JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville City Council President Tommy Hazouri underwent surgery early Saturday morning for a lung transplant at the Mayo Clinic.
Hazouri’s office said in a statement that the attending doctor called the surgery a success and Hazouri, 75, is on the road to recovery.
During Hazouri’s rehabilitation, City Council Vice President Sam Newby will assume the role of acting president of the council.
“The Hazouri family thanks the Jacksonville community for its well wishes,” the statement read, “(and) in typical Tommy-fashion, Tommy looks forward to getting back to work.”
Hazouri was sworn in less than a month ago as the council’s newest president, but the Democrat has had a lengthy political career, serving in the Florida House of Representatives from 1974 to 1986 and as mayor of Jacksonville from 1987 to 1991.
Newby told News4Jax on Saturday that he’s prepared and while he never wanted to assume the role of acting president under these circumstances — as vice president he’s been ready for something like this.
He said his main goal is to just sustain the work Hazouri has already started on.
“I am definitely ready because I’ve been ready since we got elected in March because part of the duties of a vice president is to be ready,” Newby said. “And part of my task is just to sustain the ship. Just to sustain president Hazouri’s agenda.”
The announcement of Tommy Hazouri’s lung transplant comes just one day after Hazouri led a City Council meeting regarding the Republican National Convention, which was canceled in Jacksonville.
Newby says this wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Hazouri.
“Well, that shows what kind of leader he is,” Newby said. “He put his city over his self so citizens of Jacksonville are lucky to have a leader like president Hazouri.”
On Sunday, Mayor Lenny Curry said in a tweet that he had spoked to Hazouri and “he sounded strong.”
Spoke to @CMTommyHazouri today. He sounded strong. It’s a long road ahead for Tommy and he’s gonna travel it with family and friends. Keep praying for him and keep believing with him. He knows the community cares about him and is with him.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) July 26, 2020
It’s been less than a month since Hazouri was sworn in as City Council President, and already he’s made his mark.
Newby said one of his priorities is addressing the violent few weeks Jacksonville has seen.
He said he also plans to further the work Hazouri has done on his social justice and community investment committee — one of the first initiatives Hazouri announced as president — and is geared at improving race relations in the community.
“The team that he put together of chairmans, they have done a really good,” Newby said. “He put together a really good team of chairmans and I think that he has done a really good job so far. And one of the things with the social justice committee we’re gonna definitely focus on that because I think we need to so that some of the things we’re going to talk about. We’re going to focus on broken promises on the north side, and just Jacksonville as a whole.”
Although he is fresh in his new role as council president, Tommy Hazouri has had quite a lengthy political career.
He previously served as mayor from 1987 to 1991 and also was a state representative.
Hazouri is a Democrat while Newby is a Republican, but Newby said the political landscape won’t look too different.
“I don’t think it’s going to look different because I’m just going to advance his agenda, and my thing is I put people over politics,” Newby said. “I know Mr. Hazouri he is a Democrat and I’m a Republican, but I’m not the Republican councilman, I’m the councilman for all the people. I’m the president for all the people.”
Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney explained the role Newby will likely play.
“Really, you’re in a caretaker role when you’re an interim or an acting,” Delaney said. “There’s not an expectation that you’re gonna rock the boat. The individual in this case, Tommy, is going to be coming back. And so he has some things, former Mayor Hazouri, that he wants to have done and if it’s not long term, I think Sam’s going to kind of hold it together through this budget process."
Delaney says the budget process for the city is very mechanical at this point.
“The Mayor submits early July, the council takes six to eight weeks to really go over it and tweak it, and it’s a very interesting time,” he said. “No city council has ever faced anything like this. But there’s a lot of really institutional processes in place, so I think it’s going to be good. I think it’s going to be fine.”