Former Jacksonville mayors see no issue with Brian Hughes helming DIA

Brian Hughes

A familiar face is assuming the helm of Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority, if only in a transitional role.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s chief of staff Brian Hughes will assume the interim CEO role, while pulling double duty as chief of staff until a new permanent DIA head is found.

Though many members of the community saw a potential conflict of interest, with the mayor’s right hand man now in a position to push for approval of various big-ticket projects being considered in Jacksonville (a new convention center, the Berkman re-development, and new development at the sports complex), Curry and a number of former mayors we talked to Wednesday evening did not see it that way.

“Unanimous vote. We need a strong interim in while we do a national search so we can keep kicking ass downtown,” Curry said.

Curry’s predecessors in office likewise thought Hughes would be fine in a transitional role.

Former Mayor Tommy Hazouri said it was “fine” that Hughes was there “in the interim.”

“They made a quick decision and hopefully they’ll get a new director before long,” Hazouri said.

Former Mayor Alvin Brown, Curry’s immediate predecessor in office, said “the DIA Board knows the policy in terms of handling those types of appointments, so I’ll leave it to them.”

“It’s an independent body and it’s up to the board,” Brown said.

Florida Politics asked Brown if he could have gotten away with such a move.

“I think if I made that decision, you know, we’d set it up,” Brown said. “As the Mayor who created the DIA, I think the board is following public policy and I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

Former Mayor John Peyton — the 2018 Jax Chamber Chair — can “certainly understand on an interim basis wanting somebody from the Mayor’s Office to be involved.”

Peyton believes the Hughes appointment could be a “good sign.”

“If they’re going to do a search, there’s nothing wrong with bridging the gap. I’m glad the Mayor’s staying close to it,” Peyton said.

And former Mayor John Delaney likewise saw the move as a beneficial bridge.

“He’s a brilliant guy, he’s a political savant, and I think he wants to get some administrative background, to understand how the city works,” Delaney offered. “We’ll see how it turns out.”

“The Mayor’s made some good picks of people, and he has a lot of confidence in Brian,” Delaney added.

There was one dissenting voice, though not that of a former mayor, but a potential future mayor: former Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche.

“Shocking,” Brosche quipped.

When asked if Hughes presented a conflict of interest, Brosche said “seems like it, but we’ll see,” noting the interim tag.

“Seems like there might have been some other options,” Brosche said. “We’re going to see how it goes.”

Brosche will decide on mayor between now and January, she said.

Brosche’s Council colleague, John Crescimbeni, noted that there was precedent for a mayoral senior staffer assuming interim positions, citing Mike Weinstein‘s willingness and ability to perform in different roles.

One thing is for certain: DIA meetings will take on heightened interest, with Curry’s right hand man taking over six months before city elections.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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