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A Jacksonville Perspective 

Mayor Alvin Brown

Like him or not, and most do, it quickly became evident that Alvin Brown, the mayor of Jacksonville as of July 1, 2011, is a unique politician. After my lifetime search for a politician, apart from claims, who is truly transparent, if I can trust my senses, I have found him. By the time Mayor Brown finished his presentatiion he had publically received three or four invitations to move to Fernandina when his term ends. The prevailing objective of his office i s a regular approach to improving jobs. He believes this is the only sensible approach for his office. For this to be fully effective h e believes this has to be a four county strategy, involving Duvall, St. John, Clay and Nassay Counties. Nassau, as part of his larger picture, represents 3,600 small businesses that employ about 10,000 people. When back in Jacksonville he no doubt mostly speaks a "JAX" language, but when he is with people who can see the larger picture, he talks about making Northeast Florida a destination and not just a pass-through. He is also continually aware that daily 25,000 people leave Jacksonville for daily work in one of the other three counties.

February in Jacksonville he launched a small business effort that involved 450 entrepreneurs alone. His focus is on what will lead to or generate new jobs. He is continually in active partnership with the governor and other state and local politicians. He appears to work even harder breaking new ground with those who privately have the means and resources to make things happen. His second greatest focus, education, gets another big chunk of his time. It's apparent "partnering" might be a motto for his entire office, as within education he is just as willing to partner with any and all persons or organizations that are able to break even more ground with such as mentoring students. At the same time Mayor Brown remains convinced that education is the great equalizer for all citizens.

Another emphasis for the mayor pops up pretty much every half dozen or so comments out of his mouth, and that is efforts to streamline government. He works tirelessly to redirect present efforts to be more effective and streamlined. He takes pride in not adding people or costs but making what is already there more effective. He inherited a 58 million dollar deficit. And while his own first budget still shows a 58 million dollar deficit, already since December 20% of that has been made up. It would have been easy for him to make e xtrapolations of that in political fashion, but for the mayor what is delivered is more mportant than what is promised. This discussion led to his saying, "The buck stops with the mayor."

A favorite specific project of his is improving downtown Jacksonville. Where that area used to generate revenues for 17% of the city budget, today it generates only 2%. He wants to reclaim downtown not just for the revenues, but the health of the entire city. Efforts with this have been generating a lot of synergy and a lot of energy. The short term goal is to increase 2,000 more jobs downtown by fall. His seeking commitments from business to return downtown is a first step and it is going well. An example is the largest bank in Jacksonville returning there.

Like other mayors, Alvin Brown wants to eliminate homelessness, a task easier identified than accomplished. Here it has been identified that 25% of the homeless are veterans and that is where he is springboardinf his strategy. He has enlisted a two star Navy admiral to lead these efforts. Long range they will work to end homelessness as much as possible, but initially the goal is to eradicate homelessness for veterans.

Clearly Alvin Brown is moving Jacksonville politics into the Post-modern Age. He realizes that his job is all about vision and leadership, but even more important he knows he has to find visionary leaders to make it all work. When he got on the subject of how important faith is, it started to sound like our club was sitting in an adult Bible study. He frollowed a couple of biblical faith statements where we had to fill in the blank word out loud. After we did, he paused, and then he said, "Just checking." He loved being able to identify God's sense of humor that a certified meat cutter (with Winn Dixie) is now in the mayor's office, and then he added, " take the fat out of government." Like with anything, he said, "With opportunity comes responsibility and accountability." Oh yes, he does take pride that his partnering efforts managed to keep Winn Dixie itself in Jacksonville.