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News Bites: How Sweet It Is; Under New Management; The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long

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HOW SWEET IT IS

One local institute of higher learning has recently benefitted from an act of philanthropy bestowed from beyond the grave. Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union reports that “Jacksonville University received a $6 million unrestricted gift from The Carl S. Swisher Foundation, which will help fund the college’s continued progress.”

Stepzinski quotes University President Tim Cost, who welcomed this “transformational gift” as “a rare opportunity to move our university forward, accelerate our momentum, and fuel our progress.”

In his lifetime, Swisher was “a longtime member—including past chairman—of the Jacksonville University Board of Trustees,” according to Stepzinski. He was also one of the
school’s most generous benefactors, funding campus infrastructure and student scholarships to the tune of $10 million.

Stepzinski describes Swisher as an “influential Jacksonville business leader” but neglects to mention his precise line of business. Swisher inherited his family’s eponymous cigar company and pioneered Swisher Sweets, an enduringly popular brand of flavored cigarillo that would ultimately be celebrated in countless rap tracks.

The ghost of Carl S. Swisher is hardly the school’s sole benefactor these days, though. The T-U article also notes a recent fundraising drive, dubbed “ASPIRE,” that took in more than $121.4 million from some 14,000 donors.

 

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

St. Johns County officials recently surprised the community of St. Augustine Beach by announcing their intention to bid out the management of the pier’s long-running farmers market—and start charging rent. Four firms entered the fray. One was awarded the year-long contract. Colleen Jones of the St. Augustine Record interviewed the incoming managers, Julie Olsson and Sloan Doucette of Salt Air Farmers Market firm.

Among Salt Air’s competition was the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, which launched the market 20 years ago and has been running it ever since.

“Ultimately,” Jones writes, “county officials decided to award the bid to the Salt Air Farmers Market firm, which also manages the market held Sundays at Marineland. As they get ready to officially take over on Oct. 3, the two women behind Salt Air want the local community to know the market is alive and well.”

Promising to make the market “bigger and even better,” Olsson and Doucette are expanding its scope to include the open-air pavilion and 24 more parking spaces. Vendors will no longer park onsite but will be shuttled to the pier. The market will still run every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Jones reports that “Olsson and Doucette said nearly all the vendors with the pier farmers market expect to continue renting space, as well as some vendors from Marineland who want a second day in the week to display their wares.”

Should anyone else happen be interested, however, Jones notes that “[t]en-foot-by-10-foot spaces in the main parking lot will be offered at $25 in-season and $22 off-season; smaller spaces in the pavilion can be rented for $18.”

 

THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE IS LONG

Meanwhile, in Clay County, Nick Blank of Clay Today reports that an unnamed Fire Rescue battalion chief has spent months “on administrative leave with pay” while his superiors investigate “suggestive text messages he allegedly sent to a female employee.” The Sept. 12 article notes that “[t]he woman filed a complaint with the Clay County Human Resources Department about the battalion chief at Fleming Island Station 22, which prompted an investigation that ended July 9.”

Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock has already recommended the offender be fired, but the ultimate decision rests with Clay County Manager Stephanie Kopelousos. “Because termination was asked for, Mock said, the process would take longer than had it been a written reprimand. He has been on leave since early July.”

For her part, Kopelousos “said a decision to discipline the employee has not been made.” Blank quotes the Clay County manager as saying, “We’re currently in the process of gathering information with additional interviews and weighing all significant factors.”

The Fleming Island offender isn’t the only county employee under investigation. Mock tells Blank that three more individuals have come under scrutiny for separate matters. Those investigations are ongoing, and it remains unknown if the employees continue to draw paychecks in the interim.

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