Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Barton Era Starts out with a Bang

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Barton Era Starts out with a Bang

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis

It's not Ron Barton's fault that outspoken Jacksonville Economic Development Commissioner Charlie Appleby might resign.

Barton joined the commission just a month ago as its third executive director to redirect the 9-year-old agency after almost two years of turmoil.

At Barton's first JEDC meeting on Thursday, Appleby voted against an Enterprise Zone grant for Morris Communications, publisher of The Florida Times-Union. He said the rebate for the purchase of machinery and equipment did not accomplish the strategic purposes of incentives: To keep a company from moving; to create jobs; or to make exterior improvements.

"I do not believe these credits are 'entitlement' credits," he said. "I cannot support this."

Welcome to Jacksonville, Ron. Welcome to a commission that has struggled and bantered and fought and defended and argued about the controversial issue of economic incentives since it started in 1996. Welcome to a group of volunteers and staff who followed orders when Mayor John Peyton ordered the JEDC to restructure itself when he took office in July 2003.

You're in charge, now. You inherit the top staff job as the commission starts its 10th year.

Barton, who joined the commission exactly a month before Thursday's meeting, called the scope of JEDC "mind-boggling."

"I'm awestruck at what is on our plate and what they want to put on our plate," he said of the mayor's office and the city in general. Awestruck, but also ready.

Barton immediately immersed himself in the business of the JEDC, spending his first four weeks absorbing the minutiae. He also dealt with the City Council finance committee's "curveball" of suggesting some serious budget restriction, while acknowledging the council "is asking very appropriate questions."

Barton operates with the freedom of being the new guy, which gives him time to make friends before having to risk making enemies. …

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