On a day of national mourning, one of Jacksonville’s greatest and most celebrated sons passed on.
Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri died Saturday, Sept. 11, at the age of 76. His final days had been spent in Hospice care at home.
That decision was made after a brief hospitalization after a lung transplant operation last summer developed complications.
Hazouri’s service to the city ran the gamut. He served multiple terms as a state legislator before a term as Mayor.
The plainspoken Hazouri, a Jackson High School alum whose voice told the tales of this city in its complexity and complications, often summed up his term in office as getting rid of the tolls and the odor.
He was not re-elected to Mayor in 1991, nor in 1995, nor thereafter. But his service went on. He went to the Duval County School Board before his fifth and final act: a late-career turn at the Jacksonville City Council, at a time when his health was betraying him even from the start of that service in 2015.
He got the most votes of any citywide candidate in that election, which otherwise was a Republican wave with the Lenny Curry machine offering a boost in other races. Hazouri’s relationship with Curry was complex and one that evolved over time.
Curry and Hazouri jousted early in their terms, but quickly found they could work together. Hazouri was key to the sale of the pension reform package, and even then he made it clear he wanted to be Council President.
Hazouri roiled many Democrats by endorsing Curry in 2019, but the dynamic held and Curry backed Hazouri as he moved toward the Presidency.
Curry lauded Hazouri as a “true Jacksonville champion.”
“Tommy, I will always value your friendship, leadership, and passion for our community. You will be dearly missed. Godspeed, my friend. My deepest sympathy and prayers are with your family,” Curry wrote on Twitter.
Hazouri’s family offered a statement, released Saturday afternoon.
“A son of Jacksonville, Tommy spent a lifetime helping his neighbors build a better community. Those who knew him understood he could not have had it any other way.”
The passing was one of light, the family contended.
“He spent his final days at peace surrounded by his family and friends; and in typical Tommy fashion, there was no shortage of laughing, reminiscing, and holding loved ones close. He is survived by his wife Carol and son Tommy Jr.”
“Tommy lived his life with a certain mantra in mind. In times of intense fury, overwhelming sorrow, or unpredictable turmoil, he always insisted people put differences aside and come together. This optimism was especially important to him in recent years,” the statement continued.
Hazouri fought battles as he saw them, memorably opposing attempts to sell JEA and the Lot J deal, as well as pushing for a fully-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance that protected LGBT rights. Those will be among his legacies on the Council.
Expect the Jacksonville City Council to name the Chambers after Hazouri Tuesday night. Matt Carlucci, a friend and ally on the Council, has introduced legislation to that effect.
Reactions from those who have worked with him and who know him are coming forth.
“The City of Jacksonville has lost a tremendous force for good in our community. Mayor Tommy Hazouri committed himself to making Jacksonville a great place to work, play, and raise a family. He was a personal friend and longtime supporter of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office,” remarked U.S. Rep. John Rutherford.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist tweeted that “Hazouri was a friend, a leader and a gentleman. He was committed to his community, his family, and public service.
“I’ll miss him greatly but he’s in a better place. God bless you buddy,” Crist added.
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson called Hazouri a “beloved leader and cherished friend.”
“He was a true statesman who embodied the very best of the American spirit,” Lawson added.
Gwen Graham tweeted: “I do not remember my life without memories of Tommy. He was a dear friend of my family and will be so missed.”
“What an amazing life. When I got into politics late in life, he couldn’t have been more welcoming or responsive,” tweeted Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser.
“Mayor Hazouri was a staple in Jacksonville politics for decades and our prayers are with his family during this difficult time,” tweeted the Republican Party of Duval County.