Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been an active candidate for re-election since Wednesday; on Thursday, he discussed why he’s going for four more years.
One reason he offered: “to keep fighting for things I told people I’d fight for,” including public safety, resources for children, and a tangible commitment to all of Jacksonville.
Curry stresses that commitment to historically underserved areas, such as the Eastside and the Northwest Quadrant, has been something he has sought to remedy since his first campaign.
“A lot of broken promises” was how Curry described the approach of many of his predecessors. “Truly over the years there hasn’t been attention … equitable investments for the entire city.”
Curry has learned these lessons experientially, via getting “out of the offices and into neighborhoods,” he said, where “good people” are dealing with tough circumstances, all the while “working their asses off for their families … scraping and scrapping.”
Indeed, this battle for the forgotten neighborhoods of Jacksonville, and the men and women in them, animates Curry.
“I have met too many families that want the best for their children,” and right now, Curry says, “there’s no way. It makes me emotional, frustrated.”
“I promised action, to get things done,” he said.
And yet, there is work to do.
An ad a political committee associated with him (“Jacksonville on the Rise“) put out this week touts investments in public safety, and investments in children’s programs; however, the city is still plagued by a rising murder rate.
“I’m not satisfied,” Curry said, “but the only way you get better is to take action. We’ve added police, reformed kids’ programs, and are going to continue to take action.”
The murder rate, particularly among children, troubles Curry the most. He said that if he could accomplish any single goal, it would be that there would “not be another single child injured or killed by violence.”
There is a lot of work to do to get there, of course.
Beyond the public safety question, Curry recognizes that there are many other things left for him to do.
“Running government isn’t a glamorous business,” Curry said, “but it’s a necessary one.”
And one with many components.
Curry, throughout the interview, set himself apart from certain other elected officials who offer “grand plans” without a way to fulfill them, and just “spew talking points.”
Among his goals: to “protect taxpayer assets” and to “do for taxpayers what we set out to do.”
Sometimes, he allowed, there can be risk involved, as with the current discussion of JEA valuation.
“Anytime you take action,” Curry said, “there are people who are going to criticize.”
That’s not new to him: he saw similar dynamics in both the pension reform push (“a risk I was willing to carry”) and the children’s program reforms via the Kids Hope Alliance (“a risk that was worth it.”)
In the case of JEA, Curry believes it “would be irresponsible for elected officials not to understand the value of [that] asset,” especially given that it has “nearly doubled in value” in recent years.
“Many elected officials are afraid to have real conversations with people,” Curry said.
He’s not one of them.
“I have no desire to be a career politician,” Curry said, and that frees him up for “adult conversations” about how the city should look at both assets and liabilities.
Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, has been able to build a bridge to Tallahassee; at this writing, it’s looking very possible that the city may get $12.5 million from the state for its Talleyrand Connector project.
Curry attributes the city’s increased ability to argue for its priorities in the state capital to relationships, including Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Rep. Travis Cummings.
“Without their belief in what we’re doing in this city,” Curry said, such meaningful investments wouldn’t be possible.
Curry is ramping up a re-election campaign much earlier than his immediate predecessor did, and well before real opposition emerges.
It is possible that potential opponents missed their window.
Curry, cognizant of the reality that messaging is perpetual for an office holder, is already making the affirmative case for his re-election.