Two Jacksonville mayors at odds over future of JEA

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two Jacksonville mayors are at odds over what should happen to JEA.

Mayor Lenny Curry believes selling it could be a good option, but a former mayor said it would be a disaster.

They both spoke their piece during Monday's second -- public fact-finding JEA meeting at City Hall.

Action News Jax's Courtney Cole was there for the meeting, where former Mayor Jake Godbold called for an end to any talks about the potential sale of JEA.

During the discussion, he said city council has the power to end all of this right now by voting "no-confidence" in the JEA board.


Godbold also said he'd like to see JEA get new management to help it grow, instead of trying to sell it.

"Anybody that can sit here today, after what we've been through, and say they have confidence in this board, I don't know where they've been," Godbold said.

Godbold made a passionate plea to the Jacksonville City Council -- to stop the talks of selling JEA.

"This is all about selfishness and self-centeredness and it's not for the public," Godbold told Action News Jax.

Godbold served as Mayor of Jacksonville from 1978 to 1987.

He said he's been talking to the public and knows this is not what they want.

"I was born, I was raised here. I went away one time and that was to Korea and I said, 'I never want to leave this city again.'" Godbold said.

Godbold not only let his feelings be known in Monday's meeting, but in one of the local newspapers, too.

In The Florida Times-Union newspaper, there's an ad written by Godbold. He expressed his desire for this procurement process to come to an end.

He also included the names, addresses and e-mails of all the current council members, hoping to encourage neighbors to let their voices be heard.

"I mean, he's entitled to his opinion. Every opinion matters. People are free to express what they feel on the issue," ​​​​​​​Mayor Curry said.

Mayor Curry's opinion, which he also expressed during his surprise appearance at Monday's meeting, is very different from Godbold's.

"In the end, if this ends up with a move forward, it has to go to the voters. That's the most important thing here," Curry said.

While former Mayor Godbold believes the people don't want anything to do with the potential sale, Curry said he doesn't believe everyone is against it.

"People are not uncomfortable with the process as long as they know what's happening in the process," said Mayor Curry.

The mayor also said he plans to continue to move forward with the JEA planning process.

Part of that process includes adding three new people, from the Curry administration, selected to the JEA negotiation team.

The additions come after JEA requested the opinion of the State of Florida Commission on Ethics, regarding fairness during the procurement process.

Mayor Curry told Cole the Office of General Counsel said the selection of those three people should prevent any conflict of interest in the future.

Godbold wasn't the only person city leaders and neighbors heard from on Monday.

They also heard from JEA's consultant group and the Council Auditor's Office.

They spoke about JEA's sales value, which according to the Council Auditor's Office report from 2018, could range between $7.5 billion to $11 billion.

JEA also holds other value to the city. The Council Auditor's office included a list of at least 20 other ways JEA has proven to be advantageous to the City of Jacksonville. One of them includes their consistent contribution to the City's General Fund.

City leaders and neighbors didn't have the chance to discuss one of the things on Monday's agenda: The City Council's Special Report on the Future of JEA from 2018.

It will be discussed at the next meeting, currently scheduled for Dec.9.

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