JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Jake Godbold was Jacksonville's mayor, the relationship his office had with the police union was often contentious.
But because Godbold cared so much about people, John Pialorsi, the former head of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, says Godbold worked hard to make that relationship work well. He contacted News4Jax, eager to share his own memories of the former mayor.
His personal stories included not only Godbold, but Tom Wills. One of those memories involved a Michael Jackson concert.
At the time, the pop star was performing at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. As the new Chief of Special Events and Recreation for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Pialorsi was sent by Godbold to check out the set up and security of the Midwest concert, because one of the singer's next stops was Jacksonville.
"We met Michael (Jackson), and we spent six days up there if my memory is good," Pialorsi said while reminiscing with Wills, who was also in Kansas City on assignment. "And I said, 'Tom, tell the people in Jacksonville they're going to get a show.'"
“He (Godbold) was devoted to overcoming what he saw as Jacksonville’s ‘inferiority complex,’” Wills said.
"And there were some strong obstacles there," Pialorsi added.
One of those obstacles was the contentious relationship with Jacksonville's police union, and Pialorsi became its president in 1979
“We even teased him (Godbold) one time that we were going to put signs -- buy billboards and put signs on there that said: Welcome to Jacksonville, home to the poorest paid first responders in the city,” Pialorsi said. “At one time, we even adopted the name of calling him Boss Hogg. I think they even spray painted it in a few places, and he didn’t care for it too well.”
But Pilaorsi said, Godbold took a personal liking to him and the fire union president. He said the mayor improved the situation for officers and firefighters.
"He (Godbold) did extensively," Pilaorsi said. "He was interested in everything that we walked about on the contract."
The former head of the FOP remembered a time in the 80s, when he said Godbold thought Jacksonville might lose being the host of Gator Bowl games.
“He (Godbold) says, I want you to come up with a plan. I want you to have that Gator Bowl rock solid and security,” Pialorsi said. “Sheriff McMillan then decided that we would take the recruits out of the academy, we would deputize them for one day. We put 380 police officers in the stadium for that event.”
Pialorsi continued, “We saved it and we were very proud of that. Thanks to him and his tenacity to push us, we pulled it off.”