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Jacksonville City Council bids farewell to the Anna Brosche presidency

Tuesday evening represents a changing of the guard for the Jacksonville City Council.

It will be President Anna Brosche’s last meeting as presiding officer. Thursday sees current VP Aaron Bowman installed as her successor.

Among the highlights of a light Tuesday legislative agenda are presentations from two task forces Brosche created: One on local civil rights history; the other on open government.

Running out of time in her year, Brosche pushed forward these ambitious task forces, attempting to get citizens to weigh in on these issues.

The end of the Brosche era will be welcome news for Mayor Lenny Curry. Brosche is being encouraged to run for mayor against her fellow Republican, who has been at odds with him since she took the gavel a year ago.

Among the Curry initiatives Brosche questioned: Kids Hope Alliance and the exploration of JEA’s market value (which she asserted was a ruse to move forward with a sale).

The Mayor is still salty about resistance from Brosche and other quarters.

In contrast, Bowman is so allied with Curry that the Mayor came out, sat with Bowman’s family, and watched Council unanimously vote for him to become President-designate, then walked out of the room after the 19-0 vote became official (there was a weak rumor of a second candidate being nominated, but that scenario did not come to pass).

The two first-term Republican legislators, thought by many outside Council to be natural allies, will represent very discrete approaches to the job.

Despite a tumultuous year, Brosche was upbeat in her assessment of her tenure.

“After learning from prior presidents that things go differently than planned or expected, I intentionally had no expectations. I enjoyed my year as President and find great joy and satisfaction in serving the people of Jacksonville,” she said.

When asked her most significant accomplishment, it was “putting the brakes on a fast-moving freight train to sell JEA.”

Indeed, the JEA experience is arguably definitive of the Brosche presidency. The Mayor’s Office, which seemed to play footsie with the idea of a sale as soon as prominent donor Tom Petway pitched privatization upon leaving the JEA Board last year, was at odds with Brosche, who sought to slow the process, forming a JEA Special Committee to explore the utility and the pros and cons of privatization.

The committee proved, for a short while, to be an irritant to the executive branch. Soon enough, the Council neutered the panel, expanding it from five hand-picked sale skeptics to a full 19 members, then stripping it of subpoena power. The dagger at the heart of the Mayor’s Office: dulled and rendered harmless.

“Besides that, I’m very proud of the historical work of the Task Force on Civil Rights History. As a general rule in life, I don’t have regrets; I go with the flow and learn at every turn.” Brosche said.

2019? She’s weighing her options. Meanwhile, Brosche expressed confidence that Bowman would “do a fine job leading council.”

Bowman, when asked to assess the Brosche era, demurred: “I’m focusing on my term and think a question about her legacy is better directed at her.”

Also, Bowman assessed the synchronicity between the Mayor and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, for which Bowman serves as VP of the JAXUSA recruitment wing.

“The Chamber, the Mayor and I all have many similar interests: downtown development, job creation, making Jacksonville a safer city, supporting and inviting business growth and good policy, etc. The Mayor and I are committed to working together so it should be an active and exciting year for our residents,” Bowman asserted.

The Council, pending appointments from Gov. Rick Scott, is short two members; they were suspended due to an alleged scheme to defraud a Small Business Administration lender.

Those Council districts shouldn’t suffer, per Bowman, who is “holding good assignments for the appointments,” with “many Council past presidents are standing by to train and mentor.”

“My committee assignments are designed to fairly represent our city and be effective at policy and legislation,” Bowman said.

One applicant for a vacancy: Chamber-connected Terrance Freeman, Bowman’s former Council aide.

Freeman lives across town from the districts, but this geographic gap does not worry the President-designate.

“Terrance would be a great Council member. I’m not involved in the selection process, but I’m sure the governor will make the best choice for our city,” Bowman said.  

As it happens, the Governor will be in Jacksonville Tuesday, right around the time Brosche convenes the Council for the last time. Time will tell if Rick Scott finally is ready to make his move, or if he will wait until a news dump late Thursday or Friday.

Worth noting: Council is on “summer break” starting July 2, meaning that any training/orientation of the new charges will have to happen sooner than later.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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