Good afternoon. Mayor Brown, Mayor-elect Curry, fellow council members past and present, elected officials, dedicated City employees and citizens of Jacksonville, thank you for attending today. I am honored and humbled to have the privilege to serve as Council Vice President for the coming year.
I would like to take this opportunity to first introduce my husband Tyrie, whose patience and support mean everything to me and who has been a steadfast source of encouragement through the challenges of my first term. Thank you, I love you and we willhave home-cooked meals again someday! I would also like to introduce a few other special guests who are present today- my step-daughter Kimberly and her husband Daniel Hellmuth and my son-in-law Harris Waldo; and my personal secretary and business manager of over 20 years, Gaye Elison who has taken over so many responsibilities to make my service on the Council possible. Thank you, Gaye. Finally, I must acknowledge, my Council aide, Nicole Spradley whose assistance is invaluable, and who despite my bad habit of taking on additional assignments, has managed to keep it all together with a cheerful disposition. Thank you.
I want to thank the citizens of District 5 for the incredible opportunity to serve you and the City, and Council President Yarborough and all of the outgoing Council members who have taught me so much over the last four years and with whom I have truly enjoyed working. I will cherish so many great memories of the humor, mutual respect, and accomplishments of our term together. Finally thank you to my fellow Council members for your trust and confidence in electing me to this position. I pledge to do all I can to foster a unified Council , to assist and support our Council President, and to work cooperatively with our new Mayor and his Administration to accomplish our common goals of a safe, financially sound, vibrant and prosperous Jacksonville.
During the last four years our Council has been become known for its leadership, engagement and dedication. I would like to add perseverance to that list. Speaking from personal experience, I know that we will be distracted by many short-term and immediate concerns that divert our attention from larger and more important issues, and from our personal goals. But I pledge to you, and particularly to those with whom I have worked on the Task Force on Consolidated Government and the Special Committee on the Capital Improvement Program, that I will continue to work toward implementation of our recommendations. It is also a personal goal over the next four years to work toward improvement of our planning and zoning regulations and processes that I have discussed with many of you.
Now to one thought I would like to share- I am filled with optimism for our future. The last four years and the recent campaign have been consumed with focus on the serious challenges we face. Our City finances are no doubt strained, and many decisions regarding pension reform remain unanswered. Public safety is a valid concern with no easy solution. It is easy to allow the problems to consume our entire focus, and become weary, perhaps even pessimistic.
But we must not forget what a wonderful City we call home- we should not be apologetic but genuinely proud of Jacksonville. We not only have world-class healthcare facilities, first-tier sports teams and cultural resources, astounding natural assets in the St. Johns River, our Beaches and the Timucuan Preserve, are the number one choice for retiring veterans, have been recognized as a great location for start-ups and entrepreneurs, and are located at a critical transportation hub with a port and the crossroads of two major interstates , but we are also blessed with citizens who have among the highest volunteer participation rates in the country.
Together, our potential is limitless and I am genuinely optimistic about the next four years. The Chamber had an initiative a few years back named “I Love Jax” and that really resonated with me. I challenge each of you to pause for a moment every day to remember why you love Jax and share that enthusiasm and pride in our City with others.
There is a quote by Jack London that I keep taped to my desk at home- you may recognize it and those who know me well will understand why I like it:
I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stilled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
This is our time- ours as Council members, Mayor-elect Curry’s and Jacksonville’s. The next four years will pass in the blink of an eye. Let us use this time to have a truly meaningful impact for the betterment of our City and our citizens.
Thank you and may God bless you and the City of Jacksonville.