Jacksonville Bold for 6.28.23: Transition time

In Jacksonville, a new status quo awaits.

The future is now for Jacksonville.

This will be the final Bold of the Lenny Curry era; by the time this newsletter picks up again after the July 4 break, Donna Deegan will be Mayor.

As you will see, lobbying firms are adapting, with Democrats brought in by two major companies. And after a victory that most pundits weren’t predicting, the city is also adjusting to a new status quo.

Exciting times await Donna Deegan — and Jacksonville.

Deegan, the first female Mayor in Jacksonville history — and the second Democrat in three decades — will be the face of the city at least for the next four years. While it’s possible to defeat an incumbent Mayor, it’s clear already that she is effortlessly eying legacy plays.

The Jaguars stadium deal will probably happen on her watch.

If City Council President Ron Salem has anything to say about it, a relocated Jacksonville jail may be in the future.

These are generational commitments, to be sure.

Deegan officially takes over Saturday after a swearing-in ceremony at the Jacksonville Center for Performing Arts. Jacksonville Bold’s A.G. Gancarski and Tributary founder Andrew Pantazi will be on First Coast News starting at 11 that morning to offer some insight into the historic moment.

Pomp and pageantry will fade in short order after that.

The new Mayor will have to introduce a budget and will likely find her first conflicts with City Council during the all-day August hearings in the Finance Committee. Hurricane season is upon us, and that creates its own set of challenges for every Mayor.

And in dealing with a supermajority GOP council, Deegan undoubtedly will be confronted by at least one 2027 re-election challenger.

Exciting times await Deegan — and Jacksonville.

Perfume pusher

Rep. Aaron Bean is currently in Congress, but this isn’t his first time in D.C. During the Sen. Connie Mack era, the Fernandina Beach Republican worked with the Legislative Studies Institute and helped him research issues like the Hatch Act.

But, as many who made the Florida-to-D.C. trip know, the city was unaffordable on that stipend, even while living in a boardinghouse in NW D.C. near the zoo. But that didn’t keep young Aaron from the sweet smell of success.

In a previous life, Aaron Bean worked in Connie Mack’s office. Image via Aaron Bean.

“Not many people know this, but I, on the weekends, would go to the mall and sell perfume. Pentagon City — I did that mall. I did the White Flint Mall. It just depends on where they wanted me. But I sold Tiffany’s perfume. And that’s what paid the bills at the time. That was $12 an hour. And back then, it’s probably the equivalent of $50 today. I mean, it was so much money. I would work all day Saturday. That would be enough money that I could pay bills,” the Congressman told The Hill.

Bean’s return to the nation’s capital took decades, with a political life largely centered in Northeast Florida and Tallahassee. The odds are good that he will never have to hawk perfume again, even though his legendary auctioneer skills are such that he’d probably be good at it.

Michael moment

A Jacksonville Republican legislator made a campaign trip Monday with Gov. Ron DeSantis to Eagle Pass, Texas, to cheer on his border policy proposals.

Rep. Kiyan Michael, an “Angel Mom” who represents the beach communities and was endorsed by DeSantis in 2022, offered strong praise for DeSantis and what she called his “boldacity” in the searing heat of the Lone Star State.

Kiyan Michael takes her praise for Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail.

“The Governor sat down (with us) back in 2019 and he sat across the table with sheriffs, looking us in the eyes and listening to our story; he wanted to hear from us what happened. And I could see that he actually cared, and we could tell a difference, all of us, when people are real and when they’re just talking, this man is real,” Michael said.

The personal endorsement continued for a few minutes.

“You’ve brought healing to our family. You have stood when others have sat down and I can tell you it takes bold, if that’s a word, to do what you have done in the state of Florida to stand up. And I can see everything that you told us you were gonna do. You have done it,” Michael said.

“I could see that you really cared, and I saw the strength of a man that was a man of conviction, but also that you would not back down from anybody. And that’s what we need as leadership in this nation, and we’re blessed to have you and now we get to share you with the whole, the rest of the U.S.”

Fighting fit

Soon-to-be former Jacksonville Mayor Curry was instrumental in getting the Ultimate Fighting Championship to come to town in 2020, when other cities were leery of doing live events during the pandemic.

In 2023, UFC returned to town … and while DeSantis didn’t see fit to mention it, former President Donald Trump made a note on Truth Social with a parting message to the Mayor who backed Trump, despite much external criticism, from the 2016 Primary season and beyond.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship comes back to Jacksonville. Image via News4Jax.

