Sam Newby Elected Next President of Jacksonville City Council

May 25, 2021

The Jacksonville City Council has elected Republicans Sam Newby and Terrance Freeman as the body’s next president and vice president. 

Newby is currently serving as Council vice president and received the unanimous support of the 19-member legislative body. Freeman narrowly won the VP spot, winning 10-9 over fellow Republican Randy DeFoor.

Council elects a new president and vice president every May for year-long terms that begin in July. When the new council session begins, Newby will have the power to set City Council’s agenda and determine who sits on its committees. 

Newby was elected to City Council in 2015. A long-time employee of PepsiCo, he’s also served as president of the Joseph E. Lee Republican Club and as the chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County. He was also a co-founder and chairman of the Florida Assembly of Black Republicans. He earned his bachelor's degree at Edward Waters College. 

Newby choked up addressing Council after the vote. 

“First of all, I want to thank God, because only God can bring a young man from 45th and Cleveland Road to the presidency of City Council. Only God can do that,” he said.  “And second of all, I want to thank all my colleagues for trusting me to lead this body.”

Councilwoman Brenda Priestly-Jackson endorsed him, despite their differences. 

“Sam identifies himself as a Bush/Reagan Republican who espouses the values of fiscal conservatism, rugged individualism, and a strong Christian faith, accompanied by compassion and empathy,” she said. “Although Sam and I don’t share policy positions or agree on all issues — he is of course a Republican and I’m a Democrat — Sam is someone I admire, respect and trust, because he is a man of conviction, strong faith, leadership and wisdom.” 

Freeman, narrowly elected council Vice President-designate, has been a member of City Council since 2019. Fellow Republican Kevin Carrico recognized Freeman as a man of faith, a former high school principal, and someone with a deep understanding of Jacksonville’ business community. He is the CEO of Read USA, a nonprofit that provides free books to children. 

“I want to thank my colleagues for the vote of confidence in being your next vice president. I am truly honored and look forward to working hard alongside each of you in serving our city,” Freeman said. 

Freeman also acknowledged the significance of two Black men assuming leadership on Jacksonville’s City Council.

“President-designate Newby will be only the third ever Black council member to serve as president, following behind Earl Johnson and Warren Jones. We must acknowledge that we have a long way to go as a city, but should take a moment to be proud of this day,” he said. 

Council members LeAnna Cumber and Joyce Morgan also tried to win the vice president spot, though neither received any votes. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.