Changes are coming to Jacksonville’s City Hall at a pivotal time.
Jacksonville City Council President Tommy Hazouri got lung transplant surgery on Saturday morning. The procedure was successful, but Hazouri will be sidelined for some time.
In his stead, current Vice President Sam Newby will be acting President, and current Rules Chair Brenda Priestly-Jackson will serve as VP.
Hazouri, a former Mayor of Jacksonville, was elected to the City Council in 2015. After initial sparring with Jacksonville’s Republican Mayor Lenny Curry, the two worked together to get a pension reform referendum passed. Hazouri endorsed Curry’s reelection, and in turn Curry backed Hazouri’s bid for City Council President.
Of late, however, Hazouri had a national profile, a sought-after quote amidst the collapse of plans to host major parts of the Republican National Convention in the city.
The Council President was relieved that Jacksonville sidestepped the event, he told more than one national reporter just hours before his hospitalization.
That drama is in the rearview. However, Hazouri will be out for some time though, meaning he likely will be sidelined throughout the city’s budget process in August and beyond.
For Hazouri there is a real pathos. For the city, a certain uncertainty.
Hazouri’s goal was president even back when he ran the first time in 2015. Now, just weeks after attaining that goal, he faces an uphill battle for health and a very complicated year for Jax will see a president that barely settled in as Vice President.
If the city had not wriggled out of the RNC, Tuesday would have seen City Council consider implementing legislation that did not have the votes. For Newby, an Republican, that would have been an interesting scenario under which to wield the gavel for the first time as president.
The mayor’s office, meanwhile, has a history of testing council presidents.
Newby and Curry historically are closer than some of the others were with the mayor. But these are fast times.