Mayor Donna Deegan says administration is 15% more diverse than Curry’s, taps new hires
Mayor Donna Deegan’s newest appointments further represent her commitment to hiring diversely and across party lines, she said in a press conference Thursday afternoon, with her administration so far being 15% more diverse than that of her predecessor, Lenny Curry.
Deegan announced her newest round of hires, as well as reiterated her confidence in crossing party lines to choose former City Council member Randy DeFoor for general counsel, saying the appointments represented promises made on the campaign trail.
“I made a promise to people when I was running for office that I was going to create an administration that was not only diverse and looked like Jacksonville but one that spread across the political spectrum, and that is what I intend to do,” Deegan said. “Everybody that I have appointed, I think, falls within absolutely that parameter.”
The announcement comes the same day the City Council finance committee began digging through Deegan’s first budget, potentially impacting the money set aside for her transition committee recommendations and for her office – and therefore the positions she has added so far. In the coming weeks, council will also take up individual appointments, including that of their former colleague, DeFoor.
City Council President Ron Salem said there was “a lot of thought” that will go into whether to support DeFoor for the position, including time spent talking to every city agency she would represent.
“I know Randy well,” Salem told the Times-Union. “We’ve both been around Jacksonville, born and raised here. She clearly has a tremendous legal background. I want to explore more her relationship with the council and the other other entities that she would be serving to make sure those are solid.”
Confirmation for DeFoor will require a supermajority vote in favor of her taking the position.
The other appointments announced Thursday will not have the same wide outreach with city agencies, but they will have a direct impact on the implementation of Deegan’s priorities.
Deegan appointed Nina Sickler, an engineer and vice president of River City Development Group, as director of the public works department. The position, dealing largely with infrastructure projects, will provide input and oversight over a large portion of Deegan’s first Capital Improvement Plan projects.
“Nina is a registered professional engineer with more than 30 years of design, management and leadership experience delivering infrastructure programs for government agencies, including the Emerald Trail and more than 200 additional projects in Jacksonville, and she will be the first woman ever to serve as director of Public Works,” Deegan said. “Public Works Barbie, ladies and gentlemen.”
Deegan additionally promised throughout her campaign to make small business advancements a priority and appointed Gregory Grant, assistant director for UNF’s small business development center, to be the city’s small and emerging business administrator.
Deegan appointed Ruby Jamison, Jr. as director of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. Jamison currently works as the director for the University of North Florida Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnic Relations. Jimmy Midyette, a vocal Deegan supporter during the campaign and attorney, will act as the director of diversity for the commission.
Bill Delaney, co-owner of The Jaxon, will join former council president Scott Wilson as the second liaison to City Council.
Salem said he had never worked with Delaney but has spent time with his father, former Mayor John Delaney.
“His [Bill Delaney’s] father is a dear, dear friend for 45 years, and if he’s got anything, any character, like his dad, I’m sure he’ll do well,” Salem told the Times-Union.
Deegan still has positions to fill – or otherwise keep the people currently serving. Such roles include that of Fire Chief Keith Powers and Director of Planning and Development Bill Killingsworth. Deegan said Thursday both were doing a “great job” but that the administration was still holding interviews for the positions.
Deegan said her new appointments so far have been 26% African American, 9% Asian American, 6% other ethnicities, 3% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 9% members of the LGBTQ+ community. She additionally planned to ensure the city’s Hispanic community were more well represented looking forward.
“I have said repeatedly that it’s so important in this administration, not only to bring in expertise, to bring in people who have been with us a while with some some knowledge of how things work and also to bring in some new faces to bring in folks who are just amazing bright lights and on the rise and make sure that we grow them to be the leaders in our city that we all desire,” Deegan said.
Here’s the full list of appointments announced Thursday:
General Counsel: Randy DeFoor
Director of Public Works: Nina Sickler
Chief of Sports and Entertainment: Alex Austin
Executive Director of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission: Rudy Jamison Jr.
Diversity Manager of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission: Jimmy Midyette
Small and Emerging Business Administrator: Gregory Grant