The silhouettes of the Jacksonville skyline peeked through the haze of a smoky sky as the sun set over the St. John’s river. It was a spectacular view from the University Club as the local Zonta Club gathered to hear from former Jacksonville Mayoral candidate Audrey Moran.
Audrey Moran was invited to give a presentation on her experiences as a woman in politics. Her resume is long and illustrious. Most recently she was a contender for Jacksonville’s Mayor, having missed the runoff by 4%. She is also the CEO for the Sulzbacher Center, a prominent homeless shelter here in town. She has worked in City Hall in Legislative Affairs for Mayor Ed Austin and as Chief of Staff for Mayor John Delaney. She worked as prosecutor for the State Attorney, owned her own mediation firm and served in leadership positions for the Downtown Development Authority and the Jacksonville Economic Development Council.
She gave an intimate speech to the crowd of women leaders. It was the first time she had spoken somewhat publicly since the March 22 election. It was a candid talk in which she shared some personal experiences as a woman navigating through office and city politics.
She has overcome a lot of obstacles in offices, courtrooms and public life throughout her career. In the courtroom she learned to “smile, and then kick your opponents butt.” She had to overcome many assumptions and earn respect as she lobbied city council during the Austin administration. She praised John Delaney as a “true feminist” for allowing her to work and be a mother during her tenure as his Chief of Staff.
On her run for mayor, Moran said that is was the “hardest thing she had ever done”, and yet the “best thing she had ever done.” It was difficult having her make-up, dress and appearance scrutinized. People would even question whether she was “tough enough” – even with years of prosecution experience – for the mayor position. Would so much emphasis be placed on a man with the same credentials? She pointed out that much of this criticism was coming from other women. If women are to move forward in society, women need to treat women running for office with a little more respect.
On Mayor-elect Alvin Brown’s election, Moran commented that it was a “phenomenal thing.” She was disappointed that she did not make the run-off, but is confident in Mayor-elect Brown’s dedication to this city.
Moran offered some advice for other women who may want seek political office: work on a campaign. One cannot truly understand what goes into a campaign and the sacrifices one needs to make until they see one first hand. Work on your public speaking by joining a toastmasters, build a close network of supporters and friends, know your opponents and the position you are running for, and have a long heart to heart with your family. In short, do your homework. Campaigns take a lot of hard work and determination.
When asked the inevitable question on whether she would run again, Moran said she did not know. I for one hope so. Audrey Moran is a dedicated and experienced public servant with strong leadership qualities and an illustrious resume. Jacksonville is lucky to have her.
Zonta International is a world-wide organization that promotes the advancement of the status of women throughout the world. There are over 1200 clubs throughout North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia. Zontians, as they call themselves, must be executives in management or leadership positions in their fields. The group holds an adviser status and works on women’s issues with the United Nations.
The local Zonta Club is headed by current President Dianne Larson and was founded in 1940. They focus mainly on the issues of education, health, economic status and human rights. Current projects focus on human trafficking awareness, equal rights legislation and the eradication of violence against women.- James Croft