After months of struggling to make a decision on whether to run for Jacksonville mayor or another term on City Council, Bill Gulliford decided he would rather stay a leader in the legislative side of government.
Gulliford isn’t one to shy away from speaking his mind, taking a stand or making a decision. But ultimately he dedicated not to enter the political fray, take on Mayor Alvin Brown and latest challenger, a heavily-funded Lenny Curry.
During his time on council, Gulliford hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with how Brown has run the executive branch. It was that disdain that fueled the Republican’s desire to compete against the mayor in the 2015 election.
Brown’s budget last year — the one with $60-plus million in extraordinary lapses, or undefined cuts — especially drew his ire, Gulliford said in March. He also didn’t favor the mayor’s opposition to the gas-tax extension he introduced.
At that point, Brown had his re-election war chest opened for almost a year. Curry was strongly rumored to jump in as a candidate.
Gulliford said then he wasn’t planning to announce any decision for several months. He wanted to finish his term as council president, which ended June 30. He didn’t want a possible run for mayor to cloud his leadership, nor allow people to think he was campaigning from the head chair.
He said he also wanted Curry to jump in first and, most importantly, Brown to introduce his budget. After last year’s criticisms and council actions raising property taxes to cover deficits, Gulliford said he could see the city’s spending plan being a massive campaign issue.
He said there has been a running sentiment of people concerned with “where we are and aren’t going.” That type of discussion led to people approaching him with encouragement to run for mayor, he said.
His family had talked about it, too. In June, Gulliford said he and his family last talked extensively about it during Thanksgiving. They sat in the living room, each laying out scenarios, pros, cons.
Ultimately, they were on board.
“I was for it,” said Harriet Gulliford, his wife of 47 years. “I think Bill is here for a reason … he’s good at what he does.”
The community started lining up support when he opened his campaign for re-election to council. In February and March, the first two months of being open, Gulliford collected almost $74,000. Contributors included Herb and John Peyton, Shad and Ann Khan, Bill Gay, Wayne Weaver, Jed Davis, John Rood and Bill Watson, among other notables.
Gulliford started coming up with his own pros and cons list. Among items listed the positive side was a “sincere desire to do good for the city,” his experience in government and the private sector, and his ability to build and lead a team. He feels strongly about the latter.
"If I haven’t convinced people that I am collegial and can bring people together, they haven’t been paying attention," Gulliford said in March. "I think that is probably my best strength."
“If I haven’t convinced people that I am collegial and can bring people together, they haven’t been paying attention,” Gulliford said in March. “I think that is probably my best strength.”
On the opposite side of the ledger were his weaknesses.
The personal financial loss for his business. Personal attacks on family in what likely would become a nasty back-and-forth campaign. His age.
“I would be 71 when I assumed office, 75 at the end of the term,” it says in the comments section.
Longtime businessman Preston Haskell said Gulliford would have made a “very fine candidate” that had a vast knowledge of government and led with principle.
“You don’t see those types of qualities in every politician,” Haskell said.
He said he knew Gulliford was weighing the option for some time and ultimately “came to a decision that was well-concluded.”
“I will continue to be his admirer and I hope he continues that leadership, formally and informally, on the council,” Haskell said.