This is part of a series of election previews The Tributary is publishing examining who is running for Jacksonville City Council.
If Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman hoped her incumbency would intimidate potential challengers, the field in the District 10 race proves otherwise.
Kim Stephens Perry, Vanessa Cullins Hopkins and Keshan Gainey Chambliss, Democrats like Pittman, are all aiming to oust the councilwoman.
“I, along with many of my neighbors, am dissatisfied with the diminished impact our voices have had upon services and opportunities provided by the City of Jacksonville to Northside citizens compared to citizens in other areas of the city,” said Cullins Hopkins, a retired obstetrician, medical professor and Planned Parenthood executive.
District 10 covers neighborhoods from Grand Park to the Trout River, mostly north of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. It is the City Council’s Blackest district, with about 85% of the population identifying as Black in the 2020 Census. The district includes neighborhoods like Brentwood, Panama Park, Ribault Manor and Sherwood Forest, and it is home to Raines, Ribault and Andrew Jackson high schools.
Pittman said her service on the City Council — which began when Republican Gov. Rick Scott appointed her in 2019 — and as the longtime CEO of the Clara White Mission gives her the edge on experience.
“Community engagement has kept me actively involved at the forefront of Jacksonville’s progress by developing programs that promote and champion economic growth and community revitalization through legislation,” Pittman said.
Pittman has also faced scrutiny over her nonprofit receiving city funds and over how the nonprofit operates.
Stephens Perry, a technology project manager, said her skills would allow her to address the district’s serious issues if she’s elected.
“District 10 is economically deprived with high crime,” she said. “It desperately needs infrastructure improvements [and] lacks higher learning institutions for adults. My campaign priorities are to ensure District 10 receives economic investments that result in positive investments that generate jobs with livable wages.”
Gainey Chambliss said her experience as an officer in the Florida Air National Guard makes her uniquely qualified to handle the District 10 City Council seat.
“I am running because I am disappointed in the current leadership. I decided not to complain but to be the solution,” Gainey Chambliss said.
Given the economic challenges facing District 10, the candidates are split about the potentially costly improvements and renovations to TIAA Bank Field, the home stadium for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gainey Chambliss and Stephens Perry don’t see stadium spending as a priority.
“The taxpayers should not fund the stadium improvements for the Jaguars,” Gainey Chambliss said. “There are people who are jobless and homeless due to the economy and will not be able to handle any more financial burdens.”
Stephens Perry said she disagreed “with continually investing tax dollars into the Jaguars when other areas of the city, especially District 10, is suffering. If public funding is to go towards renovating TIAA Bank Field, I would not want football to be the only beneficiary of public tax dollars. I would like to see TIAA Bank Field be renovated to include a tennis element for purposes of hosting professional tennis,” Stephens Perry said.
Pittman sees the upkeep of the city-owned stadium as a civic duty. But taxpayer funding of the facility is conditional.
“I’m supportive of the Jaguars. The team brings an infusion of economic development that is an asset to our city. The Jaguars are a source of community unity and community pride,” Pittman said.
“Before a decision can be made, I would like to see a proposal for the proposed stadium improvements that I and the community can get behind. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a budget or the details,” Pittman said.
Cullins Hopkins said the city should examine different ways to help pay for funding stadium improvements, like issuing bonds. “Theoretically, the entire county can help fund the improvements if financial advisors wholeheartedly recommend the bond offering,” Cullins Hopkins said.
Name: Keshan Gainey Chambliss
Occupation: Support coordinator / Former Florida Army National Guard and former Florida Air National Guard
Education: Bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of North Florida
Name: Ju’Coby Pittman
Occupation: City Councilwoman / CEO & President of the Clara White Mission
Education: Bachelor’s in science at Jones Business College, Associate’s degree at Florida State College at Jacksonville
Family: Two adult children
Name: Vanessa Cullins Hopkins
Occupation: Retired / former obstetrician and vice president for Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Education: Bachelor’s in science at Spelman College, Doctor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Master’s in business administration at the University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School
Family: Husband – Keith Hopkins; 3 stepchildren; 6 grandchildren
Name: Kim Stephens Perry
Occupation: Technology project manager
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville University, master’s degree in computer technology and information management from Webster University
This story was originally published by The Tributary