Knives out early in Jacksonville City Council leadership meetings

Hazouri Gulliford

While the Jacksonville City Council presidency next year is all but served up to the Jacksonville Chamber’s Aaron Bowman, the vice presidency is still in play.

Pledge meetings kicked off, months ahead of May’s vote, for those taking office in July.

All indications show the fight could prove every bit as combative as the fractious presidency race between Anna Brosche and John Crescimbeni in 2017, during which a group of Council members pledged early for Crescimbeni, claiming that Brosche couldn’t get the job done.

Observers know what happened next: Brosche cobbled together a coalition of backbenchers, taking the crown from Crescimbeni.

As Crescimbeni was VP at the time, it was an upset of protocol.

Since all past is prologue, so too is it in City Council leadership races — with Tommy Hazouri, a VP candidate, predicating (at least some) of his appeal to potential pledges who may see it as representing a change from the current dynamic.

Meetings with President-in-Waiting Bowman and former Council President Bill Gulliford Monday underscored that strategy.

During his meeting with Bowman, Hazouri noted that he didn’t see a “close relationship” between Bowman and Brosche.

Hazouri, a former Jacksonville mayor, also questioned the effectiveness of the incumbent president.

“I want to see a leader as President,” he said.

In what could be construed as a dis to Brosche’s peripatetic approach to hot-button issues — like removing Confederate monuments, an initiative that stalled after polling revealed it unpopular — Hazouri said: “You can’t just slap stuff on the wall … you have to follow up.”

Bowman also remarked he would have a “much different approach and way to do things” from certain unnamed predecessors.

While Bowman didn’t pledge to Hazouri — it’s very early in the process, he said — he did note that Hazouri backed Bowman’s VP opponent in 2017.

“You didn’t vote for me last year,” Bowman said. “What changed?”

The Hazouri meeting with Gulliford offered a more inside-baseball meta-critique of how things are done now.

Gulliford quipped that both men, who backed Crescimbeni unambiguously, were “down at the end of the dais … one more inch and you fall off.”

Hazouri and Gulliford haven’t always lined up on issues. For example, the two were at absolute loggerheads during a debate over extending LGBT protections via the city’s Human Rights Ordinance.

However, both Hazouri and Gulliford were marginalized since Brosche took the gavel in July of last year. Gulliford famously said he wouldn’t serve on a standing committee of Brosche’s; she took him up on that. And Hazouri (per a source familiar with Brosche’s thinking) campaigned harder for Crescimbeni than even Crescimbeni did for himself.

Gulliford noted that a Council president has to maintain “collegiality,” and in “time past” that has “not been seen.”

“It shouldn’t be antagonistic,” Gulliford added. “It’s a family affair.”

Of course, many families are, in fact, dysfunctional — and the race for Council VP is one in which egos will come to the fore.

In addition to Hazouri, a Democrat, Republicans Sam Newby and Danny Becton are officially in the race. Republican Scott Wilson is eyeing it carefully.

And Democrat Garrett Dennis hasn’t ruled it out.

Of those five candidates, Dennis — a Finance chair who had butt heads with the mayor’s office regularly — gained the most from the Brosche era. Brosche committed African-American Democrats on the Council, giving them control of the Finance Committee. Dennis got the chair … and was undermined by Lenny Curry‘s political and policy shops at every turn.

Much of the action deciding the presidential race last year took place outside the purview of the state’s Sunshine Laws; considerations over that have already been raised.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


  • Seber Newsome III

    January 24, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Whomever gets the President and Vice President positions on the city council, want to take down the Confederate Monuments from public property, their political career will be over in Jacksonville, as Mrs. Brosche will find out, and this includes Mayor Curry as well, if he goes along with it. On top of that, for those who care, when ever they go in front of their constituents, they will be reminded on a daily basis of their dumb decision, just like Mayor Landrieu is reminded whenever he goes somewhere in public in New Orleans, he is booed. Put up more monuments and statues in Hemming Park to famous Blacks from Jacksonville. Make it an historical park, telling all of Jacksonville’s history, since after all, it is the most historic piece of land in Jacksonville. Six Presidents have spoken there. And finally, let the people of Jacksonville, vote on this issue, then, the city council and the Mayor will bear no responsibility for the decision, it will be the will of the people!!!!

    • Frankie M.

      January 24, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      Don’t worry. Nobody is gonna remove your precious reminders of a simpler time. Maybe Germany should put up Hitler statues so the people there never forget. As a one issue voter you’re their target demographic.

      • Seber Newsome III

        January 25, 2018 at 7:55 am

        Lets pray your right.

Comments are closed.


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