Headshots of Jacksonville City Council District 6 candidates Michael T. Boylan and Tom Harris.
Jacksonville FL City Council District 6 candidates (left to right) Michael T. Boylan and Tom Harris. [Provided by the candidates]

This is part of a series of election previews The Tributary is publishing examining who is running for Jacksonville City Council.

In the race for Mandarin’s representative on City Council, incumbent Michael T. Boylan hopes to win over voters with his experience, while challenger Tom Harris is arguing voters should pick an outsider willing to fight.

Both Boylan and Harris are Republicans, but in Jacksonville’s local elections, every registered voter in the district can vote regardless of party.

Boylan, the former general manager of the WJCT public radio and TV station, first won the District 6 council seat four years ago. Since then, he says he’s used his four years in office to bolster his understanding of how to work within government realities for the district that represents Mandarin in the Southern reaches of Jacksonville.

But Harris, the area manager of Hardage-Giddens Funeral Homes, said he decided to run to focus on fighting for residents of Mandarin, the city’s southernmost neighborhood.

“It’s time to bring common sense to city government,” said Harris. “I will always fight for Mandarin over downtown special interests.”

The Mandarin district has a reputation for kicking out incumbents. In the 56 years since Jacksonville and Duval County formed a consolidated government, only two Mandarin council members have served at least two full terms: Dick Kravitz, who served three terms mostly in the 1990s, and Matt Schellenberg, who served two terms in the 2010s.

Harris, the challenger, said he would focus on growing business in Mandarin, which he said gets short shrift from City Hall. Mandarin has some of the highest-income neighborhoods in the city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Boylan said he’s interested in expanding the inroads he’s already made by working with other areas of the city through collaboration. He said that would likely lead to larger dividends for all areas of the city, including the southern neighborhoods in the suburbs.

“Beyond meeting the needs of my constituents as my first priority, I have proven to be a council member who knows the importance of collaboration in order to get things done with an eye to always looking forward,” said the former general manager of WJCT PBS television and NPR radio broadcast operations in Jacksonville. 

A map of Jacksonville City Council District 6.
Jacksonville City Council District 6. [The Tributary]

Boylan, who said he’s ready to confront hot-button issues, also said he’s not willing to remove a Confederate monument in Springfield Park, less than a mile from City Hall, despite repeated calls by many city activists to get rid of it.

“My vision for it is that it [would] stay in place and be contextualized so that someday ‘Study Circle’ conversations would be held at the base of it where the sordid history of the Jim Crow era, the injustices prior to and ever since can be recounted,” Boylan said.

Harris was non-committal when asked about the future of Confederate monuments on city-owned land.

“As an [former] Army officer, studying history and the Civil War was always part of our professional development. I will work to explore how we can make these monuments work to educate people today regardless of where they are physically located,” Harris said. 

Both candidates agreed more needs to be done to secure affordable housing in Jacksonville.

“The city must bring more job creators to the city, giving residents greater opportunities to improve their lives. I will work for smart growth initiatives, including new housing that addresses this goal,” Harris said. 

Boylan said he would seek to implement recommendations from the council’s Quality of Life Issues Committee, which he served on. 

“In reviewing the report, you will find there were a number of recommendations regarding affordable housing, ranging from providing tax credits to developers who offer below-market-rate apartment units to creating more inclusionary zoning” and other recommendations, Boylan said, adding there are now multiple government agencies already gearing up to target more affordable housing. 

No city project is likely to draw as much public funding as a possible redesign and upgrade of TIAA Bank Field, the home stadium of the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a potential plan to include a new canopy over the top of the facility to shield fans from the fierce Florida sun.

A University of North Florida poll found 61 percent of voters opposed spending up to $750 million on stadium renovations for the Jaguars, but Boylan said the city couldn’t afford to walk away from improvements to a facility owned by Jacksonville.

“Like any landlord who wishes [to] retain or attract a tenant to utilize the stadium and continue to keep [the] city of Jacksonville on the world stage, we have a responsibility to address the necessary improvements, not only for the sake of the team but [for] the tens of thousands of fans that support it,” Boylan said, adding the amount of public funds for any improvements will depend on the scale of the plans.

The 60-year-old Harris was more cautious about big spending on the stadium, saying he wasn’t comfortable with how much the improvements were estimated to cost.

“We can and should help fund reasonable improvements to the stadium. … [But] we do not have a budget for the improvements. The question is one of how much indebtedness can we fund with future revenue sources and where do these come from,” Harris said.

Ultimately, Harris said he’s a small-government proponent and would like to see less government presence generally in Jacksonville.

Boylan said his accomplishments on the City Council prove the city is heading in the right direction, and working to help other neighborhoods alongside Mandarin will lead to greater gains not only for Jacksonville in general but also for Mandarin.

Name: Michael T. Boylan

Age: 71

Party: Republican

Occupation: Former WJCT general manager

Education: Bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University, Master’s degree in communications from Kent State University

Headshot of Michael Boylan

Name: Tom Harris

Age: 60

Party: Republican

Occupation: Area manager of Hardage-Giddens Funeral Homes

Education: Bachelor’s from the University of Florida

Headshot of Tom Harris

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges,...