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May 24, 2018

Peyton's Place- Northeast- July 2003

Bob Snell | 7/1/2003
John Peyton's mayoral campaign hit a low point after reports revealed that the diminutive candidate used a seat pillow to literally boost his stature during an early debate. Although it was all uphill from there, the 38-year-old political novice and petroleum company heir proved resilient, defeating Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover in a race tinged with racial politics.

Peyton, the son of Gate Petroleum Co. founder Herb Peyton, used some of his family's fortune and the muscle of the city's dominant Republican Party to become the sixth mayor of Jacksonville's consolidated city/county government. He succeeds John Delaney, whose record of accomplishment -- and 90% approval rating -- will be difficult to match.

Though Peyton defeated the popular sheriff by a convincing 58% to 42%, the election revealed a city that remains sharply divided along racial lines. At one point, Glover discovered racial epithets on the walls of his downtown headquarters. And the two-term African-American sheriff made little headway in the largely white suburbs.

Preaching unity, Peyton told supporters on election night, "We will not be effective unless we work together. We've got our work cut out for us. We must reach out to everyone in this community."

But uniting a fractured city is just one of the challenges Peyton faces -- a job complicated by his promise to fire the city's African-American fire chief -- a prerequisite for winning the firefighter union's endorsement. Another is managing Delaney's legacy, anchored by the $2.2-billion Better Jacksonville Plan of public buildings and road improvements, which is far from complete.

While Peyton stressed his conservative credentials and opposition to any "new" taxes, he largely avoided specifics on the campaign trail. One issue he championed, improving the city's chronically underperforming public schools, could presage a dramatic power struggle between the mayor's office and the independent Duval County School Board.

Peyton says the city needs to restore the robust job and business growth it experienced in the late 1990s, which he hopes to accomplish through stronger business recruitment and a continued emphasis on incentives for targeted industries.

The mayoral post is Peyton's first elective office -- as it was for Delaney. Peyton was prodded to run by a number of old-line civic and business leaders -- including his father -- who were not part of Delaney's inner circle.


Baker County -- Sheriff Joey Dobson says he'll no longer assign county prisoners to set up chairs and tents for private events after a local newspaper reported on inmates working a graduation party for the granddaughter of former Macclenny Mayor T.J. Raulerson.

Clay County -- Officials processed a record 724 applications for single-family homes in April as builders rushed to get their projects approved before a $2,000-a-permit impact fee to help county schools kicked in.

Dixie County -- The Florida Cabinet approved a federally financed dredging project near the mouth of the Suwannee River. Some environmentalists opposed deepening Wadley Pass, saying it could lead to a damaging increase in river traffic.

Fernandina Beach -- Amelia Island Lighthouse, the oldest working lighthouse in Florida, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse, which the U.S. Coast Guard gave the city in 2001, is undergoing a $350,000 state-funded restoration.

Interlachen -- Developers have broken ground on a 12.5-acre shopping center on State Road 20 they hope will be anchored by a Winn-Dixie supermarket.

Jacksonville -- T-Mobile USA, a provider of wireless services, plans to close its Jacksonville call center early next year, cutting 567 jobs.

JEA has pledged $1 million to help pay for the 2005 Super Bowl. Half of the utility's contribution will go toward electric, water and sewer service for cruise ships that will dock on the St. Johns River, with the remaining $500,000 paid in cash to the game's host committee.

The Technology Enterprise Center in Southpoint, a business incubator, is fully occupied for the first time since it opened in October 2000.

At-large City Councilman Lad Daniels was elected to a one-year term as council president. Councilwoman Elaine Brown was voted vice president.

Safety Cast inked a $3.3-million deal with Miami-based Ander Police Supply, which will distribute the Jacksonville company's emergency radio transmitters. The devices broadcast alert tones over AM and FM car radios, warning motorists when emergency vehicles are near.

Mayport -- Wal-Mart wants to build a 200,000-sq.-ft. supercenter on a 24-acre site currently occupied by a mobile home park.

Nassau County -- According to the recent Census, 46% of the county's 30,000 workers commute to jobs outside the county.

Neptune Beach -- Nasdaq delisted Family Steak Houses of Florida after its market value fell below $1 million. The company operates 20 Ryan's Steak House restaurants in Florida.

Putnam County -- County commissioners agreed to pay $490,000 for the Tanglewylde homestead of the late conservationist Frances Brown Frank. The 24-acre property north of Palatka includes a 500-foot bluff overlooking the St. Johns River and will be turned into a nature park.


JACKSONVILLE -- Looking to diversify their board, trustees of the $225-million Jessie Ball duPont Fund have asked a judge to allow them to add three people to the fund's four-member governing body. Trustees also want the court to change a clause in duPont's will that mandates a Florida-based bank administer the philanthropic trust, one of the state's largest.

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