Meet Lenny Curry: The Republican Party’s Quarterback for 2010
(In case you missed it, the following article was featured as the cover story in the August edition of The Jacksonville Observer Monthly.)
It was a hot evening in late July and local Republicans were packing themselves into the auditorium, their party’s monthly Executive Committee meeting -- a ritual that is repeated on the third Monday of each month.
Except this time, something was a little different. Despite the fact that it was the hottest time of the year, a surprising majority of people seemed to be wearing black. Black shirts, black suits, black dresses.
Inside the room there were black balloons and other decorations. But what might have seemed like the trimmings of an especially festive memorial service were actually a good natured prank, organized by friends and family of the party’s chairman, Lenny Curry.
Though he doesn’t look a day over 30, on this night Curry was actually celebrating his 40th birthday.
Born in Key West, Curry is an only child. His father owned a small retail store where he sold and repaired televisions and other electronics.
“I watched him build that business for 15 hours a day,” Curry says of his father. “That’s where my entrepreneurial appetite comes from.”
His mother kept the books for the family’s business and involved herself in the community, volunteering for various groups and causes.
“We went fishing every weekend,” Curry says fondly of his days as a young boy in Key West. “It was great.”
Curry also maintained close relationships with his grandparents. His maternal grandfather was a decorated Army Ranger who served in Europe during the Second World War.
His grandfather on his dad’s side was stationed on the U.S.S. Okalahoma at Pearl Harbor.
At the age of 12, his family decided to relocate to North Florida and they settled in Middleburg.
“I had to adapt quickly,” Curry remembers. “In no time I’d gone from fishing and spending time at the beach to riding a motorbikes and hunting in the woods. It was two very unique extremes.”
An average student in High School, Curry played football, baseball and lifted weights.
“I loved playing football, I was passionate about it. If I was doing something else right now, I’d like to be a high school football coach,” said Curry. “The discipline and strategic thinking that I learned from my high school football coaches has stuck with me all these years.”
After graduating from Middleburg High School, Curry went on to the University of Florida. He initially thought about majoring in microbiology, but instead opted to pursue a degree in accounting and to become a CPA. Curry excelled at UF, earning a 3.97 GPA and graduating summa cum laude. He passed the exam to become a CPA, which has a lower success rate than the bar exam, on his very first try.
The accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers was the next stop for Curry, now fresh out of school.
“It was a valuable experience. At a very young age you’re exposed to senior management of major companies. You have to be professional,” he says of his early days with the company. “Your work has to
be high quality and you have to really think through complex issues.”
Starting in their Orlando office, Curry spent over eight years with the firm and eventually became a senior manager working in Jacksonville.
In 2002, Curry and Todd Froats left PricewaterhouseCoopers to form ICX Group. The firm provides interim staffing, project consulting and other accounting and IT services.
“Initially we walked out the door and began building the business on our credit cards for the fi rst year,” said Curry. “We’ve been very successful. Today ICX serves many of the big public and private companies in Jacksonville.”
Shortly after getting his business off the ground, Curry married his wife Molly, whom he had met while she was also working for Pricewaterhouse.
Curry would then spend several years in Tampa getting a second ICX office off the ground, before finally returning to Jacksonville in 2006.
That’s when the political bug finally took a bite.
“I was contacted by the Republican Governor’s Association, which was headed up by Mitt Romney at the time. They were looking for volunteers to go to Arkansas to help with a tough gubernatorial race out there.”
Curry traveled to Arkansas and helped manage phone banking operations.
“I was always interested in politics at a distance,” Curry remembers. “I had walked door-to-door for Ander Crenshaw and had close interaction with some political leaders. The bug was always there, but the experience of going to Arkansas for the RGA is when it really clicked for me.”
Curry briefly considered the idea of running as a candidate himself in a special election for State House, but instead decided to become more deeply involved in the Republican Party.
He was elected to serve as Treasurer of the Republican Executive Committee in the Fall of 2007 and by 2008 was well on his way to becoming Chairman. “When John Falconetti announced he didn’t want to seek another term as Chairman, I saw an obvious need,” said Curry. “Someone serious about the party had to step up.”
He was elected without opposition in December of 2008.
“The past chairmen had left me with an established grassroots machine,” said Curry. “And I knew I wanted to embrace traditional media, like television and print, but I also wanted to get the party more involved in new media. To use tools like text messaging, and social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube.”
Within a few months, the party had a rapidly growing Facebook page and Curry was co-hosting a weekly radio talk show on WBOB.
Not long after that, he set out to start the use of text message reminders to increase turn-out at monthly meetings and various party events.
Curry has worked hard to both raise the profile of the local party and to build and develop the infrastructure necessary to win elections.
His love of sports, particularly football, translates well to politics. At the start of each meeting, often using a video clip from a sports film to drive home the point, the chairman reminds members why they are there -- to win.
Curry’s typical day begins very early in the morning.
“I start my day at 4:30am by working out. It gets my energy level up and forces me to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Exercise and prayer, if I miss either one in the morning, I can feel it,” says Curry. “Getting up that early also allows me to spend time with my kids in the morning before work.”
In addition to his role with ICX Group and as Chairman of the Duval County Republican Party, Curry has taken an active role in the community. He has been sitting on the board of the Jacksonville Symphony since 2007.
“I got involved because I wanted my kids exposed to the arts. I believe while math and science are fundamental, the arts open a door to the imagination,” says Curry. “I really believe it’s important.”
Curry was also appointed to a position on the Jacksonville Housing Commission and is active with his church and Rotary club. Earlier this year, the governor even tapped him to fill a seat on the Florida State Boxing Commission.
“I grew up watching boxing with my grandfather. I was very close to him,” says Curry. “We named our son Boyd in honor of him.”
Curry’s wife, Molly, has become involved with a group that brings Afghan children to Jacksonville for medical care. “I’m really proud of her on that,” he says.
As he approaches the end of his first term as Chairman of the local GOP, Curry reflects on the challenges of running an entity that large with no full-time staff.
This organization is driven by volunteers. You have to engage and execute with volunteers who also have full-time jobs and families,” says Curry. They choose to spend their free time electing the best people they can to public office.”
“Under Sam Newby’s leadership, we’ve opened a one of a kind Black Republican headquarters,” adds Curry. “We’ve staged successful outreach and community involvement projects including a blood drive and a fundraiser for a charter school in one of Jacksonville’s poorest neighborhoods. We’ve also put on well-attended forums on health care and race relations.”
When pressed if he would ever consider running for public office, Curry just responds that he’s got his hands full with other things at the moment.
“Anyone who wants to get involved with the REC can call the office at 904-398-1446 or just text GOP to 41513,” Curry adds.