Army of one: Former Jacksonville City Councilman’s wife goes rogue
Married at City Hall, Ceil Pillsbury-Schellenberg looks to bury the current mayor.

jacksonville skyline Schellenberg couple photo
' ... dead bodies around you ...'

As drama continues to swirl around Jacksonville’s Kids Hope Alliance, an until-recently peripheral local figure seeks to bring down Mayor Lenny Curry.

Ceil Pillsbury-Schellenberg, the wife of former City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, has taken a prominent role of late.

The Schellenbergs married at City Hall last year, and since then, Mrs. Pillsbury-Schellenberg has offered mayoral staffers her insights on how to improve practices.

Since KHA CEO Joe Peppers was placed on leave pending an Inspector General investigation, Pillsbury-Schellenberg (who says she brought him aboard) has gone to war with Suite 400.

On Aug. 15, Pillsbury-Schellenberg wrote Curry to drop dimes on some chief lieutenants and attempt to broker a peace between her “very good friend” Peppers and the administration, with a “way out … that will prevent significant future damage from occurring.”

A subsequent email said she wanted to remove “toxifying influences” from the administration while saying the City Council is “disgusted” with “the sales tax stunt” and former Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, who has moved aggressively into the consulting space in recent weeks.

She contends Mousa has not been fully above board.

It wasn’t just emails. Senior staffer Stephanie Burch wrote a letter memorializing a meeting with Pillsbury-Schellenberg, in which the former Councilman’s wife “rambled” and charged that Mousa and current CAO Brian Hughes “didn’t care about black people.”

From there, Pillsbury-Schellenberg took “credit for bringing VP Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump” to town. She also threatened, per Burch, to release “information” on the Mayor and his inner circle if the school sales tax referendum weren’t moved to an August vote.

A subsequent email from Aug. 20 again addressed Mousa, Hughes, and others in the “City Hall cabal.”

“You can’t see the number of dead bodies you have around you,” Pillsbury-Schellenberg told Curry.

“I won’t just play hardball with you,” Pillsbury-Schellenberg wrote. “I will teach you new ways to pitch the ball.”

“I will build that group of people you have been treating like sh!t forever into an army and we will burn those $450 an hour letters into ashes on City Hall steps,” she advised.

Of most interest, arguably: comments on Hughes. She contended he brought the “spirits” to town that increased the city’s murder rate, before describing an “unpleasant encounter” she had with Hughes.

One City Hall employee remembers the encounter differently.

Jordan Elsbury, a senior Curry staffer, said in a contemporaneous text that Pillsbury-Schellenberg was “aggressive” and blocked Hughes trying to get through a door.

Curry spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton said that Pillsbury-Schellenberg’s emails “speak for themselves by identifying a concerted effort to attack the administration with false and spurious accusations.”

Curry addressed the larger issues with the organization in comments to Florida Politics Thursday morning.

“The Inspector General notified us that day, the day the administrative leave happened, that they were conducting an investigation. That’s all we know.

“There were discussions with senior members of my team about appropriate action and the Inspector General,” Curry said, leading up to the decision to put embattled Joe Peppers on “administrative leave.”

“The city acted in the best interest of Kids Hope Alliance and the city of Jacksonville.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. 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 [email protected]


9 comments

  • Frankie M.

    August 22, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Interesting that LC & Co. happened to find out about this IG investigation a day after those texts came to light. Equally interesting even though Peppers was hired by the board of KHA LC felt no compulsion to inform them. Something smells rotten in city hall.

