Jacksonville City Council Vice President Aaron Bowman made it official Monday, launching his bid for the board’s presidency.
On Friday, Bowman came away with pledges from two former council presidents and a former mayor serving on the Council.
Tradition holds that the vice president moves to the presidency, barring some unusual development, such as what happened in 2017 when Anna Brosche defeated John Crescimbeni for the top job.
Tradition looks like it will hold in this case.
Backing Bowman on Friday: the two most recent past presidents, Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with former mayor and current Councilman Tommy Hazouri, and Councilmen Doyle Carter and Matt Schellenberg.
Boyer and Anderson worked well with Mayor Lenny Curry during their presidencies; conversely, the Brosche presidency has been a divisive one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Lenny Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms, and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.
A special City Council meeting Wednesday, held at Curry’s request, was so fractious that Brosche would not recognize Curry to speak.
Bowman, a former commander of NAS Mayport, sent councilmembers a letter Monday declaring his candidacy, which boiled it down to a return to civility and order. This will be especially timely given that his year as president will be an election year for the majority of council.
Bowman’s letter urges a City Council strategic plan, to rectify what the first-term Republican calls an “undefined direction” on the 19-person legislative body.
Bowman also seeks regular meetings with all councilmembers to drill into district issues; one of the hallmarks of the current president was the marginalization of key members, such as Tommy Hazouri, Bill Gulliford, and Crescimbeni, and these meetings would seem to be a way of ensuring that all councilmembers have a voice with leadership, fostering “unity and respect.”
To that end, Bowman vows to seek board and commission candidates from councilmembers, rather than reserving selection as the prerogative of the president.
Bowman also vows to regularly meet with the mayor, continuing the “consistent communication” he has forged with Curry and his senior team as VP. Curry prioritizes downtown development and business recruitment; these also are two priorities of Bowman, who is a vice president of JAXUSA, a business recruitment arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.
Bowman also prioritizes building relationships with the Duval delegation, in order to ensure coordination of priorities at the state level.
While it’s conceivable that someone could launch a run for president against Bowman, it’s a fool’s errand.
The race for council vice president is in flux, with a number of candidates who have yet to garner significant commitments of support. But the race for the top job is all but decided with this declaration of candidacy.