Christine Hoffman first moved to the Jacksonville area as a small child when her father was transferred to Naval Station Mayport. She returned to the Beaches in 1992 and after going away to college and beginning her career, she returned permanently to Jacksonville Beach in 2002. She now serves as a Jacksonville Beach city councilor and executive director of the Beaches Area Historical Society – roles that have strengthened and deepened her roots in the Beaches community.
You’re currently running for re-election to the Jacksonville Beach City Council. What prompted you to seek public office and what do you hope to accomplish if re-elected?
When I first ran in 2012, there were quite a few openings due to term limits. I saw it as a great opportunity to jump in with both feet to help steer the direction of the city. As citizens, we seem to get so much more engaged in presidential politics, when in reality things like roads, trash collection, public safety and electricity are local issues! Jacksonville Beach is in very good shape, financially. We’ve been able to lower the property tax rate, keep our pensions healthy and run a good, tight city budget while maintaining the quality of life and service levels that our citizens expect. My ambition for the next four years is to really start to see the potential that we have, particularly in our downtown area.
What do you think are the key issues facing Beaches residents that you could impact on the city council?
In the big picture, public safety, economic impacts and quality of life are overarching. Making sure our citizens feel and are safe, keeping the cost of living low and ensuring that this is a great place to live are all important. But everyone approaches those things differently. I believe that a strong housing market and business community will make this an even better place to live, bring in better retail and restaurants and increase quality tourism. In particular, I want to make sure we invest in purposeful ways in our downtown area to bring in the types of businesses that we want to see and to elevate the image of the area throughout the region.
What do you enjoy most about your role as executive director of the Beaches Area Historical Society?
We have a very small staff so everyone wears many different hats. I love that every day is different. I could be walking the park talking about future plans, helping an exhibit committee hang panels, setting up for a chapel concert or working with one of my board committees on the future of the organization. It’s been really fun to wake up a sleepy little museum in the past two years. There is always something going on here and I’m so proud to see the community coming out, getting excited about the history, art and culture that we are offering here!
You have a long association with the American Cancer Society. How did you first become involved with the organization and what are some of the roles you’ve held with ACS?
When I was a sophomore in college, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I spent the summer home from school going to chemo appointments, wig shopping and keeping her company through her fight. When I got back to Gainesville that fall, I went to the ACS office and asked how I could get involved. Amazingly, they put me right to work arranging services for cancer patients and staffing an office at the Shands Cancer Center. Not only was I giving back, but little did I know I was also building my resume.
When I graduated with a political science degree, the staff at ACS told me about an advocacy position in Tallahassee. I jumped on the chance to help impact statewide policy, particularly on tobacco issues. During my first two years there, I was part of creating a campaign to make all restaurants and workplaces smoke-free. I left ACS to become the North Florida field director of Smoke Free for Health, a ballot initiative on the 2002 ballot. We won resoundingly and you no longer hear “smoking or non” when you go into a restaurant! When that campaign concluded, I was recruited to move back to work in the Jacksonville Beach office of ACS. I served as the executive director for four years, covering St. Johns, Nassau and the Beaches. I lost my mom in 2008 after she fought cancer for 11 years. She was the strongest person I know and I admire her and miss her every day.
Are there other charitable/civic organizations with which you’re involved?
When I left the American Cancer Society, I decided I wanted to be involved in a local, more grassroots organization. I joined the board of BEAM in 2009 as the fundraising chair and was very excited to be a part of their 25th anniversary of serving the community. As part of that, we founded the “Beach Ball” and raised over $60,000 each year, for the first three years. Considering the economy at the time, that was a great feat and huge for BEAM. Two years ago, I joined the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, Oceanside. I chair the community service committee and through that, we’ve gotten involved in projects for all the great organizations at the beach, including Mission House, BEAM, Beaches Habitat, Beaches Community Kitchen, Beaches Fine Arts Series and the USO. This summer, we are putting on the first annual “Beaches Health Jam.” We wanted to bring the St. Vincent’s Mobile Health Unit to the Beaches area and the three area Rotary Clubs joined forces to create an entire community event that will have music, games, information, health screenings, dancing and more.
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
Free time? I don’t understand the question! Truly my passion beyond serving my community is travel. I’m always planning and saving up for a trip and have been able to go to Cuba, the Middle East, India, South Africa, Europe, Thailand, etc. One of my favorite trips was a cross-country road trip with my sister. We have a beautiful country and I don’t think enough people know or fully appreciate that!