“When the rest of the Country and most of the WORLD said NO, Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville said YES and hosted UFC during the height of the pandemic. Dana White and his organization made a promise to never forget Curry’s welcome, and Dana and UFC are back again in Jacksonville for a great card today. This is what loyalty looks like. Great day for Jacksonville and UFC fans!”

Curry hasn’t endorsed in the 2024 GOP Primary, but there are strong indications that he’s more comfortable with Trump than DeSantis as a potential nominee. Though he endorsed DeSantis as a “brother from another mother” in 2018, the Curry-DeSantis co-branding has been a thing of the past in recent months, with DeSantis enemy Susie Wiles still part of Curry’s orbit as much as Trump’s.

Curry, said by those close to him to be mulling a run for Governor in 2026, is betting on the former President over DeSantis. And as has been the case throughout the 2024 GOP Presidential cycle, it seems Trump has a better sense of personal connection than the man who is only sometimes in Tallahassee.

Committee picks

Incoming Jacksonville City Council President Salem selected his Committees, finally clearing up which members of the incoming legislative body will do what come July.

Given the 14-5 Republican supermajority, GOP registrants dominate Committees, offering a counterweight to Deegan.

The impact will be especially felt on the Finance Committee, which will be chaired by Republican Nick Howland, and which has just two Democrats: former Rick Scott appointee Ju’Coby Pittman and recently elected Reggie Gaffney, Jr. GOP members include newly elected Raul Arias and Will Lahnen, along with Council VP Randy White and Kevin Carrico.

Ron Salem makes his Committee picks.

Finance will get a first look at Deegan’s budget, and changes are almost a given.

Chair of Rules is outgoing Council President Terrance Freeman and will include White, Michael Boylan and newly elected Republicans Ken Amaro, Joe Carlucci, and Chris Miller. The committee has one Democrat: newly-elected Rahman Johnson. All told, four of seven members of the Committee were just elected this year.

Moving to lesser Committees, Boylan will chair Neighborhoods. Republican members include Matt Carlucci, Freeman, Lahnen and newly elected Mike Gay. Democrats have Tyrona Clark-Murray and newcomer Jimmy Peluso.

Democrat Pittman will chair the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee, with Clark-Murray and Peluso as the other two Democrats empaneled. Matt Carlucci, Gay, Howland and Miller represent the GOP.

Carrico will chair Land Use and Zoning, another 5-2 GOP panel. Amaro, Arias, Joe Carlucci and Rory Diamond are the Republicans; Democrats are Johnson and Gaffney.

Neighborhoods and Rules are the Monday Committees. Finance, TEU, and LUZ are the Tuesday slots.

Frazier mourned

Jacksonville said farewell last weekend to a local figure who, without ever running for office, became a political giant here and in the region.

Ben Frazier, the region’s first Black television news anchor who would go on some years later to launch the Northside Coalition, died at 72 after a long bout with cancer.

The Northside Coalition took principled stances against Confederate monuments and favored the Northside and many other social equity issues.

RIP: Ben Frazier made Good Trouble. He will be missed. Image via Twitter.

Before the end of his life, Frazier addressed the United Nations, traveling to Europe to speak to the U.N. Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination about Florida’s “anti-riot” law, attempting to get global attention in his battle against the DeSantis-backed legislation.

He also challenged local attempts to stop his voice from being heard, having been arrested for issuing remarks discouraged by the Chair at a Jacksonville City Council meeting and attending a DeSantis news conference without being specifically invited.

While Frazier is by no means the only community activist to make his mark in recent years, he had the highest profile, and his passing was mourned statewide.

“Ben Frazier was a man who cared deeply about correcting injustices in his community,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said. “Ben’s voice stood out in a world that often didn’t want to hear it — but his resolve never wavered, even in the face of cancer that took his life.

“Florida Democrats mourn with Ben’s family and the people of Jacksonville,” Fried continued. “May we all be blessed with his same tireless spirit in the fight for justice.”

Mayor-elect Deegan (who valued a Frazier endorsement during her campaign) said the city won’t be the same without Frazier and called on people to redouble their effort for the causes he worked for “to give a voice to the voiceless.”

“He advocated for civil rights and equality from City Hall to the United Nations,” Deegan tweeted. “A man of integrity and conviction, Ben brought overwhelming passion to everything he did. We’ve lost a true legend.”

Frazier dealt with several personal struggles over the years, and those led to the untimely end of his broadcasting career. Despite that, he rose and found a voice for those in the community who might otherwise have been voiceless.

