Mayor Alvin Brown recently spoke exclusively with the Free Press’s Lynn Jones answering questions on the past four years and advancements made during his administration. Visit www.jacksonvillefreepress.com under Politics to read what Jacksonville’s first African-American Mayor had to say about his administration and the indellible mark he left on Jacksonville, Florida.
“What has been your biggest accomplishment as Mayor of Jacksonville?”
I am proud of many accomplishments achieved during my term. I kept my promises and leave with a clear conscience that we did our best for everyone.
On the economic front, unemployment rates have been cut in half, with more and more businesses choosing to grow and expand in neighborhoods across Jacksonville. Downtown is thriving with new business and development bringing new life to our urban core.
We increased focus on education and investing in our youth, preparing our sons and daughters to be the leaders of tomorrow. We’ve exposed hundreds of kids to college life with our Learn2Earn program, many of whom would be the first in their families to seek a higher education. We connected over 600 caring adults with students in public schools with the Mayor’s Mentors program. And we provided supervised activities to help keep our young people safe and out of trouble when school is out with extended hours at parks and community centers, the Summer Urban Parks initiative and more.
We developed a hiring incentive policy that required a company to hire 40 percent of its workforce from Northwest Jacksonville. Greencore, a company based in the United Kingdom, hired more than 200 employees from Northwest Jacksonville when it expanded operations here. And we developed a public investment policy that will encourage and incentivize developers and small businesses to develop abandoned properties in neighborhoods in Northwest and East Jacksonville, increasing economic opportunity in these critical neighborhoods. And on the Westside, GE Oil & Gas is bringing 500 advanced manufacturing positions to the Cecil Commerce Center in the largest jobs deal in more than 6 years.
We’ve championed many improvements in quality of life in many neighborhoods that needed support and recognition.
With our Renew Jax initiative, we’re making key investments in housing and infrastructure that will empower neighborhoods like Sherwood Forest, Magnolia Gardens, Robinson’s Addition, Lower East Jacksonville and New Town with projects on U.S. 1, Soutel Drive, Kings Road, 13th Street, Payne Street, and Phelps and Spearing Street corridors, fulfilling promises of the past and improving the quality of life for our future.
We have partnered with our independent authorities to improve mobility of many neighborhoods across town, including significant improvements along University Boulevard and Merrill Road with Renew Arlington.
And we started the annual Mayor’s Trailblazers Awards to pay tribute to the many African-American men and women who were pioneers in their professions and have humbly served the Northeast Florida community.
In short, our city is on the move, and I am proud of the hard work and long hours my team has dedicated to the people of this city.
“How has being the Mayor of Jacksonville impacted your family – day to day life?”
Public life can be difficult for the family of an office-holder or candidate. I am grateful for my family’s patience and understanding during two campaigns and four years in office. All three of them have been very supportive. In this business, you stay busy all day long and the spotlight shines around the clock – and it’s not always flattering. I look forward to spending some quality time with them in the coming days.
“What are next steps after you leave office?”
I look forward to spending time with my wife and sons and praying about what lies ahead.
“What advice would you confer for incoming Mayor Lenny Curry?”
A mayor can’t do it alone. Leading a City takes a team effort, from both inside and outside of City Hall.
“Elaborate on your family life and why being the Mayor was an accomplishment reflective of your upbringing?”
As you know, I was raised by single mother and grandmother. I was the first in my family to go to college. I worked at Winn-Dixie stocking shelves and cutting meat when I wasn’t in class. My Pastor co-signed a loan to help me stay in school. Because of his support, and the support of many others, I graduated with Bachelors and Masters from Jacksonville University.
My education propelled me into career of public service, and molded me into the man I am today. I am truly grateful for all of the men and women who helped me along the way.
My experience is why I focus so much on encouraging next generation to pursue their education as a way to reach higher and achieve their hopes, dreams and aspirations.
“Were there individuals that you relied on for advice?”
A leader is only as good as the company he keeps. Running a city takes a team effort, and we put together a great team of individuals from diverse backgrounds that were united in their love and dedication to this city. I am very grateful to all the noble public servants who took part in my administration, who worked hard, offered great insight, and helped move this city forward.
I am also grateful to many advisors from outside City Hall who took the time to share their perspectives with me during my time in office. I’ve made many connections and am grateful for the advice from various individuals in the faith community, the nonprofit community, and the academic and business communities that have helped me in my tenure.
“How many times a month were you able to reach out to the community and document impactful results?”
Communication is key in a democracy, especially in this age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle. I challenged my team to provide a constant line of communication to inform Jacksonville residents about the great strides our city is making.
As mayor, I also put a strong focus on getting involved and connecting with the community face-to-face. To know what’s going on in these communities, you have to experience what they’re going through. That’s why my team and I personally visited residents in communities such as Washington Heights, Eureka Gardens and Cleveland Arms. That’s why we brought key service providers to the front doors of those who need their help with my Community Empowerment Days. It’s about meeting the people where they are, understanding their challenges and connecting them to the resources available in their moment of need.
“Where do see Jacksonville economy and upward growth and stability in 5 years, 10 years, etc?”
Jacksonville is truly a city on the move. Unemployment rates have been cut in half and job creation is on the rise. Downtown is beginning to thrive and more growth is on the horizon. More and more companies are recognizing Jacksonville as a destination city, choosing our corner of Florida to grow and expand business.
My team has made significant efforts to focus on critical Jacksonville neighborhoods in dire need of City investment and support. We restarted the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund to drive growth and investment in Northwest Jacksonville. In partnership with ICARE and other leaders in the faith community, we created the Community Wealth Building Task Force to help implement new community-based strategies to create new jobs, expand opportunities and reduce health and wealth disparities for neighborhoods in Council Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10. With our Renew Jax initiative, we’re making key investments in housing and infrastructure that will empower neighborhoods like Soutel Drive, Avenue B, Robinson’s Addition, New Town and U.S. 1.
We made significant progress toward investing in our port, a crucial component for future economic growth in this city. We secured congressional authorization for harbor deepening and appointed a Task Force to make recommendations to make it happen. We brought in expertise from the Brookings Institution and JP Morgan Chase to join the Global Cities Initiative, and created a regional export plan to drive future economic growth.
Working together, we helped build great energy and momentum behind Downtown Jacksonville. With great projects planned for key properties like The Shipyards, the Jacksonville Landing and the Southbank, Downtown is in a great position for dynamic growth in the next few years.
My team and I created a great foundation on which the City can continue to build and grow. Together, we have done much to unite and engage the community, moving this great city forward. It is my hope that this momentum will not be lost but continue to benefit the people of Jacksonville.
“As a man with sons and being in a leadership role, what have your sons learned from you as Mayor of Jacksonville?”
I am truly honored to have had this opportunity to serve as mayor of this great city, but my first and most important job is to be a father to my two sons – to be there for them, and to set an example.
Good fathers help build strong families, and strong families build strong neighborhoods and communities. I teach my boys the importance of character, working hard and playing by the rules, and to never give up on their dreams.
“What advice do you have for a young man/women seeking public office?”
My advice to the next generation of public leaders is to know your goals, find what motivates you, and pursue your dreams with all of your effort.
Why did you run for Mayor of Jacksonville?
I ran for the office of the mayor because I love this city. Jacksonville is my home. I am dedicated to this community, and I want it to succeed. I am proud of the record we created in the last four years and look forward to watching the momentum continue in the years ahead.