He's Jacksonville's first African-American mayor.
Mayor Alvin Brown: "I'm focused on making government as lean and efficient as possible." [Photo: City of Jacksonville]
In May, Alvin Brown made history when he was elected Jacksonville's first African-American mayor. He was also the first Democrat elected mayor in 20 years, with significant support and endorsements from some of the city's most influential Republican business leaders.
Florida Trend: How did you overcome the extreme partisanship that has marked Florida and U.S. politics in recent years, and how will you maintain bipartisanship in office?
Mayor Alvin Brown: I ran a non-partisan race focused on Jacksonville issues. There really is no room for petty partisanship when addressing local problems. I've built a diverse team of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, all of whom love Jacksonville. We have a former staffer to U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a longtime aide to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the brother of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and even a former business partner of Gov. Rick Scott on board.
FT: Jacksonville has among the lowest millage rates of Florida's major cities and faces as much as a $175-million budget shortfall by 2015. Yet you took a no-tax pledge during the election. How will you keep it?
Brown: I'm focused on making government as lean and efficient as possible. The initial challenge upon taking office is to deliver a balanced budget in two weeks. I've accomplished that, closing a $58-million shortfall without raising taxes or fees or dipping into the city's reserves. We'll now embark on a reorganization of city government that ensures taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Most importantly, we've got to grow jobs.
FT: What is Jacksonville's single-greatest challenge, and how are you approaching it?
Brown: It's job growth, no question. I'm partnering with the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Jacksonville Civic Council to reassess the city's economic incentives program. We plan to build a job creation engine that becomes a national model. Jacksonville has booming sectors — healthcare, technology and our port — we've got to capitalize on those to move our economy forward.
FT: In addition to the budget problems, Jacksonville's business leaders worry about the decline of downtown. What are your key solutions to energize downtown?
Brown: We need private sector investment. We've invested nearly $1.2 billion of taxpayer money in downtown. I plan to leverage that with private sector investments to restore vibrancy. We want to create an environment where entrepreneurs thrive and young people from across the country flock to Jacksonville to be part of a new urban life.
FT: What are your other most-immediate priorities?
Brown: In addition to growing jobs: Selling my balanced budget to the City Council, reorganizing city government and securing funds for port expansion.
FT: Your top long-term goals?
Brown: Recapturing a vibrant downtown, developing a transportation system that effectively positions Jacksonville for the future and delivering a quality public education to every child in this city. Oh, and we can't forget my vision of an NBA team in Jacksonville. It's a long-term goal — 15, 20 years down the road. But it's a vision I'm not letting go of.