He is a Jacksonville original and Bold mourns his passing.

Southern slam

Fresh off a historic mayoral win, The Southern Group is bringing on Stephanie Lewis Cardozo, Deegan’s top campaign and inaugural fundraiser.

With over a decade of experience in Florida politics, Cardozo brings a wealth of campaign expertise, deep local government connections, and a winning record for clients. She will assist clients in the Northeast Florida region as the new administration prepares to take office.

Fresh off Donna Deegan’s historic mayoral win, The Southern Group is bringing on Deegan fundraiser Stephanie Lewis Cardozo.

“Stephanie has been one of the top political operatives in Florida for the past decade,” said Southern Group founder Paul Bradshaw. “The same drive and instincts that allowed her to excel in that environment will perfectly translate to help our lobbying clients.”

Deegan added, “Stephanie worked tirelessly to shape strategy and generate the resources we needed to win. Her deep knowledge of Florida’s political landscape, relentless work ethic, and boundless energy will serve her well in this new role with The Southern Group.”

Renowned for her passion for local politics and outstanding campaign results, Cardozo has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the state’s foremost political campaign strategists.

In addition to her work in Jacksonville, Cardozo has experience and deep relationships with elected officials in the Tampa Bay region. She will also assist clients at the local levels of government in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Busby to Ballard

Ballard Partners has snagged a top government affairs pro from one of the largest companies in the world.

Jenny Busby, the former head of government affairs for transportation policy at Siemens, is joining the lobbying firm as a partner in its Jacksonville and Washington, D.C. offices.

“We are delighted to have Jenny join our firm in Jacksonville and Washington,” said Brian Ballard, the founder and president of Ballard Partners. “Her extensive experience in Congress and Jacksonville city government will be especially valuable to our firm and its clients in both offices.”

Congrats to government affairs pro Jenny Busby, the latest big hire at Ballard Partners.

Busby brings years of lobbying experience to the firm. At Siemens — a multinational “everything” company with over 300,000 employees worldwide — Busby supported the Siemens Mobility business and contributed to state and local infrastructure implementation efforts.

Before joining Siemens, the Florida State University alum worked in the Public Policy & Regulation group in the D.C. office of Holland & Knight, where she was a public affairs adviser supporting clients in the transportation, local government and emerging technology space.

The Jacksonville native also served as an executive council assistant and Campaign Manager for Jacksonville City Council member and former Mayor Tommy Hazouri; as a legislative assistant to former U.S. Rep. Al Lawson; as director of operations for Gwen Graham’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign; as an assistant to former now-Rep. Allison Tant during her stint as Florida Democratic Party Chair; and as a legislative aide to former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich.

“I am honored to join Ballard Partners, and I look forward to working with Brian and the outstanding team of professionals at the firm,” Busby said.

All aboard

Thursday is one of the most anticipated dates in the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s calendar of events.

The 2023 “State of the Authority” event, predicated on a “First Coast Forward” theme, will feature JTA CEO Nat Ford and Clyde Higgs, CEO of the Atlanta Beltline.

Higgs will “speak to his years of experience with the Atlanta Beltline project and how it relates to Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail as well as the aspects of economic development, real estate, intellectual property, and strategic planning around a project of this nature,” per a release from JTA.

Find out how JTA is doing at the ‘State of the Authority’ event. Image via Facebook.

This year’s event will be at the Downtown Marriott. Doors open at 11 a.m., and the speakers start at 11:50. For questions or directions, please contact John Finotti at (904) 891-3867 or [email protected].

Beach boost

Many people will celebrate Independence Day at the Beach. But how many will help with the cleanup the day after?

That’s the question raised by the city of Jacksonville’s call for volunteers on July 5, teaming up with Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol for the annual Beaches Cleanup.

“Last year, 229 volunteers invested 448 hours of their time in collecting 229 bags or 4,580 pounds of debris,” notes a COJ release.

When July 4 ends, the beach cleanup begins. Image via COJ.

The cleanup starts at 7 a.m. and runs for two hours, with staging stations where Atlantic Boulevard, Beach Boulevard, and Seagate Avenue terminate at the ocean. Advanced registration? Not required.

“Participants must be at least 18 or accompanied by an adult, should wear sturdy footwear and sun protection, and should bring their own drinking water. The cleanups will only be canceled in the event of inclement weather,” the city notes.