  • Dr. Ceil Pillsbury--Schellenberg

    August 23, 2019 at 4:39 am

    AJ thank you for the great picture to start off the awesome (free) publicity campaign. I didn’t know that I was going to become an Army of One fighting to make Mayor Lenny Curry–Do the Right Thing!–but somebody’s got to do it 🙂 Matt and my Fairy Tale love story of meeting and marrying on City Hall Steps at 11:30 at night can be found at I Do I Do There is a much cuter picture of my darling husband holding a balloon there!🎈🎂🎈
    //www.jacksonville.com/entertainmentlife/20180617/i-do-i-do-love-is-not-just-for-young-people I LOVE reading your articles every morning A.G. and it’s just a shame that you didn’t have time to ask me if the Mayor’s office was misleading you 🙁 I will try my best to address some of the bigger misrepresentations!
    Why don’t we start with the byline? I don’t want to bury the Mayor–I don’t even want to bury His Cabal–I just want them to leave and go spread their toxic influences elsewhere–except Sam. You can’t really kick Sam out of JAX–he has done some fine things for Jacksonville—he just got waylaid by Brian’s bad influence and has made some really poor decisions since he started to like Brian–Sam didn’t when we first met and he recognized the danger–and it was really sad to watch Brian’s hubris and entitlement wear off on him. Sam was one of my favorites.😢Unfortunately, I will be telling the Inspector General some of Sam’s worst missteps on Monday at 10 if anyone wants to cheer me on, send me warm wishes or shoot up some prayers 🙏🏼 Going back to the Mayor now–we can’t bury him–we have to try and rehabilitate him with good people around him!!! Very bad for business when you have unexpected changes at the top of organizations. A.G. I bet you didn’t know this–I actually have a PhD in accounting and a CPA–so it is Dr. not Mrs.😘 I care a lot about how we spend the money in JAX because there is no reason things have to be like they are for our low-resources youth–doing homework on phones that they have to find a Starbucks (LOL in their neighborhood) so they can hook up to WiFi…8 out of 10 of the Mayor’s Youth to Work Interns that I hired after the program did there homework that way😭😭😭 . Yeah– something great I can say about the Mayor–excellent work getting the kids jobs!!!! Let’s expand ASAP please. So should we go to the ridiculous assertion that “I” deserved credit for bringing VIP Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump to town. LOLOLOLOLOL–I wasn’t even here when they came–I was on my long-awaited honeymoon in Antiqua–since my extremely dedicated husband would not leave his constituents when he was still in office. I think I better hit send and see if this cuts-off. If I don’t get to write more everyone–smear jobs are a part of deciding to deal with bullies–I chose to do this for all of us–because I could–Jacksonville deserves better! Don’t believe everything they write!

    • LaYonna Sanders

      August 24, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      This is a big city with a rural no red light town mentality

  • Dr. Ceil Pillsbury--Schellenberg

    August 23, 2019 at 6:20 am

    Oh no, AG I called you AJ–I am so sorry. It was 4:39 am so I trust you will forgive me please. I also realized I used the wrong “there” when talking about their homework. I really should go to bed, but there is so much more in this letter that has to be addressed!!!!

    Back to the amazing feat I pulled off in bring the Vice President and the President’s Daughter to Jacksonville (are there any emoji’s for that?). I find this claim the funniest because, actually, arrogance is often an adjective I will hear when people discuss the City Hall Cabal, and here they are accusing me of the most ridiculous arrogance with Pence and Trump. Stephanie and I actually did discuss the P/T trip here in connection with all the things I had to choose to let go of when I decided to cross the Rubicon and stop helping all those who I was working with to “build up” Jacksonville and do something about the City Hall Cabal because they were tearing down the very city we were building up. I hope that my story may inspire you to think that an 👩🏼‍✈️👩🏼‍✈️Army of Two 👩🏼‍✈️👩🏼‍✈️will be more successful than an 👩🏼‍✈️Army of One👩🏼‍✈️. My moment of decision came the night that Tim and Sam shook down the School Board Chair–Lori Hershey–and then called her a fool. Class act there guys.😞 I just could not get past Sam, whose fortune in City of JAX earnings and pension (records request pending) have got to be close to, if they are not, a record. Here his hubris was so great he was shaking down our youth for $12,500 a month and the youth needed the new resources so badly. I knew a lot of things in my life would change that night, I would
    become a pariah and kryptonite. That is just how this goes.

