JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mayor Donna Deegan took a jab at Governor Ron DeSantis Thursday night after a city council committee voted to defund the position of Chief of Diversity and Inclusion within the mayor’s office earlier in the day.
The comment was made during a community town hall last night while the mayor was discussing council nixing the funding.
“As we all know, the Governor is not all too fond on diversity, equity and inclusion. So, I think that was a bit of the message,” Deegan said.
The jab marks a shift in tone.
For the most part, Mayor Donna Deegan has refrained from offering commentary on most culture-war and state political issues, with the exception of her opposition to the state’s new African American history standards.
“I have no problem working across the aisle with the Governor, and I look forward to working with him and everybody really in the state of Florida,” Deegan said in an interview with Action News Jax back in June, just before she took office.
UCF political science professor Dr. Aubrey Jewett noted with the two politicians belonging to opposite political parties, a run in was going to happen eventually.
“Because it is very difficult to keep politics out of what essentially is a political job,” Jewett said.
Councilmember Nick Howland (R-Group 3 At-Large), who supported the decision to cut funding for the Chief of Diversity and Inclusion, argued on Thursday the decision was based on fiscal responsibility, rather than the Governor’s distaste for DEI.
“For us, it was both a redundant cost to the city and not necessarily the proper role of government,” Howland said.
While council members may not have had the governor front of mind, the Governor’s Office offered a statement of approval regarding the vote.
“We appreciate the city council’s decision to not waste taxpayer funds on Division, Exclusion, and Indoctrination,” DeSantis’ Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern said.
Jewett said he doubts Deegan’s comments will catch the ire of the Governor, but he argued with DeSantis’ reputation for retribution via use of the veto pen in the state budget, conflict with him can come back to bite his political enemies.
[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]
“Not just against Democrats. I mean he’s done some pretty rough things politically speaking to people who are allies or former allies, Republicans. Right? I mean the Senate President, the House Speaker, former Chair of the Republican Florida Party. I mean they’ve all been on the receiving end of the Governor’s wrath,” Jewett said.