in Gainesville."
Today Wangemann was being chauffeured by his bride of 38 years, Judy. He walks whenever practical.
Asked why he would attempt such a monumental task, Wangemann said, "I thought...I could actually get to know them face-to-face. I could get to know something of their way of thinking on city government issues."
"That's been very helpful to me...it's helped me to know which way to vote on certain issues."
Wangemann said that he had yet to experience any hostile receptions from those whom he had visited. His biggest challenge, he admitted, was with dogs.
As if on cue, a large dog suddenly appeared as Wangemann made his way toward visit #10,001. But with the aplomb gained by 10,000 previous visits, Wangemann and the canine were soon walking in harmony toward the front door, one visit closer to the councilman's goal.
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