My name is Juan Diaz. I am running for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 4. Why are you running for City Council? I've heard that question countless times over the course of my five-month campaign. I'm 34 years old, a newlywed still (at least for another three weeks), why run for office at this time of my life? Because no matter what, there is no perfect time to run for office. There are always reasons not to run. So, I decided to become a candidate for City Council because I don't want to look back 20 years down the line and wonder if I should have. I don't want to reflect and see a man that, during the most critical time in Jacksonville in my lifetime, shrunk back and decided to watch others determine the fate and future quality of life of our city. I want to serve on the Jacksonville City Council because I want this city to be all it can be for my family, and those of others.
Jacksonville is certainly at a crossroads. Our residents are looking for work, looking for an education, looking for safe streets, and looking for leadership. It is said that you can learn the most about a leader in times of difficulty and so it will be the next four years across Duval County. I am running for City Council in an attempt to bring to City Hall what I so desperately have looked for in our leaders the time I have lived in Jacksonville: the willingness to make tough decisions; a desire to manage the taxpayers money as if it were their own; and the principles, trustworthiness and integrity to be a true representative legislator who listens to constituents and makes decisions in terms of what is best for our city, and not themselves or special interests. Quite frankly, there is no trust or goodwill right now.
During the course of my campaign, Ive seen and heard many observations about what is wrong with city government. Yet the political will has been lacking to significantly change the landscape at St. James. Too many in town have an interest in leaving it be. In order to address wasteful spending and clear out the cobwebs (and perhaps some skeletons), our city needs bold, new leadership unattached to the special interests that have placed our city where it is today. I can bring that.
I love Jacksonville. I met my bride here, a Jacksonville native. It is a wonderfully pleasant place to live, with an amazing natural landscape of river and beach. It is a city with a rich military history and a NFL franchise. And, it is a city with opportunities to lead. I came to Jacksonville in 2004, and since that time have had a platform from which to dive into community activities. That involvement is due in large part to the fact that our community embraces transplants and young professionals seeking to carry part of the workload in moving Jacksonville forward. This was exciting to me as a young, Hispanic man in a foreign town, willing and able to do that work. In the years since I moved here, Ive helped found and sustain young professional organizations, served as a member of the Chamber Board, participated in Leadership Jacksonville, and served as a member of numerous other non-profit boards and community organizations. Ive been appointed to several city commissions. And, Ive been a mentor and been mentored. We need more of that in Jacksonville.
My parents moved to Florida from Puerto Rico when I was not yet three years old. They do not possess college diplomas, yet impressed upon their five children (of which I am the youngest) the value of faith and a strong work ethic, and the necessity of a college education to getting ahead in our great country.
The drive my parents instilled in me, and the many blessings Ive experienced in my life, took me to a place Id dreamed of as a high school senior graduating from the University of Florida College of Law, excelling academically, and serving in a high position of honor as the Law Review Editor. My legal career since, including work as an attorney for CSX railroad and BAE Systems-Safariland (a military and law enforcement products manufacturer), has given me the professional experience and acuity to handle legislative matters on the Council.
I am prepared for service on the Council, with a balance of experience and fresh, energetic perspective. Ive seen other cities and decided Jacksonville is the place for me (and now my family). Our potential is boundless with the right leadership. Of course, we all know the heavy issues awaiting the next Council: the need to improve Jacksonvilles unemployment rate by encouraging business growth and not inhibiting it; the budget, and the need to address priorities and eliminate waste; the pension, and the need to keep our city on sound financial ground for the long-term; and safe neighborhoods, which are essential to economic opportunity throughout the city, and to the delivery of quality education for all, to name a few.
My vision for Jacksonville? Plentiful job opportunities and a growing small business base. City leaders who smartly manage taxpayer dollars and do not simply increase taxes or create new fees when they cannot make tough decisions. A port that is the envy of all others on the East Coast. A continued strong military presence. A downtown bustling with activity. Safe neighborhoods and schools where students can learn, and families and visitors can enjoy our beautiful natural environment. A city that can educate, develop, attract and retain the next generation of workforce.
I am mindful and aware of Jacksonvilles history, yet hopeful about what it can become. It is indeed a critical time in Jacksonvilles history. And we all want to be a part of history. That is why I am running for City Council that, and the reasons stated above. I am Juan Diaz, candidate for City Council At-Large Group 4, and I hope to earn your vote on March 22d or prior to then.
For biographical details and more information on my campaign and stances on the issues, please visit our website at www.diaz4jax.com. For now, I will address the question posed to me.