JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville's longest-serving elder statesman, former Mayor Jake Godbold, has jumped into the controversy over whether the city of Jacksonville should sell its electric, water and sewer utility.
Godbold, who was mayor from 1978 to 1987, wrote a letter to current Mayor Lenny Curry saying he believes the issue of JEA's future "has been botched since the beginning." He continued, "Your credibility is being damaged and your motives are being questioned.
"Frankly, I think you are getting bad advice; advice that does not appear to flow from what is in the best interest of Jacksonville. ... In addition, there is a mean-spiritedness about it all.
"I am one of a whole lot of people in Jacksonville who are having a hard time believing you."
In an interview with News4Jax on Wednesday, Godbold said the most alarming part of selling the utility is that the city would lose control of its water and sewer service, warning it could "leave Jacksonville high and dry."
Godbod said the morale of JEA employees is terrible and the choice of Aaron Zahn, a relative newcomer, as interim chief executive of the utility is only making it worse.
"I think it was a terrible move," Godbold said Wednesday.
Godbold said he almost feels sorry for Zahn, who is at least temporarily replacing CEO Paul McElroy, who resigned earlier this month in the midst of the city's running discussion over possibly privatizing JEA.
After Curry met with Zahn on Wednesday, Curry commented on Godbold's letter.
"(Godbold) delivered a letter that said it was personal and confidential to him. You guys had it before I had it. I am not sure. So he is entitled to his opinion. I would look forward to a conversation with him, if he wants to return my call," Curry said.
Godbold said the letter to the mayor was private and he does not know who made it public.
"It was a friendly letter. I signed it as 'your friend, Jake Godbold.' I told him you need to get out and talk to the public. I talked about a lot of the rumors that are going around and the suspicion of him operating this thing, even though he is saying he has not made up his mind yet, and I said I'd be willing to talk to (him) any time."
Late Wednesday, Godbold told News4Jax he had received a call from Curry and the two planned to talk.