History has been made in the small beach towns of North Florida: For the first time, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach all have female mayors. I spent some time with each of them to learn more about their unique friendship and making strides to better the Beaches.
Ellen Glasser: Atlantic Beach Mayor since 2017
Q: Can you tell me about your goals when you were originally elected and re-elected for mayor?
A: “When I first ran I was really looking to try and help stabilize Atlantic Beach and restore a feeling of civility to government…I was elected and got a lot of things done in the first term, but when I ran again, I really had an expanded platform to really focus on public welfare after going through all we’ve been through.”
Q: Where are you now on reaching your goals? What are some steps you’re taking?
A: I’m really proud of what we’ve done. The team here in Atlantic Beach with the city manager, all of our department heads and the community have all accomplished quite a bit. We’ve revised and updated many of our plans. That’s our land development regulations, our stormwater master plan. We’ve been looking at sea level rise. We’re focused on public art and art in the community, complete streets, and providing fun recreation events and activities for our people.
Q: How did your previous work in law enforcement aid you in your transition to mayor of Atlantic Beach?
A: I really never thought that I would have a political career…here in Atlantic Beach I saw an opportunity to step in and do some of things that I wanted to do, and I think my career in the FBI and as a former faculty member at the University of North Florida really helped me. Everything I’ve ever done in my life contributed to what I was able to do when I became mayor. As a law enforcement officer I’m all about the rule of law and trying to be logical about making things happen, but in the FBI it is supposed to be an apolitical organization and that is the way that I worked for my career in the FBI, and so what I brought from that is a nonpartisan approach to being a mayor of a small town.
Q: How is it, being a female mayor of the beach alongside two other empowering women?
A: I can definitely say as a mayor I am as equipped as any man to do this job and that definitely holds true for the other lady mayors at the beach. It’s such an unexpected pleasure and privilege to be serving with the other two lady mayors. We’re all different because our cities are different, and I get a lot out of working with them and learn something every time I am with them…Our relationship is very strong.
Elaine Brown: Neptune Beach Mayor since 2016
Q: I noticed that you have a lot of background in the environment. Can you explain how that’s shaped some of your interests as mayor?
A: It should be on every mayor’s agenda throughout the world, and bring it down to this little tiny city doing our part is the most interesting thing. You know, because you have so much at risk. I’ve seen the devastation that Mexico City had when a hurricane hit there. It just wipes out the town…it goes on and on. So taking care of what we have, making sure we’re aware and on top of climate change is something. I have to say I’m lucky the other two mayors are right on board with me and I’m on board with them, as far as protecting our environment.
Q: What major challenges have you faced as mayor?
A: Pandemic. Closing the beach. It has to be the biggest challenge. Working with all three beaches together with Duval County with Mayor Curry and this pandemic, when it finally hit in March 2020, was like a turning point for so many of us…it really was the hardest thing on beach living and the people that lived in all three beaches.
Q: Have you faced any challenges as a woman in power?
A: I think that when you have the interest of the entire community and of working together to make sure that we are all doing the things that are the best for our communities, and we’re doing them together. I think that that kind of levels the playing field because we’re all in this together. Men, women, children, we’re all in this together.
Christine Hoffman: Jacksonville Beach Mayor since 2020
Q: How was the transition from City Council to mayor of Jacksonville Beach?
A: I was on the Jacksonville Beach City Council for two terms—for eight years—beginning in 2012. I was glad to have that time to really learn the city and learn the role of the city council and the ins and outs, so when I became mayor it was a pretty smooth transition.
Q: How has your position on the historical side of Jax Beach aided in your position as mayor?
A: A friend of mine introduced me one time at a speaking engagement. He said that I stand at the intersection of Jacksonville Beaches’ past and its future and that’s really resonated with me…I get to look at the background of why things are the way they are. In particular, one of the areas I’ve really dug in on is the redevelopment of Jacksonville Beach. There’s been several different bouts of redevelopment.
Q: You are the first female mayor of Jacksonville Beach. How has that shaped what you’ve done as mayor?
A: Having gotten to know so much better my colleagues, Mayor Brown and Mayor Glasser, I think that in our cases we all felt very much, even before we got involved in the political side of things, that we needed to be very involved in our community. I’ve always been someone that has stepped up into service roles…these organizations that I think really give me a more rich viewpoint of my community. … Having three women mayors, we just have a special kind of friendship.
Q: What would you say to the younger generation about getting into local politics?
A: I think the path that I went on—and, again, my colleagues went on—with community service is a valuable one. I’ve known a lot of people who kind of just woke up one day and decided to run for office without really having any sort of engagement in the community and they may do just fine, but I feel like [community service experience] is a definite advantage.