JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A few weeks ago Jacksonville City Council Member Tommy Hazouri entered hospice care after his lung transplant failed.
It brought back memories of when I first met this affable, witty politician who always had the community at heart.
Hazouri was a member of the Florida Legislature's Duval Delegation along with John Lewis, Steve Pajcic, Carl Ogden and Mattox Hair.
He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1974 to 1986.
"He’s the kind of man that can see into the future," said Lisa King.
King is the former chair of the Duval County Democratic Party and knew Hazouri as a hard worker with a passion for educational issues and he supported her in her political endeavors.
"There have been so many naysayers that told him he is wrong and he plunged ahead and was successful," said King.
Those who know him would tell you if Hazouri was passionate about an issue, he could and would speak on it, ad nauseum, without taking a breath, until his position was recognized.
Hazouri, born and raised in Jacksonville, graduated from Andrew Jackson High and Jacksonville University.
He began his political career as a democrat and never wavered.
"He is one from the bottom of his toes to the top of his head about serving the public," said former Mayor John Delaney.
Delaney ran against Hazouri and the two would become good friends after their political battles.
"He was a dear friend," said Delaney," he just wanted to help people and he absolutely loved this town.".
Hazouri went from state politics to city hall. In July 1987, he was elected as the city’s third Mayor since consolidation.
Hazouri would make significant changes in the face of adversity; at one time critics panned him because of his Lebanese heritage.
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.
"Tommy Hazouri knew that we could do better and he made it happen," said King.
Hazouri was also instrumental in creating more regulations to reduce odor pollution helping Jacksonville to shake its stinky city reputation.
" Mayor's prior were not going to tackle it and he went hard on that," said Delaney.
Hazouri would lose his re-election as Mayor, but the fire in his heart for political service was still burning.
After city hall, Hazouri was elected to the Duval County School Board and served from 2004 to 2012
"I call him a lover of the City of Jacksonville, " said Warren Jones.
Jones served with Hazouri.
"He has been a people person for his whole life and that's why I think he was so well respected," said Jones.
In 2015, it was back to city hall this time as an at-large city council member and city council president.
He focused on getting the city’s human rights ordinance expanded to add protections for LGBTQ people. He also helped Mayor Lenny Curry address the pension nightmare.
"It is what’s best for our community. What will benefit our community and make us better," said King.
During my last conversation with Hazouri, it was politics and what was good for Jacksonville.
Even when he was battling his lung disease he was still fighting for what's best for the city.
He supported the proposed Lot J development as a concept but believed the deal was not in the best interest of taxpayers as it was structured, it failed to pass the city council.
And July 2020, during the height of the pandemic, he pushed back on the efforts to the National Republican convention here.
"This is not the right time to have a Democratic or Republican convention," said Hazouri.
Later he would have his lung transplant Hazouri and return to city hall as President of the City Council.
Among his priority items were addressing social justice, septic tank replacement, and more.
He was able to address those issues before his term as president ended and before his passing.
"We desperately still need leaders like Tommy Hazouri. He was a public servant," said King.
Hazouri is survived by his wife Carol, his son and a host of friends and other family members.