JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Democrat Tommy Hazouri, who served Jacksonville in one capacity or another for five decades, died Saturday following complications from a lung transplant he had last year. He was 76.
The former mayor, legislator and school board member most recently served on the Jacksonville City Council, including as its president last year.
[WATCH: Press play above for full video from City Council reflections on Tommy Hazouri]
While setting a date for a special election to fill Hazouri’s seat -- Dec. 7 -- his fellow council members also took time during their meeting last night, the first since his passing, to share their memories of Hazouri.
Councilman Al Ferraro said no matter how often he and Hazouri disagreed, they found a way to smooth things over and get along.
“I told him, ‘Tommy, if this building ever caught on fire, I would carry you down these stairs.’ And he said, ‘I wouldn’t let you do that to me because you’d be lecturing me the whole way down,’” Ferraro recalled. “No matter where I go in this city, whether people agreed with him politically or not, they seemed to always say a kind word about him, so that’s how I will remember him.”
Councilman Matt Carlucci, who was good friends with Hazouri, said Hazouri accomplished a lot as council president last year and “did more for this city than anyone can ever imagine.”
“Tommy’s life was an odyssey, and I’m glad I could be along on that odyssey in the past 40 something years,” Carlucci said.
Councilman Garrett Dennis said Hazouri “had his ways about him” but despite his quirks, “he always looked out for you.”
“That’s how I’ll remember Tommy, always wanting to boss you around, being that big brother and teasing and joking. So I’m gonna miss him,” Dennis said.
Councilwoman Joyce Morgan called him “Mr. Jacksonville, and Councilman Terrance Freeman said the council lost a family member.
Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson fought emotion as she remembered her last conversation with Hazouri.
“He wasn’t a recycle or a retread,” she said. “He was a public servant until the day he transitioned -- and that’s a model I want to emulate.”
The council members all swapped stories -- of the first time they met Hazouri, their favorite Hazouri moments or jokes, the qualities they most admired in him or the quirky traits they will most miss.
“I learned so much from him. Not about him, but about me, including understanding that people take different paths to where they are,” Councilman Michael Boylan said.
Current Council President Sam Newby even joked that Hazouri’s commitment to the city is so strong, it likely isn’t over.
“He probably told the angels, from 5 to 10 I’m going to be watching City Council because I want to make sure Sam Newby does what he’s supposed to do,” Newby said. “Tommy, I love you, I know you’re looking down on us, and thank you for all that you have done for me and for Jacksonville. Thank you, and God bless.”
Hazouri will be honored with a memorial service at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Mandarin Presbyterian Church followed by a graveside service at Oaklawn Cemetery.
Family and friends are invited to a visitation Wednesday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hardage-Giddens Oaklawn Chapel on San Jose Boulevard.