Michael Fackler has been president of the Jacksonville Federal Bar Association, adjunct professor at the Florida Coastal School of Law and even honored as a “Super Lawyer.” Now the private local attorney appears to have the support to become Jacksonville’s new general counsel, the city’s top lawyer.
Nominated by Mayor Donna Deegan, he will take the job Friday as he awaits City Council approval.
The University of Florida graduate was named after Deegan’s first choice — attorney and former City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor — withdrew her name after she faced a long battle with City Council for confirmation.
In a statement from the Mayor’s Office, Fackler said he is honored to be joining the administration and has met with many of them since his nomination, including attorneys in the General Counsel’s Office.
“It’s gratifying to be tapped to lead this dynamic, talented law firm of city attorneys as we work to address the complex challenges facing Jacksonville at this time, along with managing the many opportunities we expect in the coming years,” Fackler said.
City Council President Ron Salem, the council vice president and rules chairman were among those who met Fackler. Salem said Fackler will have no problem “catching on and getting up to speed fairly quickly.”
“We contacted the Mayor’s Office after separately spending time with him and told the mayor that she could move forward with the nomination,” Salem said. “It’s going to be a fairly consensus-type pick. He’s got tremendous experience. He understands the fact that he has not been in government before and needs to get a deputy that is in the office who can assist him early on to get through the various issues.”
Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel has 46 attorneys, all assigned to work with the city and departments like the JEA, Duval County School District and the agencies that handle aviation, housing, the city port and the JTA. It also handles legal cases for the city’s five constitutional officers — supervisor of elections, property appraiser, sheriff, tax collector and clerk of court.
The mayor, all 19 City Council members and more than 30 boards, commissions and agencies are also the office’s clients, as are the 10 executive branch departments,.
That means the Office of General Counsel handles all commercial, personal injury and constitutional litigation between the city and residents, businesses and other public and private concerns, as well as real estate, land use, environmental law, labor and employment law, property, bankruptcy, contract negotiation, economic development and transactional areas. But it does not provide legal advice to the public.
Fackler earned his undergraduate degree in 1994 from Northwestern University, followed by his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law in 2002, his biography states. He was an editor for the Florida Law Review and a member of the Moot Court Team while at UF. Then after graduation, he was a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Schlesinger, for the Middle District of Florida.
As an adjunct professor, Fackler taught legal research and writing at Florida Coastal School of Law. He has spent 20 years as a practicing attorney and is currently a partner at Milam Howard Nicandri & Gillam P.A. on East Bay Street. His community involvement dates back to his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Poland before law school.
Fackler has served as a board member, president, vice president and treasurer of the Jacksonville Historical Society. He is on the board of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the Riverside Presbyterian Church Basketball League.
DeFoor was the initial choice over five other candidates who applied for the general counsel job. The others were former City Council member Brenda Priestly Jackson, former General Counsel Jason Teal, Deputy General Counsels Sean Granat and Lawsika Hodges, and state health department Chief General Counsel Amy Meyer.
But DeFoor ran into opposition and questions about whether the position would be a conflict of interest for a former City Council member. She withdrew from consideration last week.
In a news release announcing Fackler’s choice, Deegan said she believes he will get bipartisan support from the mainly Republican City Council and will do his job well.
“Michael is well-respected in the legal profession and community. He brings to the table nearly two decades of legal experience, unimpeachable character and bipartisan support,” Deegan said in a statement. “As our city continues to grow and our legal needs become more complex, I look forward to bringing him on board as our next general counsel.”
Fackler begins his new job Friday as the acting general counsel, after the time of interim appointment Bob Rhodes ends Thursday. Rhodes took over after Jason Teal ended his term in June, after having been general counsel since October 2021.
The Qualifications Review Committee will convene in October to review Fackler’s qualifications, as outlined in the City Charter. If approved by that committee, Fackler’s appointment heads to the City Council for approval to become the permanent general counsel. That requires 13 “yes” votes from the 19-person council.