Jacksonville Civic Council elects Eric Mann board chair

The First Coast YMCA chief executive officer took the lead of the nonpartisan business and civic group May 1.

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The Jacksonville Civic Council announced Eric Mann, YMCA of Florida’s First Coast CEO and president, was elected as the organization’s board chair. 

He assumed the role May 1, according to a news release. 

Mann succeeds John Delaney, Flagler College president and former Jacksonville mayor, who will remain on the board as immediate past chair of the nonpartisan business and civic group. 

“I’m honored to be elected as the chair of the JCC,” Mann said in the release.

“I am looking forward to tackling community issues which impact the future of Jacksonville and our residents.” 

“I’m dedicated to helping Jacksonville be the best city it can be.” 

The Civic Council was founded in 2010 and comprises 80 for-profit and nonprofit CEOs and executives in Northeast Florida. The organization studies and, at times, takes consensus positions on social and government policy issues that impact the region’s economy and quality of life.

Mann has been the First Coast YMCA president and chief executive since 2011, and has worked for the YMCA for more than 40 years, the news release says.

He was CEO of the Pittsburgh YMCA and became the first black leader of the First Coast YMCA. He has been a Civic Council member for eight years and served on the board since 2014. 

He took over Civic Council leadership less than a month after the organization recommended the Jacksonville City Council enlist the University of Virginia’s Institute for Engagement & Negotiations to facilitate a process regarding disputes over statues and historic markers that honor the Confederacy on city-owned land.

In an April 11 letter to City Council President Sam Newby, the Civic Council said the Jessie Ball duPont Fund offered to fully fund the university institute’s work to facilitate community conversations. 

Debate over Confederate-linked monuments on public property reemerged in summer 2020 during racial justice protests, and after Mayor Lenny Curry promised to take down all the city’s Confederate monuments.

Curry’s pledge coincided with the city removing a 121-year-old statue of a Confederate soldier June 9, 2020, in Hemming Park, now renamed James Weldon Johnson Park. 

The Civic Council’s recommendations came from research and consulting conducted by the group’s Race & Social Task Force, according to the April 11 letter. 

“JCC has had an enormous impact on policy and other public initiatives in the last decade,” said Civic Council President and CEO Jeanne Miller.

“John’s (Delaney) leadership is credited with the influence we’ve had on our community and his service has been invaluable to the JCC and beyond. We know Eric (Mann) will be a tremendous leader who will help define our strategic vision for the future of the JCC and for Jacksonville’s business community.” 

In recent years, the Civic Council has taken positions on reforming the city’s public pension obligations, Downtown redevelopment and opposed the process used in an attempt to sell city-owned utility JEA to a private company. 

In 2021, the Civic Council supported the Duval County Public Schools’ successful effort to convince voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to fund a $1.9 billion facilities plan. 

“Engaging and harnessing the power of our business leadership in civic pursuits is a founding principle of JCC and we look forward to Eric’s (Mann) vast experience as a leader for change,” Delaney said.