Now that Alvin Brown has been firmly planted in office and promises to empower the young, balance the budget and find jobs by turbo charging economic engines, some local politicos are wondering if he’ll do what no other Jacksonville Mayor has done before – head to D.C. Elected by a historically razor-thin margin, the enigmatic Brown has surrounded himself with a staff of legislators, newsroom spin-doctors and aides that will serve him well, but might forget their job is to run the City and not a future campaign.
Brown’s administration is led by a Chief of Staff who began the 2011 campaign with Machiavellian discouragement of fellow Democrats from running for City Council, while he openly supported Republican Mayoral candidate Audrey Moran. According to one local political analyst, “this collection of first time public servants has more the makings of a campaign team than a true City Hall staff and raises the question, who are they going to serve first, Alvin or the City?” With Federal elections looming in 2012 and 2014 the Vegas line in some political circles is that Alvin has his sights set on Corrine Brown’s Congressional seat before he even has a chance to contemplate a second term.
Largely seen as a detour to gain name recognition, Brown’s Mayoral campaign turned into the surprise of the Century for the First Coast after contenders Audrey Moran and Rick Mullaney imploded and left the door open for Brown to assume a position he probably never realistically envisioned and likely never desired. With a campaign funded largely by Beltway buddies, Democratic power brokers and a cadre of local business leaders hell-bent to promote their Civic Council concept, Brown eventually edged into office.
Brown’s transition team included the usual cast of Hemming Plaza insiders, cronies and rivals as well as Charles Aiken, the former Treasurer of the Alvin Brown for Congress Campaign Committee when it was shut down by the Federal Elections Commission for reporting irregularities. Criticized for their lack of a specific agenda, Brown’s transition team didn’t finalize their staff picks until days before his inauguration and will now have to rely heavily on two Peyton Administration holdovers to help them steer their way through the upcoming budget process.
Kevin Hyde, the early “establishment” favorite for Peyton’s successor, has volunteered to lead the administration’s appointees, without salary, and provided his former Council aide as executive assistant to the new Mayor – freeing up Brown to explore a federal run. “If Kevin handles day-to-day and strategic decisions while Alvin seeks a seat in Congress, the next few years will be the longest game of ‘Hyde ‘n Seek’ ever,” said Concerned Taxpayers’ Director John Winkler, who is already frustrated that for six weeks the incoming administration has provided no fiscal details on how Brown plans to keep his promise not to raise fees or taxes.
As a first time public official, Brown’s resume has been considered light on administrative leadership and somewhat disjointed. After losing a bid for Corrine Brown’s seat in 1994, Alvin Brown’s only other political experience had him bouncing around the Beltway as an aide for Al Gore before he landed back on the First Coast to take his one leadership role – acting CEO of the troubled, and now defunct, Willie Gary Football Classic. If, as suspected, Brown does intend to head back to Capitol Hill, being the Chief Executive of the Nation’s 40th largest metropolis is certainly the leadership credential his resume sorely needed to make him viable for Congress.
When he will make the break for the Halls of Congress is anyone’s guess, but it’s a fair bet it will happen. One thing is certain though, Brown’s honeymoon period of historic firsts came to end on Friday and it will now be up to his administration of newcomers to turn the “drinking-game” catch phrases that became campaign jokes, into reality. As surprising as it must be, they now have a City to run – not just a future campaign. – Nick Callahan