To the surprise of no one plugged into Jacksonville politics, Neptune Beach City Councilor Rory Diamond is making a play for the Jacksonville City Council.
Diamond launched his campaign this week to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in District 13, after setting up a political committee (“For the Beaches”) that will offer help as needed.
Diamond, an alumnus of the George W. Bush White House, the California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger administration, and head of the charitable non-profit “K9s for Warriors,” is highly regarded among local Republicans. Florida Politics talked with him about the campaign, the future, and more Friday afternoon.
Diamond stressed, early on in the conversation, how much he loves his current role in Neptune Beach, describing serving on the local city council as a “spectacular experience.”
“This is the most fun time to be a Neptune Beach City Councilman,” Diamond says, as “we’re getting all this stuff done.”
Yet with Gulliford termed out, Diamond recognizes that there are “very big shoes to fill” — and he intends to fill them.
“Everyone across the Beaches is looking at this as the most important elected official we have,” Diamond said, as the Beaches only have one Councilor on the 19-person Jacksonville legislative body.
“The Beaches themselves are vulnerable,” Diamond said, to everything from hurricanes and flooding to “crime coming over our bridges.”
“We need someone to represent the Beaches, and that’s why I stood up — to stand for and fight for our community,” Diamond said.
Gulliford, a “longtime servant of the beaches,” has consistently “delivered” for the Beaches, Diamond notes.
That’s especially true on issues where the Beaches have needed the city to deliver on infrastructural needs, such as dune rebuilding, the Mayport Ferry, and the recurrent capital needs associated with the Jacksonville Beach Pier.
“Those were huge things that the Beaches needed, and Bill was able to get it for us,” Diamond notes.
In addition to giving Gulliford high marks, Diamond also holds Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in high esteem, saying that Curry’s program is “well-aligned with the Beaches,” and indicating support on citywide policy initiatives, including the Kids Hope Alliance — a children’s services reform measure the City Council is currently mulling, which Diamond (a member of the Jax Journey board) believes is a long overdue step to create “one entity” for youth services.
Despite a general alignment with the Mayor, Diamond — as is currently the case with Gulliford — recognizes that being the Beach Councilman requires a willingness to strike the sometimes lonely path of fighting for the Beaches to get its cut of the pie.
Beaches residents, said Diamond, send 80 percent of their tax revenue to Jacksonville.
Hurricane preparedness, drainage money, and infrastructure protection, said Diamond, are key priorities for the Beaches, a “vulnerable barrier island” for the rest of Duval.
Public safety, via a “great and strong JSO,” is another priority of Diamond’s.
Diamond stressed, throughout the interview, his love for Neptune Beach, saying he “jumped into” this race “reluctantly.”
However, a common theme emerged from local leaders who called him; they urged him to run, saying that the Beaches “need a strong person” in Jacksonville.
“A lot of them called me,” Diamond related, saying “would you stand up for the Beaches?”
And many of the heavy hitters at the Beaches back Diamond. From state Sen. Aaron Bean and state Rep. Cord Byrd to majorities of the City Councils in Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach, Diamond’s support is strong.
Diamond officially kicks off his campaign Wed. Oct. 18 at 6PM at Jacksonville Beach’s Casa Marina hotel.
Among roughly sixty “initial supporters” of note: Gary Chartrand, Marty Fiorentino, Paul Harden, Preston Haskell, Audrey Moran, John Peyton, and Wayne Weaver.
Expect robust fundraising out of the gate, followed by efficient resource deployment from strategy gurus Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, local masters of microtargeting who will have a unique opportunity to calibrate Diamond’s messaging to individual sectors of a council district where politics is as localized as anywhere in Duval County.