This is part of a series of election previews The Tributary is publishing examining who is running for Jacksonville City Council.
Three Republicans – a lawyer, a special education teacher and an electrician– are battling each other to replace District 2 city council member Al Ferraro who is running for mayor.
Lindsey Brock argues he has the experience necessary for City Council. Jennifer Casey says she’s the only one who will commit to doing the job full-time. And Mike Gay says the district needs someone willing to fight against new housing developments.
If none of the candidates earns a majority of the vote in the March 21 election, the top two will face each other again on May 16. Every District 2 voter can cast a ballot for the candidates regardless of party.
Brock, a maritime lawyer who represents shipping companies, has earned the endorsement of much of the GOP establishment, including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, Sheriff T.K. Waters and seven City Council members. Brock also led Jacksonville’s most recent Charter Revision Commission from 2019 to 2020. The City Council didn’t approve of any of the Charter Revision Commission’s recommendations.
Still, Brock said he has worked to gain experience by serving on various government boards to prepare himself for City Council.
“I didn’t just wake up mad about something and decide to run for city council. I’ve really been trying to prepare myself over the past decade, and learning about our city government, state and national [governments] and how it all plays together and how to use that experience to be an effective council member,” said Brock, who previously lost in a City Council election in 2011.
Brock is a founding member of the law firm that represented the state of Florida when a ship ran into Jacksonville’s Mathews Bridge in 2013.
Political newcomer Mike Gay, who has the endorsement of outgoing Councilman Ferraro, touted his 33 years of business experience. The Jacksonville native runs his own business as a specialty contractor installing lighting at stadiums.
“We’ve got a city council there that really got disconnected from the citizens, and I feel like I can bring that connection back with my skills and abilities and knowledge from managing and running budgets and million dollar companies,” said Gay, who wants to reexamine the city’s sales tax collection process regarding capital spending to save money.
Gay said he was motivated to go into politics from his frustrations over the government’s pandemic shutdowns, which Gay views as an overreach of power. Gay has also promised to oppose what he calls the overdevelopment in the district.
A recently approved plan to allow housing construction in the 7 Creeks Recreation Area has sparked citizen complaints against the City Council.
Casey, who has earned the endorsements of former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and current Property Appraiser Jerry Holland, promised she would serve full-time as a council member, the only of the candidates to make that promise.
Casey works as a special education teacher at a small private Jacksonville school, but she pledged to take a leave from her duties for her entire term to devote herself fully to the council if elected.
“A lot of people don’t realize city council is a part-time job, and I just feel like part-time jobs get part-time results,” Casey said.
Casey, the third generation in her family to live in Jacksonville, said she represents working Jacksonville residents, unlike her wealthier opponents.
“If you look at the financial disclosures, most of our council members are profoundly wealthy. As a teacher, I’m not,” said Casey, who previously was elected as soil and water commissioner in 2018. “ I just feel like sometimes when I look at the council, I don’t see people that reflect me and my background and where I’ve come from. That’s another reason that I’m running.
So far, Casey is trailing in fundraising in the race.
Each of the candidates has raised money directly and in political committees that allow for unlimited contributions. Brock and Gay have raised the most.
Brock, the maritime lawyer, raised about $222,000, with $50,000 coming from Keystone, which operates a private terminal near JaxPort after it went through years of litigation with the public port.
Gay raised $261,000, with most of that, about $180,000 that he gave himself.
Casey has raised about $20,500.
If elected, Casey said she wants to spend more money in the neighborhoods and points to a need for more community centers and senior centers.
“It feels like a different city, north of the river, and that’s just unacceptable,” Casey said. “There’s no place for after-school programs; there’s no place for workforce readiness training or for our kids to be out of the heat and the rain and the summers.”
What will be another issue facing the city council is deciding whether to use hundreds of millions of tax dollars to fund Jacksonville Jaguars stadium improvements.
Casey said she would want concessions made, like guarantees local labor is used or ensuring the stadium is utilized more during the offseason for non-football events.
“I’m really concerned about the taxpayers getting their money’s worth,” Casey said. “I’m open to the idea of helping finance the stadium, but let’s also look and see how the other two NFL teams in Florida did it with little to no public funding.”
Brock expressed interest in exploring transferring the stadium’s ownership to the team, so the venue’s maintenance and ongoing issues don’t fall on the taxpayers’ shoulders.
“How can that be done in a creative way where ownership maybe transfers over a period of time and [we’re] making sure that the venue remains open for all of the other events,” Brock said.
Gay said he is also open to publicly funding the stadium but wants to know “how much skin in the game the Jaguars want to put in it.”
“I want to see what the return on investment is going to be before I would say yes,” Gay said.
All three candidates also said the city needed to prioritize infrastructure investment in District 2, home to some of the community’s fastest-growing developments.
“We’ve got such a surge of development that goes on, and our infrastructure is an afterthought. We’re allowing this development to go on without having the developers pay their fair share,” Gay said.
Brock said he would focus on trying to reduce crime by paying for more officers as well as funding programs like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida and Cure Violence.
All three candidates supported letting voters decide the fate of the confederate statues on public land with a referendum.
While Gay said he believes the Confederate statues should remain up and more statues representing “all people” should be installed too, he wants the issue settled.
“No more there’s 20 people over here and 20 people over there arguing back and forth all night long at the city council meeting. I’m open to saying, ‘It’s not my choice. This is the people’s choice,’” Gay said.
Brock declined to say his personal views, even though he said the city should to come up with “a comprehensive plan of how to deal with the monuments.”
The issue has cast Jacksonville in a bad light, Casey said, adding she supports putting the issue in front of the voters so the city can move forward.
“I personally think that they’re an important part of history. They may be better served in a museum where they can be understood in context,” Casey said of the monuments.
Name: Lindsey Brock
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Florida; Juris doctor degree from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School; Master’s degree in maritime law at Tulane University.
Family: Wife, Carol, and two adult children.
Name: Jennifer Casey
Occupation: Special education teacher at Father’s Harbor Academy.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from what’s now known as Logos University; Bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology, both from the University of Central Florida.
Family: Husband, David, and three children, ages 21, 19 and 16.
Name: Mike Gay
Occupation: Owner of M. Gay Constructors
Education: Electrical apprenticeship program with Northeast Florida Builders Association.
Family: Married to Maleana with three children, ages 27, 16 and 5.