JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville political giant Tommy Hazouri has died, the city announced Saturday.
“It is with profound sadness that the Hazouri family announces the passing of our devoted husband and loving father, Tommy Hazouri, on Saturday, September 11, 2021,” the city wrote in a news release. “He spent his final days at peace surrounded by his family and friends; and in typical Tommy fashion, there was no shortage of laughing, reminiscing, and holding loved ones close.”
He was 76. Tommy Hazouri is survived by his wife Carol and son Tommy Jr.
Tommy Hazouri has been a household name in Jacksonville, having held four different state and local elective offices over five decades.
Winning his first election in 1974 -- when Reubin Askew was governor of Florida -- Hazouri served 12 years in the state House of Representatives. He served one term as mayor of Jacksonville, eight years on the Duval County School Board and was in his second term on Jacksonville City Council, having just completed a year as its president.
“It’s rare to find a person that has that varied a career in public life,” former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney said.
Hazouri underwent surgery for a lung transplant at Mayo Clinic in July 2020 -- less than a month after he had been sworn in as the City Council’s president. He returned to Mayo last month for what was described as complications from the transplant.
Late last month, Hazouri was released from Mayo Clinic to receive hospice care at home, leaving people at City Hall to offer prayers for the man who worked with and among them for decades.
“Tommy is a dear friend. He is a mentor. My thoughts and prayers are out to him and his family,” City Council President Sam Newby said last month upon hearing that Hazouri was entering hospice care.
Hazouri, of Lebanese descent, was born and raised in Jacksonville, attending Andrew Jackson High School and graduating from Jacksonville University in 1966. He was married to Carol Hazouri, who spent her career as a school teacher at Crown Point Elementary School in Mandarin, where the couple lived.
They attended Mandarin Presbyterian Church. They had one son together, Tommy Jr.
GALLERY: Tommy Hazouri through the years
Hazouri was elected to represent Jacksonville’s District 20 in the Florida House of Representatives in 1974. While in the Florida legislature, Hazouri chaired the House Committee on Education and was also a member of the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Funding. He was appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles to the Florida Ethics Commission and led the Sheriff’s Task Force on Mental Health.
Trying to follow iconic Mayor Jake Godbold’s two terms, Hazouri defeated former State Rep. John Lewis in a bitter Democratic primary election and then easily beat Republican Henry Cook to become the third mayor of the consolidated city of Jacksonville in 1987.
During his four years in office, he spearheaded a campaign to rid Jacksonville’s roads and bridges of toll booths and implemented various environmental regulations aimed at getting rid of an odor problem in the city. Despite his popular accomplishments, he lost his re-election bid to former State Attorney Ed Austin.
Hazouri would run for mayor of Jacksonville twice more but lost in primary elections both times. In 2004, he was elected to the Duval County School Board and was re-elected in 2008. He served as vice-chairman of the board in 2008 and as chairman in 2009.
After six years as a private citizen and president of a private consulting firm, Hazouri and Associates, he ran for an at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019.
Coming back from surgery, Hazouri presided over the Council during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the JEA leadership debacle was unraveling and during the Jaguars push to develop Lot J.
“I’ve covered Tommy Hazouri since 1975 when I was a rookie Jacksonville reporter and he was a rookie state legislator,” News4Jax anchor Tom Wills said. “If you have ever been in the Mandarin Walmart when Tommy Hazouri was in the store, it was like being in a Walmart with Elvis. Everyone knows him and they want to talk with him and he’s always willing to talk with them. Both he and his longtime school teacher wife, Carol, are loved by so many people here in Jacksonville.”
Anchor Mary Baer added that she’s often seen him “holding court” at the Panera in Mandarin.