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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 15, 201412:00 PM EST

Term limits work well with leadership and civility

by: James F. Bailey Jr.

In the 1980s, it was City Council member Tillie Fowler’s intention to end the tradition of elected officials serving multiple terms in office.

So, she led the battle in council to have its members, along with the mayor and other local officials, term limited after eight years.

As a result, when city elections come around next spring, it is a guarantee the 19-member council sworn in July 1 will have 10 new members.

Several others face challengers, while others have said they’re leaving to seek a new office.

It means that two of the term-limited members who have had their fingerprints on a lot of Jacksonville’s history over the past three decades will be gone: Warren Jones and Denise Lee.

That’s a lot of seasoned representation to lose, especially when you consider that Richard Clark, a former council president and chair of the new finance committee, is term-limited, as is former president Bill Bishop, who is running for mayor.

Johnny Gaffney and Robin Lumb are leaving to seek other offices. Gaffney will challenge state Rep. Reggie Fullwood, while Lumb is running for Supervisor of Elections.

Former President Bill Gulliford, who is Rules Committee chairman, is still considering a run for mayor, though he has filed to run for re-election for his council seat.

Veteran council member John Crescimbeni hasn’t filed to run for re-election and may be considering running for a different office.

Current President Clay Yarborough, Ray Holt and Stephen Joost also will complete two terms and have not indicated they plan to seek another office in 2015. It looks like Don Redman, who is term-limited, is retiring from politics.

That’s a bunch of people moving on, many who have shown recently that they are up to making hard choices and big decisions.

You can make an argument Jones has been one of the steadiest and most effective council members since the advent of consolidation.

First elected to the council in 1979, Jones’ first tenure lasted 20 years, during which he was elected council president not once, but twice. He has 28 years of service.

Often much more combative than Jones, Lee has proved over time to be capable and conscientious public servants.

She was first appointed as a 30-year-old to fill the seat of the late council member Sallye Mathis in 1982. Lee served for 17 years on council before running successfully for the Florida Legislature in 1999.

Lee returned to the council in 2007 and like others, she has learned the process, owns her issues and doggedly defends her opinion.

Of course, it seems like Lee has been around forever, and to many administrations, it feels even longer.

Crescimbeni, like Jones and Lee, is on his second stint as a council member. He first served two terms from 1991-99, and returned in 2008 in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Jay Jabour, who didn’t meet residency requirements.

During his first stint on the council, Crescimbeni was viewed as a maverick who more often than not voted “no” on big issues, especially if taxpayer dollars were involved.

Still a budget hawk, Crescimbeni studies, investigates and absorbs issues to the point that he is now seen as a “go-to” guy on the council, signified by recently being presented the Charles Webb Award by Gulliford for outstanding public service.

If he doesn’t seek another term, that will be a major loss for council.

Doyle Carter also previously served on council.

First-term members who could return, like Lori Boyer, Greg Anderson and Carter, have demonstrated an appetite for hard work and a willingness to tackle tough issues, as have Reggie Brown, Kimberly Daniels, Jim Love and Matt Schellenberg.

All council members who can run again face opposition, except Gulliford.

Interestingly, Glorious Johnson, Terry Fields and Pat Lockett-Felder, a trio who served previously on the council, are trying to return.

Fields and Lockett-Felder are running against each other in District 8 for Lee’s vacated seat, while Johnson is running against Daniels, who is considering running for Lumb’s at-large seat.

With those Fields and Lockett-Felder, plus another seven candidates who have filed, that should be a very hot campaign.

There is still some movement going on until qualifying ends Jan. 16.

In any event, it is going to be a very new cast of council members come this time next summer.

The question is how will the mayor’s office react to this much change?

Will Mayor Alvin Brown be more aggressive with the neophytes and dominate on issues or will he nurture and develop a better relationship with a new council?

Or will we have a new mayor who walks in understanding the complex issues and is able to connect the dots while working with the council to move the city forward?

Either way, it’s time for the city to move forward.

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