To understand the impact of the Upchurch family, we need to start with history. Back in 1925, Frank D. Upchurch, Sr. and his wife Esther settled in St. Augustine with their young son, Frank, Jr. Shortly after, they welcomed son Hamilton, and the new roots of their family tree grew deeper. Frank, Sr. served as a state senator and mayor and laid the foundation for the Upchurch family law firm; Frank, Jr. was appointed as Judge for the 5th District Court of Appeals; and Hamilton was an assistant state attorney, elected to the city commission, served two years as mayor, and spent 10 years in the Florida House of Representatives.
In fine family tradition, Hamilton’s son, attorney and Flagler College professor Tracy Upchurch, was also voted to the city commission, also served as mayor, and was also elected to the State Legislature. “I followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather but I never felt like I was expected to do those same things,” explains Tracy. “However, my father gave me a lot of practical advice that has served me well.”
That practical advice might come in even more handy now – Tracy has just assumed mayoral duties for the second time, filling in for the position that Nancy Shaver vacated due to health issues. How does he see his role? “I want to facilitate the success of the other commissioners and support community visions. One issue is mobility. We have to be more creative to make the downtown area more hospitable and user-friendly, and I think there are some ways to do that.” He also believes in conducting meetings in a welcoming and respectful way while maintaining a sense of order and decorum. “You have an obligation to get through the agenda but also to make sure people know they’re welcome to be heard.”
Looking back, one of our new mayor’s more memorable moments is – unsurprisingly – family-oriented. “Coaching soccer,” says Tracy. “One of the great joys of my life was coaching my kids in soccer. It was just a lot of fun with very special memories.” And where does he go to rejuvenate? Conch Island and Anastasia State Park. “Several times each week I walk Conch Island. You don’t have to go very far before you are substantially the only person around. My mother was a shell collector, and I would walk Conch Island with her, so I have wonderful memories there. It is far and away my favorite place.”
Those family memories are often the building blocks for successful communities. As Tracy explains, “We talk a lot about preserving a sense of space, but we must also build a sense of community, a sense of belonging – not only to a physical space but to each other as well. And that comes from being involved in our community.” Working for the good of St. Augustine and for the furtherance of community, Mayor Tracy Upchurch is glad to be back.
Written by Susan Johnson. Photography by Brian Miller.