    Back to the Pence/Trump Trip. I was actually fortunate enough to be involved with stuff going on at both Miller Electric and Operation New Hope which is probably why Stephanie got confused. But I withdrew from the Miller presentation team already and will talk with Operation New Hope as soon as Kevin Gay gets back. I have actually been to this rodeo once before in the 1990’s and bullies trash and intimidate those associated with you. They already started on a very strong woman who used to work for the City. Gosh, it’s 6:00. I would imagine that at least a few of you will read my replies so if you think I need to go on doing a blow by blow rebuttal, please let me know. Otherwise, I think I should focus on getting ready for Monday and the Inspector General. Please remember to try not to believe what you hear or see. When bullies start to sweat–and I am going to make them sweat–they get really ugly! All the best 🙂

    • Carol Catlett

      August 23, 2019 at 10:24 am

      I believe that this situation exemplifies the situation our world is in. I’m leaving a comment on a political site and although my husband has been involved in city politics for his entire career he is unfortunately saddled with a woman that is apolitical – my alliances come from not a position of Republican or Democrat but from my heart. I suppose this is a reflection of teaching 35 years. So coming from that perspective I can’t navigate the political landscape but I KNOW the heart of Ceil Pillsbury-Schellenberg and it is DEDICATED to helping the children and families of Jacksonville. I’ve listened to her dreams and goals for Jacksonville and even if a part of her initiatives are implemented, our city would benefit. She is an army of one fighting for a noble cause for OUR CITY! Keep fighting Ceil! David went to a sword fight with a rock and guess what?????? With God’s help who knows……..If you are reading this, then you care about our city and what is happening in it. Maybe we can starting working TOGETHER and discarding labels of R & D!!!! God Bless our city and people like Ceil that only want to make it a better place for all of its citizens. How about we replace politics for PEOPLE!!

  • Billie J Tucker

    August 23, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Ceil — I applaud you for taking on those around the Mayor. I knew Lenny before he ran for office and we did great work together to expose corruption in government. Watching him fall prey to people who have no vested interest in Jacksonville is disturbing. I remember raising my children who are now raising their own…and…there was one young lady who showed up in their lives. Her influence began to change them. Their behaviors changed and attitudes towards their parents did too. We immediately banned that relationship and our children were revived back to their original wonderful selves. That’s what we are witnessing here. Lenny and maybe Sam Mousa (you seem to know him better) have been changed from the influence of
    Brian Hughes and Tim Baker. These guys are campaign consultants and they think everything is a campaign they must WIN. Arrogance is their attitude and Jacksonville is not their focus. Their wallets are! I’ve been writing about Cronyism and Corruption in Jacksonville at my blog — http://www.eyeonjacksonville.com for over a year now. There are way too many stories associated with back room deals, bullying tactics and lack of professionalism. This MUST STOP! This isn’t Jacksonville!! This isn’t what we want Jacksonville to be. Our children deserve better. Maybe it’s time for a group — “Women for Jacksonville” — to organize and strategize on how to turn these men back to their good guy status? I thought being a mom was over with but I guess you just can’t take your “EYE” off of them for a second. Check out wwweyeonjacksonville.com and enjoy the read(s). You are NOT a woman of One. There are many of us ready to join with you to clean up our streets, our schools and our government. No matter if we are D’s R’s I’s or whatever — we all want to live where Integrity and Transparency is the key to living a peaceful life. Go forth Ceil. We the Women for Jacksonville have your back.

  • Caleb Johnson

    August 23, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Finally, somebody has the guts to stand up to these guys! It is really hard to be busting your butt trying to make a living when you read about $100,000 contracts being thrown around to cronies. You are right Frankie–the stink coming out of City Hall is growing everyday….

  • Pedro

    August 28, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    I think those of us who have lived in Jacksonville for quite some time keep wishing it would get better but as long as we keep electing corrupt politicians this is what we get!

  • Jessica

    August 29, 2019 at 5:03 am

    Dr. Pillsbury-Schellenberg,
    Love what you’re doing for Jacksonville!
    How was your meeting?

Comments are closed.


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