How many of you remember Jacksonville’s old tagline, The Bold New City of the South? While I was not a city resident at the time, I am certainly inspired by the bold history and legacy it represented.
The bold decision made by the French Huguenots over 450 years ago, to sail across the Atlantic, made us the site of the first European settlement in the nation. They dared harsh seas and a Spanish threat to land here in search of religious freedom, establishing Fort Caroline – 56 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock.
That boldness continued through periods of Spanish, British and American control of Northeast Florida over the next few hundred years, until a platted town was established in 1822, named for then soon-to-be president, Andrew Jackson.
That small town grew into a large city, survived the Civil War, and became a business and tourist destination for people throughout the nation.
You can often tell the strength of one’s character by his or her response to tragedy. In 1901, our city clearly demonstrated the strength of its character. When the third largest municipal fire in U.S. history consumed 146 blocks of downtown Jacksonville and left 10,000 homeless, we bounced back with a vengeance. Within two years, there were more structures built in downtown Jacksonville than before the blaze – including some of the state’s tallest buildings.
In 1968, when faced with government corruption and abuse, the people of Jacksonville wiped the slate clean and rebuilt from scratch – consolidating city and county government into a single more efficient entity.
Bold actions like these, in pursuit of even bolder goals, made us the city we are today. As mayor, I am inspired by these actions and committed to continuing their legacy.