Final Thoughts on a Positive Experience
Back about six months or so ago, I announced that I had chosen so seek a seat on the Jacksonville City Council. And I chose an enormous mountain to climb in the process… challenging a well-known incumbent in a county-wide race.
We now know how that turned out. John Crescimbeni will serve another four years on the City Council as the Group 2 representative. Not the outcome we were hoping for, but in this game, second place is really no different than last if the top finisher goes over that 50 percent threshold. Say nothing about coming in third.
But it was an experience that I would not have missed for anything in the world. The positives outweigh the negatives by orders of magnitude.
What did I learn from my first foray into politics? Well, first of all, it’s a BIG county. Running a city-wide race from essentially a grass-roots level is a monumental undertaking, particularly when you have deadline work on your desk every day of the campaign. I was fond of saying on the campaign trail that it was a lot like running a mayor’s race without the big budget. And with three Republicans in the contest, resources were spread pretty thin. The Democrat incumbent did not have to compete among his party faithful for donations, and there was no one waiting on the sidelines to see who came out of the first election to make the runoff.
Speaking of runoffs, I didn’t talk to anyone, other than the incumbent, who wasn’t absolutely certain there would be one. The math for it makes sense in a four person race, but in this case, the conventional wisdom was … let’s face it … wrong.
When I’ve been asked what surprised me the most about running for office, I’d have to say it’s the lack of knowledge by the electorate about how our city government works. The question I was asked most often while campaigning was “what does ‘At-Large’ mean?” Other candidates told me the same thing. People really don’t understand how their city council is structured, or what it is that the council does. They get the concept of the district councilperson, but when it comes to the county-wide seats, not so much.
I learned that there are a lot of people out there who think like I do, and who have a vision for where they want the city to go. The business and community leaders with whom I met almost to a person see a great deal of opportunity here, with the right leadership. Many of them thought I would have been an asset in that regard, and that is a very humbling feeling. Almost as humbling as the idea that about sixteen percent of those who voted said I was their top choice. Again, no trophy for second place.
I met some really great people along the way, some of whom I hope will be friends for a long time. Then there were those who made you want to wash your hands or take a shower every time you were in the same room with them. I learned that people will say or do just about anything to win a city council race, which was not a direction I wanted to go.
I was also stunned by the apathy on the part of the nearly 70 percent of the registered voters who chose not to become informed and take part in this election. But then, I’ve long been an advocate of being informed and voting. I said often on the campaign trail that the government closest to you is the one which can have the most direct effect on your quality of life, and here, that’s the Jacksonville city government… unless you live in one of the beaches communities or Baldwin.
I’m also glad that back when I was a kid, we were allowed to lose. In real life, we keep score, and while no one wants to feel the disappointing sting of losing, it’s something for which everyone should be prepared.
So, it was go big or go home… and in this first campaign, I’m home. I’m also now often asked what else I might consider, if having had a taste of life in the political spotlight if I will seek it again. I won’t say no… because like so many things, it’s a promise that I can’t guarantee that I’d be able to keep. But I did not seek the office to be a bigshot. I ran because I felt like I could make a difference in moving Jacksonville forward. To those who supported me, with their time, talents, treasure, and votes I offer a most sincere and humble “thank you.” Seeking political office is not for everybody, particularly not the faint of heart, but I feel I’m a better person for having done so. It was an experience I’ll never forget.