Alvin Brown took the oath of office today as mayor of Jacksonville and offered a spirited account of his vision for the Florida city.
The crowd at the city’s convention center was large — 3,000 people, by one estimate — and enthusiastic, with citizens lining up hours early to get admission to the ceremony.
Brown pledged to work toward economic recovery through a campaign of unity. “My foremost goal is to help Jacksonville become a great city,” he said. “How do we get there? By working together.”
Brown is the first African American to be elected mayor of Jacksonville and the first Democrat to hold that office in two decades. In his remarks, he acknowledged the contributions of a number of mayors before him, including his immediate predecessor, John Peyton.
Brown repeatedly stated his vision of making Jacksonville a great city, and cited the city’s establishing an NFL team, the Jaguars, as an example of how the community’s dedication can result in achievement.
“Jacksonville is a city that dares to dream big,” Brown said. “Not so long ago we realized our dream of bringing an NFL franchise to our city, despite years of frustration. Today, we are one of only 32 cities with an NFL franchise. And why not an NBA team one day? Can you imagine that? I can.”
He stressed that Jacksonville was a city of unmet potential. “Jacksonville’s future will be restricted only by the limits we place on our dreams and our determination to achieve them,” Brown said. “It will be vision, commitment, conviction and determination that help us take Jacksonville to the next level.”
He alluded to the fact that the residents of Jacksonville watch millions of visitors pass by each year on Interstate 95 and Interstate 10, bound for other Florida locations. “We want to be a destination,” he said, “not a pass-through.”
The day before his inauguration Brown made a number of key appointments, reaching into the Florida Legislature to find experienced political minds to help him lead the city.
Brown picked state Senator Tony Hill, a Democrat from Jacksonville, to be a special assistant and his liaison with political circles in Tallahassee and Washington.
Brown also selected state Representative Mia Jones, also a Democrat from Jacksonville, to be a special assistant as well. Brown did not give details on her new assignment.
Hill said he would resign his Senate post, because of the travel that might be required. “I don’t want it to be where I got to be at a committee meeting in Tallahassee and I got to be in a meeting in Washington, so I thought, ‘If the mayor thought that much of me, I should not think bigger of myself and try to do both,'” Hill told WJXT-TV.
Hill did not say when his resignation would be effective. A special election will be required to fill his Florida Senate seat.
Jones indicated she would retain her seat in the Florida House.
Among other appointments, Brown also named Abel Harding, a columnist with the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville’s daily newspaper, to serve as the city’s communications director.
A key member of Brown’s election campaign, Chris Hand, will join the mayor’s office as chief of staff.