This is part of a series of election previews The Tributary is publishing examining who is running for Jacksonville City Council.
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Tyrona Clark-Murray faces five candidates in her first re-election test since she won a special election for District 9 last August.
The crowded ballot for the March 21 election to represent the district covering neighborhoods on the Westside and Northside includes five Democrats and a lone Republican, retired accountant Mike Muldoon who has raised the most money in the race.
Celestine Mills works at Healthy Start, and Kamren Stowers is a firefighter. Shanna Carter runs a nonprofit, and TaNita Noisette-Woods volunteers. Incumbent Clark-Murray works with students with disabilities at duPont Middle School.
District 9 covers parts of the Westside and Northwest Jacksonville.
Clark-Murray said she deserves to be re-elected because she describes herself as an engaged councilwoman. She regularly takes calls from residents and works with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to target crime in the neighborhoods, she said.
“People should re-elect me because I am doing the work that a council member should do, which is stay connected to his or her community,” Clark-Murray said.
Muldoon argues his career as an accountant gives him the financial background to oversee the city’s budget.
“Those skills will better serve our community than what my five Democratic opponents have,” said Muldoon, who retired last summer. “Although I admire people that have full-time jobs, and want to do this, I think I can devote more time that’s needed.”
Both Muldoon and Clark-Murray said they felt confident going into Election Day. Clark-Murray said she built relationships with her constituents and has been campaigning since she took office. Muldoon, the only white candidate in a heavily Black district, said he believes the court-ordered redistricting plays into his favor since there are fewer Democrats in the new District 9.
Muldoon raised $138,000 with his PAC, A Stronger Jacksonville, bringing in another $12,550, according to Duval County and state records.
Stowers raised the most among Democrats, with $13,886 despite getting into a legal fight with his ex-political consultant.
Stowers accused his former Jacksonville political consultant, Mark Hodges, of not fulfilling his contract and then refusing to fully refund his $1,400, according to a statement of claim Stowers filed in December. The dispute goes to trial on April 4, court records show.
Hodges disputed Stowers’ characterization but said, “It would be unprofessional of me to comment further given the close proximity to Election Day.”
Meanwhile, Clark-Murray raised $9,383 while the other Democrats have raised less than $5,000, county records show.
Stowers argued he has the best track record of helping others. He works as a private firefighter at the aerospace company Northrop Grumman, and he said he is also an entrepreneur tackling the affordable housing crisis.
“I’m the only candidate that took an oath to put my life on the line to help the next man at his lowest point,” Stowers said. He continued, “None of my opponents are putting forth the effort that I’m putting forth to change the community on a day-to-day basis.”
Mills said she is the candidate most in touch with Jacksonville. She works at the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition where she focuses on improving infant mortality and other issues.
“What makes me different is that I’ve always been in the community,” Mills said. “I’ve always tried to be a part of what happens in the community.”
Carter came from humble beginnings and once lived in what she calls “the worst apartments in Jacksonville.” She moved to a HabiJax home and pursued higher education, eventually starting her own nonprofit. Carter, who has a law degree, said she relates to her constituents going through hard times and knows how to advocate for them.
Carter runs Krumpin’ 4 Success, a nonprofit that helps young people and formerly incarcerated adults get into entrepreneurship and develop job skills. Her work has helped her build relationships across the city, she said.
In addition to raising her children, Noisette-Woods said her past community service makes her worthy of public office. “I’ve been dedicated to the community. I’m a service-oriented person,” she said. “My passion is people.”
Both Muldoon and Clark-Murray called crime the biggest issue facing District 9.
To fight crime, Clark-Murray said she acts as a liaison between constituents and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to fight drug selling and prostitution in problem areas in her district.
With a growing population, the city needs to make sure it’s protecting residents, Muldoon said. He said he wants to give newly elected Sheriff T.K. Waters more time to execute a plan to deal with gangs. “But … we need to hold them accountable for the success or the lack of success.”
Carter listed affordable housing, public safety, education and economic development as priorities. But District 9 residents don’t feel like they’re being heard as the city deals with these big problems, Carter said.
“A lot of times people don’t feel included, so they don’t buy into the process of their city,” Carter said, vowing to hold two town hall meetings per month and devote three days a week to meet with constituents to hear their ideas in her first 100 days in office.
Mills said she wants to fix the city’s roads and infrastructure and for law enforcement to use community policing to build connections in the neighborhoods in order to lower crime.
“We need to make sure we’re doing a good job with having resources to help everyone have an equitable life,” she said. Twice Mills placed second in the city council race in 2015 and 2019.
Stowers said he wants the city to follow his blueprint for adding more affordable housing in the community.
Stowers owns a business that buys vacant lots and puts new mobile homes on the land. With his 17 rental properties, Stowers said he can charge rent for under $1,000 and still make a profit. His model works, Stowers said, but the city should also work with developers and incentivize the private sector to add more affordable homes in the community.
Stowers also made headlines last year for opening Amber House, Duval County’s first safe house for LGBTQ+ youth.
Noisette-Woods said she wants the city to be more transparent about public money.
“We should take care of the entire city. No neighborhood and no community should be left behind,” Noisette-Woods said. “We need to know where all the dollars are being spent.”
Muldoon’s biggest priority is public safety.
“Our population has grown and, and we need to make sure that we’re providing the appropriate safety for our constituents and citizens,” said Muldoon who wants to ensure the Sheriff’s Office and the fire department have enough resources.
Name: Shanna Carter
Occupation: CEO of Krumpin’ 4 Success
Education: Law degree at Florida Coastal School Of Law
Family: Grown daughter
Name: Tyrona Clark-Murray
Occupation: Support facilitator at Alfred I. duPont Middle School
Education: Bachelor’s in English literature at Florida A&M University, master’s in education at the University of North Florida.
Family: Two grown children
Name: Celestine Mills
Occupation: Community Action Network Coordinator at the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition
Education: Bachelor’s in business management at the University of Phoenix
Family: One grown son
Name: TaNita S. Noisette-Woods
Education: Bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Edward Waters University
Family: Six living children and a deceased son
Name: Kamren Stowers
Occupation: Firefighter and entrepreneur
Education: Firefighter certification from First Coast Technical College
Family: Daughter, 11
Name: Mike Muldoon
Occupation: Retired accountant
Education: Bachelor’s in accounting at the University of West Florida
Family: Wife, Pam, and three children, 17-year-old twins and a 15-year-old
This story was originally published by The Tributary