Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commission Votes to Keep Sheriff as an Elected Post; the Charter Panel Also Decided to Drop Idea of Staggering Councilmens' Terms

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commission Votes to Keep Sheriff as an Elected Post; the Charter Panel Also Decided to Drop Idea of Staggering Councilmens' Terms

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Jacksonville voters are best served by having the power to elect the city's sheriff, the Charter Revision Commission decided Thursday.

"I think taking the vote away from the public and appointing the sheriff is a really bad call," commission member Billy Catlin said.

The current system has worked well for over 40 years, he said, and fixing something that isn't broken doesn't make sense.

Commission member Curtis Youngblood cited testimony by Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who last week recommended sticking with an elected top cop.

Elected to his current position, Demings has served as an appointed police chief - a job he said wasn't as accountable to the public.

Orange County briefly had an appointed sheriff several years ago, but voters decided to end the experiment.

"Why make the same mistake others have made?" Youngblood said.

The charter commission voted 11-3 in favor of keeping the sheriff an elected position, meaning it will no longer seek out testimony or research on the issue before making its recommendations to the City Council.

University of North Florida Professor Michael Hallett and former Jacksonville Mayor Ed Austin, a member of the commission, have supported moving to an appointed police chief. They argued that an elected sheriff undermines the city's strong-mayor form of government.

Other former mayors and Sheriff John Rutherford defended the current system.

Several commissioners said Thursday they didn't feel the panel had listened to enough testimony to make an informed decision.

Wyman Duggan, the group's chairman, said Rutherford's ability to lobby the City Council on budget issues when he disagrees with Mayor John Peyton is troubling.

Also Thursday, the commission indicated it will no longer pursue the idea of staggered terms for council members. …

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