Mary Ann Southwell, elected to the City Council in 1999, was dedicated to improving the quality of life in Mandarin, and throughout Jacksonville, and improving the natural beauty of the area. After moving to Jacksonville in 1978, Southwell was a strong advocate for the arts and the environment.
Southwell was a proven leader who believed actions speak louder than words. In 1986 she spearheaded a successful effort to lobby the Florida Public Service Commission to eliminate then-existing toll charges on all telephone calls from Mandarin to Orange Park and to the Beaches. The Mandarin Council of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce later honored her with the first Community Service Award in recognition of the successful campaign to eliminate those long distance charges.
Upon learning the Florida Department of Transportation planned to cut down century oak trees at the entrance to Mandarin Road to construct a turn lane when widening San Jose Boulevard, she successfully lobbied the DOT to save the trees. The turn lane was not built. The Northeast Florida Planning & Zoning Association honored her with the 1990 Environmental Award for the Mandarin Parkway landscaping project. As chair of the Mandarin Art Festival, 1986 through 1998, her work helped make the event a prestigious venture for both Mandarin and Jacksonville.
Southwell's concern for Jacksonville's environment was evident by her tenure on the Tree Hill Nature Center, president 1994-1995, where she helped with the acquisition of the Loretto Nature Preserve for operation by Tree Hill. She also organized the landscaping of San Jose Boulevard and fought for good planning and compatible development in Mandarin.
Appointments included the Jacksonville Landscape Commission, the Jacksonville 2010 Comprehensive Plan Citizen Advisory Committee and the Southeast Citizen Advisory Committee. Her civic service included serving on the Mandarin Community Club Board of Directors, president 1985 and 1986. She was a member of the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. and was a stakeholder in the Jacksonville Insight Process.
Southwell earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan. Prior to that, she graduated 10th in her class with honors from Pontiac High School, Pontiac Michigan. Scholastic honors included induction in the University of Michigan's Mortarboard Senior Woman's Honor Society and freshman and sophomore honors. After moving to Florida, she worked as a reporter for the Melbourne Daily News covering city and county governments until she moved to Fort Lauderdale to become the education reporter for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.