Phoenix rising

Nonstop flights are headed to Arizona starting Nov. 5, with an Airbus A320 bound for Phoenix daily and a return flight every night.

“American Airlines is excited to launch new nonstop service between Jacksonville International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport this November,” said Philippe Puech, American Airlines Director of Short-Haul Network Planning. “With service to eight destinations from JAX, American is delighted to offer customers expanded access to our global network as they begin to plan a winter getaway.”

American Airlines takes Jacksonville to a place even hotter. Image via AP.

“This nonstop flight will not only link us to our largest unserved market, but it will also offer excellent connecting opportunities for passengers,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) CEO Mark VanLoh said. “American Airlines has given Northeast Florida travelers an opportunity to trade in humidity for the desert heat.”

Mayo Clinic patients should significantly benefit, given the campuses in both cities.

“We are excited Jacksonville will be conveniently and expeditiously connected with Phoenix through this nonstop service on American Airlines, creating efficient travel between two of Mayo Clinic’s premier destination medical centers,” said Kent Thielen, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Now hiring

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office still fills openings and offers bonuses for three key positions.

Corrections officer recruits are eligible for a $10,000 bonus, and the hire date is 9/11 — when a training class is slated to start. Apply before Aug. 9 at JoinJSO.com if interested.

Help wanted.

Community service officers and 911 emergency communication officers each qualify for $5,000 bonuses. The latter position is a civilian role.

JSO is open to applications from those 18 years of age and older. No experience is needed, meaning that even recent high school graduates have a pathway toward meaningful and sustainable work toward Jacksonville’s public safety mission.

YMCA foster care

Family Support Services Duval and Nassau counties and the First Coast YMCA are offering a new program in support of foster families across the First Coast.

Family Support Services is sending Foster Parent Partnership e-cards to more than 600 foster families licensed with the agency in Duval and Nassau counties, providing discounted memberships at their local First Coast YMCA.

“Family Support Services and the First Coast YMCA are aligned in our missions to support our First Coast families and build stronger communities,” says Leigh Ann Luttrell, Community Engagement Manager for FSS. “We’re thankful for this opportunity to provide our families a new network for fun, health and connection through this ongoing friendship with the Y.”

Family Support Services and the First Coast YMCA offers a program for foster families across the First Coast.

To participate, FSS-licensed foster families must show their Foster Parent Partnership e-card to the Welcome Center staff at any First Coast YMCA branch in Duval or Nassau counties to receive the special discount. Good for six months at a time, FSS-licensed foster families will receive new e-cards from the agency if they continue their licensure in good standing.

Go to familysupport.org to learn more about Family Support Services and how to support children in the system of care.

Girl Power

The United Soccer League is launching the USL Super League, a professional women’s soccer league, in eight markets in 2024, including Tampa Bay, with five more franchises ready to join the league as soon as 2025, including Jacksonville.

Last Thursday, JAX USL, the group launching a professional men’s team, officially launched the women’s team with an event at the River Club. Among the speakers is Deegan, the first woman elected Mayor of Jacksonville.

Are you ready for some football?

The parallels between Deegan’s historic accomplishment and the potential for the USL Super League to provide a pathway to the pros for young soccer hopefuls on the First Coast is evident.

“It’s great to see some of these young women who were sitting out in the audience today thinking, ‘I could be the next one that’s going to be a professional women’s athlete,’” Deegan said.” I think that’s fantastic.”

The club announced the addition of Becky Burleigh as a consultant. Burleigh won three national championships as a college coach, two at Barry College at the NAIA level and one as the head coach at Florida. She will be leaned on to help guide the club culture and identify the right coaching talent and leadership to help make the women’s club a destination for women in soccer.

“Honestly, it’s getting the right people,” Burleigh said. “But then it’s also creating some systems and creating some structure, some infrastructure, to where everyone understands and they’re operating in their sweet spots. And that sounds easy. But it’s really a complicated process. And it’s really intentional. I think that’s the big thing is, can you be intentional with the people you hire?”

The club has two milestones expected in the coming months: the announcement of a site for a soccer stadium, expected to be 15,000-20,000 in capacity and the announcement of the club’s brand, to include team name, colors and crest. After that, key administrators, like a sporting director, general manager and head coaches, will be added.

The club has already begun taking deposits for season tickets.

And when the women’s team kicks a ball in competition for the first time, it will be the first time a women’s professional team has called Jacksonville home.

Editor’s note: Cole Pepper, who wrote the section, emceed the event and is a consultant for JAX USL.

Staff Reports


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