Alachua County chairwoman responds to questionable residency claims

Public records suggest that the chair of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners may not live in her own district as required by state law, despite residency claims made over the years.

But a voter registration, driver’s license and ownership of another property co-owned with her son may provide legal cover.

Merihelen Wheeler, 70, a well-respected former school teacher with more than three decades of experience, has been praised for her continued work on environmental issues throughout the county and state well before her time in office. She has represented the county’s District 2 seat since being first elected in 2018 and is currently running for re-election unopposed.

Property records show that Wheeler, along with her husband, has claimed a homestead exemption — a property tax break that requires primary residency — for a northwest Gainesville home outside of her district since prior to being elected. The home falls within District 4, held by longtime County Commissioner Ken Cornell.

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