Full disclosure: I have known Chris Hand for a quarter century We met during the local competition of the Citizen Bee, a history and social studies competition held by the Close Up Foundation. We advanced to State, then to Nationals. Then our paths diverged until a few years ago, when he became Alvin Brown‘s chief of staff and I was a journalist for Folio Weekly here in Jacksonville.
Over the past few years, Chris and I have reconnected. On many occasions, we’ve had spirited debates on the issues of the day, whether over a political point or a disagreement about something I wrote. Jacksonville is a small town, and I expect Chris will be a friend for life.
With that in mind, I was a bit floored when I heard his departure from City Hall is imminent. Not as in it’s happening tomorrow, but as in it’s happening at all.
Chris forwarded me the email he sent his colleagues, and it’s as gracious as most communications with him are (well, except the ones where he is calling someone out).
“A while ago, I let Mayor Brown know that while he had a two-term limit as Mayor, I had a one-term limit as Chief of Staff. While I have treasured the opportunity to serve the people of Jacksonville, I have been doing this all-consuming job longer than any other chief of staff in recent history, and am ready to move on in time for the second term,” Hand wrote. “I stayed for longer than I originally planned to help keep retirement reform and other strategic priorities moving down the field, but four years seems like the right time for my family and me to take the next step in my life and career.
“While I do not yet know my exact departure date before the second term, I will keep you posted. And I wanted to let each of you know how much I have treasured the opportunity to work with you. The City of Jacksonville is very blessed to have dedicated public servants like yourselves working on behalf of our community. Thank you very much for all that you do to make Jacksonville a better place to live and work. You’re amazing people who I feel very fortunate to call both friends and colleagues. I will enjoy every last minute that we have to work together before I depart.”
Questions are swirling as to who might replace him, should Brown be re-elected to a second term. Some have floated the name of Karen Bowling, but my sources discount that possibility. As well, the name of Bill Bishop almost certainly will be in the mix. And reliable sources have floated the name of Stephen Joost as well, the Republican Councilman who endorsed of Brown some weeks back.
If Brown is re-elected, Bishop would seem to be an obvious choice, as a former council president who knows city government as well as anyone. Neither Bishop nor Brown seemed willing to commit to such a move during Thursday afternoon’s endorsement event. Questions are swirling about a possible quid pro quo related to Bishop’s endorsement, however.