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A half-century of service: Tommy Hazouri, 76, dies in hospice care

Former Jacksonville mayor, state legislator and City Councilmember Tommy Hazouri died at his home of complications from a lung transplant he received last year.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tommy Hazouri died Saturday at age 76 after a long illness, following complications from a lung transplant last year. Hazouri spent the past several weeks receiving at-home hospice care.

The Office of City Council released the following statement regarding Hazouri's passing : 

"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. A son of Jacksonville, Tommy spent a lifetime helping his neighbors build a better community. Those who knew him understood he could not have had it any other way. 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 is survived by his wife Carol and son Tommy Jr. Tommy lived his life with a certain mantra in mind. In times of intense fury, overwhelming sorrow, or unpredictable turmoil, he always insisted people put differences aside and come together. This optimism was especially important to him in recent years. As we grieve Tommy’s passing with the Jacksonville community, we ask that you honor his memory by doing something good today for someone with whom you may have had a quarrel or a disagreement. There are infinite opportunities to help each other in our daily lives, but only a finite number of days to do it. We will miss Tommy dearly, but we know his legacy will live on through the people — and the city — he loved so much."

A fixture of state and local government, Hazouri served as a state Representative from 1974-'86, Jacksonville Mayor from 1987-'91, Duval County School Board member from 2004-'12, and Jacksonville City Councilmember since 2015. In his nearly 50 years of public service, he was known for his passion for the city and his commitment to making change through government action.

Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted his tribute shortly after the announcement of Hazouri's passing.

RELATED: 'Pin a rose on Tommy's lapel': Jacksonville City Councilman proposes naming council chambers in Hazouri's honor

Daniel Henery, Chair of Duval Dems, released this statement regarding Hazouri's passing:

"One of our city’s greatest leaders and proudest Democrats, City Councilman and former Mayor Tommy Hazouri, has passed today. Words cannot express the deepest gratitude and honor we have for him.

"Tommy exuded class, integrity, dignity, a fighter spirit, and a love for our city. Duval Dems and the residents of Jacksonville are forever grateful for his dedicated service to our community. Our deepest sympathy and prayers are with his family. Rest in Power."

First Coast News' Ken Amaro offers this remembrance:

Tommy Hazouri was a people’s politician. His career spanned the spectrum of public offices in Florida.

I first met Tommy as he asked everyone to call him during his time in the Florida House of Representatives.

Hazouri served there from 1974-86.

His passion for issues surrounding education was clear.

Lisa King, former chair of the Duval Democratic party, said, “He’s the kind of man that can see into the future. And there have been so many naysayers that told him he is wrong, and he plunged ahead and was successful.”

His friends would tell you if Hazouri was passionate about an issue, he could and would speak on it.

Hazouri, born and raised in Jacksonville, graduated from Andrew Jackson High and later, Jacksonville University.

He began his political career as Democrat and never wavered.

Hazouri would go from state politics to City Hall. In July 1987, Hazouri was elected as the city’s third mayor since Consolidation.

He would make significant changes in the face of adversity.  Critics panned him because of his Lebanese heritage.

During his time as mayor, Hazouri championed voters to approve a half-cent sales tax and that resulted in the JTA removing the tolls from bridges and roads. Tolls had become a traffic headache and the bane of complaints.

Hazouri also led the charge to reduce odor pollution, helping Jacksonville to shake its stinky city reputation.

Hazouri knew that we could do better, and he made it happen.

He would lose re-election as mayor but the fire in heart for political service was still burning. Hazouri went from City Hall to the Duval County School Board and served from 2004-12, where he often addressed the graduation rates and dropout prevention.

Then it was back to City Hall – this time as an At-Large City Councilmember.

He focused on expanding the city’s human rights ordinance to add protections for the LGBTQ community. He helped Mayor Lenny Curry address the pension nightmare.

“It is what’s best for our community,” he said at the time. “What will benefit our community and make us better.”

I spoke with Hazouri during the height of the pandemic’s early days and local efforts to bring the National Republican Convention to Jacksonville. Hazouri pushed back on the idea.

“This is not the right time to have a Democratic or Republican convention. It is public and it impacts the health of our community.”

Later he would have a lung transplant and return to City Hall with a fight to pushed through legislation, talking social justice, septic tank replacement, and more.

“We desperately still need leaders like Tommy Hazouri,” said King.

Hazouri is survived by his wife Carol, his son and countless friends.