by Glenn Tschimpke
Anyone who knows anything about Jacksonville politics knows Matt Carlucci. The venerable San Marco actuary is in his second term as a City Council member and is currently serving as Council president. Yet for those who know Carlucci, relatively few can name his right-hand man. Or in this case — woman. Behind the scenes, Christine Sasser is the liaison between Carlucci and the constant queue of constituents and other interests clamoring for a bit of the Council member’s time. Since Carlucci was elected president in May, the pace has picked up, to put it lightly.
“Everybody wants to talk to the Council president,” said Sasser. “They all want his ear. They all want to tell him about their new project. They all want to tell him about money they might need for a new project or something that’s going on with the budget. They all want to talk to the Council president. Our phones are a whole lot busier and our calendar is outrageous.”
Sasser isn’t complaining — far from it. Juggling Carlucci’s time between his elected duties and his State Farm Insurance business is challenging, but Sasser takes it in stride and considers it a primer for a possible political career.
“I really love government,” she said. “I like helping people. I want to make a difference in society and this is like a step forward toward that. I keep well-informed on the issues that are going on and what Matt is working on. So if I get a phone call on a storm water drainage pump, I can handle it. I can tell the person what’s going on, when it’s going to happen and how it’s going to be funded.”
If Carlucci can’t make a date, don’t be surprised to see Sasser in his stead.
“Sometimes, you do have to go out and represent your Council person,” she said. “Because we’re appointed and we do have loyalties to our Council people, it’s easy to do. I’ve gone to ground breakings. I’ve gone to luncheons where he can’t attend. I’ve gone and spoken in front of the Waterways Commission about the Goodby’s Creek boat ramp. I don’t mind that.”
It’s not like Sasser is plotting to pull the mat out from under Carlucci by assuming his authority. Her loyalties to her mentor run longer than the two years she has been his Council assistant.
“The way I got that job is because he has been friends of our family since before I was born. He remembers me when I was in a car seat in the back of my mom’s car,” she said.
Sasser went to work for Carlucci in his San Marco State Farm office when she was a teenager before going off to the University of North Florida to study history.
“He was my first boss,” he said. “Because we were friends of the family, he needed a file clerk and someone to answer phones at State Farm. Back then he was on the City Council. That was his first term back then. I was able to type a lot of his letters and at the time I was taking government classes in high school and really getting into city government and how it works.”
While other kids were at the mall, Sasser would watch City Council meetings from time to time.
“That’s pretty bad,” she laughed.
After college, she dabbled in different positions. She thought of pursuing a law degree — not for her. She taught history at a private school — not quite right. She worked her way up as marketing representative at an insurance company and most recently on the PGA Tour, where she found happiness. Yet, when Carlucci was elected to City Council in 1999, Sasser knew where her loyalty lay.
“Matt’s a great boss,” she said. “There are a lot of people that you work with; they don’t see your potential and they don’t see your good qualities. They see every bad quality. I have a lot of bad qualities but he doesn’t point them out and he will look at all the good qualities. Really and truly what happens is that encourages somebody. When you look at their good qualities, that encourages them to do even better because you’re aspiring to be that person they want you to be. It’s great to work for someone like that. You don’t ever dread getting up in the morning going to work.”
So what about her political aspirations? Recently married and still learning about government, maybe in the distant future.
“My first goal in life right now is to do my job well, help Matt get where ever he wants to go and create a happy family,” she said. “I think, after all that is said and done, if the community needs a leader, then I would be willing to step up and do what I can to make this community better.”