- Faith & Family
In a time when one of the few things we can count on is witnessing one example after another of political leaders going out of their way to denigrate the opposition’s party, Jacksonville’s first Black mayor, Alvin Brown, 49, has found a way to minimize friction and reduce squabbling. In a city with 14 Republicans and five Democrats on the City Council, he has still been able to pass a budget without raising taxes [16-to-1 vote], gotten support for his plan to reform City government and worked out an amiable contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“I’m coming up on my first year in office this July and have done what I promised when I was elected: streamline City government so that it is more efficient and establish an environment that will spur economic growth,” he said. We just won a $10 million dollar grant for the Port of Jacksonville and have started a business builder’s program that helps entrepreneurs get access to capital so they can expand. My belief is you need to be proactive and connect bankers and investors with business owners.”
Economic woes have hit more than just Blacks
“A lot of people are unemployed and have lost their jobs, their cars and their homes – and it’s not just Blacks that are suffering,” he said. “We know that some of those jobs have become obsolete and our population has gotten older too. To address those challenges we fund job training and education and we’re going to have to support more of that kind of transitional assistance if we want people to find work again.”
Brown has some keen minds in his corner, including State Senator Tony Hill and State Representative Mia Jones. Senator Marco Rubio has also given his support to Brown. And to make sure that everyone is talking, no matter what their political persuasion, Brown meets regularly with a Duvall County delegation of elected officials.
“In Jacksonville, being Democrat or Republican is of little consequence compared to meeting the needs of our City,” he said. “Our latest push is to expand the Jacksonville Port, a $19 billion dollar economic engine where workers can make up to $45,000 a year without a college degree. That’s pretty good.”
One of the top Black news websites in the U.S., The Grio, also believes Brown is on the right track, naming him to its top 100 list for 2012 of Black history makers and industry leaders who are making a difference in the lives of Americans.
Brown vows to save public education
When Brown learned that the school district was going to have to cut its Junior ROTC program because of budget reductions, he mounted a drive to raise $250,000 — a move that positively impacted 500 children. He recently launched the mayor’s mentoring program that serves minority students.
“My goal was to have 500 caring adults by April 1st —we already have 450,” he said. “These are retired and certified school teachers that meet with one student every week so that our children graduate from high school. I was the first in my family to graduate from college and was raised with four other siblings by our mother and grandmother. Education was instrumental in my life. Both of my children attend public school so for me it’s not a philosophical theory — partnering with and improving our public schools is personal.”
As for his continued efforts to improve business opportunities and to prepare youth for sustainable careers, he says, “we must be relentless and focused like a laser on making sure the next generation of doctors, lawyers, teacher and entrepreneurs are trained and ready to take Jacksonville and this country to the next level. Small businesses are the backbone of America and they don’t just happen — you have to make it happen!”
By D. Kevin McNeir