New City Council president sets goal to “be bold and dream big”

New City Council president sets goal to “be bold and dream big”
Lori Boyer takes the oath of office with help from her son, R.J. Nemeyer and husband, Fourth Circuit Court Judge Tyrie W. Boyer

It was a family affair when Lori Boyer took the oath to become president of the Jacksonville City Council. Boyer’s son R. J. Nemeyer held the Bible while her husband, Judge Tyrie W. Boyer of the Fourth Circuit Court, administered the oath of office during an installation ceremony at the Ritz Theatre June 30.

In the crowd were nearly all her children and grandchildren. Her nephew, Eagle Scout Jack Fox, and her grandson, Jack Hellmuth, a Cub Scout, took part in the Pledge of Allegiance ceremony.

Boyer had only taken the reins for a few short minutes when she demonstrated why she is often called “the Energizer Bunny,” by her council colleagues. The District 5 Councilwoman has City Hall reputation as a multi-tasker with a keen eye for detail. A person who listens to both constituents and fellow councilmembers, Boyer rarely says no when asked to take on mundane issues, even if it requires wading through thousands of pages of documents. The hard questions she asks bore into the heart of things as she seeks to get to the bottom of what is really going on.

In her opening remarks after taking the oath, Boyer, who served as vice president to the council last year, showed her stripes immediately by outlining “a very ambitious plan that may have a lasting impact on our city’s future.”

Boyer said her goal for the year is to “be bold and dream big.” Recognizing the city has no extra money to accommodate big initiatives, Boyer intends to find ways to make the city more efficient. She wants to enable her colleagues to become “proactive” rather than “reactive,” and to equip them with the tools they need to achieve individual goals for their districts.

“Consolidation promised an efficient city government without conflicts and overlaps,” she said. “We also promised our citizens one city with infrastructure, city services and economic opportunity available throughout. If we are to become a Jacksonville in which every neighborhood is safe, clean, healthy and thriving economically, it won’t happen by accident,” she said. “We need to set priorities, answer difficult questions, mend relationships and work together to develop the policies that will allow us to achieve our goals.”

Recognizing her colleagues spend much of their time responding to constituent complaints, putting out the “fire of the day,” and reviewing legislation offered by the administration, citizen groups or lobbyists, Boyer said she wants City Council to work toward taking a “larger” and “more important” role. “Rather than just managing the present, we have the opportunity and, in fact, the responsibility to create the future,” she said.

Boyer plans to work toward “creating a framework for communication, the transfer of institutional knowledge and policy development that can provide a foundation not just for future spending but also for how we evaluate and implement programs and policies.”

“Knowledge is power and we can do more for you if we know how,” she said.

Holding weekly “lunch and learn” sessions, informal meetings where specialized topics such as budgeting and emergency preparedness can be discussed in detail, is one way toward this goal. Boyer hopes the open gatherings will help her colleagues –particularly those in their first year of service – share the nuts and bolts of their work, build a rapport and enable them to better accomplish their individual goals for their districts.

“Council members sometimes find the Sunshine Law restricts them from meeting and talking with one another, which makes us less efficient and less able to get the job done,” Boyer said. “We need to teach each other the tricks of the trade in order to help each other do our jobs better.”

Boyer appointed only first-term council members to head up the Council’s various committees, and in council meetings, Boyer plans to hold “featured district presentations” to help council members learn more about the challenges in each area of the city. Because Jacksonville is large and diverse, it is important the council understand the “composite picture” in order to be effective, she said.

Also along this line is her plan to provide “proactive policy development” in workshops in each standing committee, which will address specific topics. For instance the Public Health and Safety Committee will discuss the subject of body cameras while the Waterway Commission would be tasked with “thinking big about activating the river downtown.”

“My vision is for each of the standing committees to be charged with working on policy initiatives within their scope,” she said. “There aren’t many bills they work on where they promote their own initiatives and seek improvements for the city. I want to give them time to work on some of that, to have them be proactive and not reactive.”

Working with the Mayor

Boyer said she will make it a top priority to assist Mayor Lenny Curry in campaigning for a half-cent sales tax to pay down the city’s $2.8 billion pension debt. She is already working on a list – the first in 10 years – of priority projects to submit to the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, which directs state and federal road funding. She also said she plans to establish a full five-year capital improvement plan and to unveil a “very special parks program,” early in her term.

In a telephone interview, Curry said he knows Boyer well and has always been impressed with the way she does her work and tackles hard problems.

“I find her to be a serious-minded person who knows the issues and gets facts straight. She can be tough and collaborative at the same time,” he said. Whatever she does, she’s good at and the council will be the better for it. She’s a leader and that’s demonstrating leadership.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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