JACKSONVILLE — City leaders voted to add three new members to Jacksonville’s industrial development board on Monday and replace the chairman who has years of experience recruiting industry.
The Jacksonville City Council voted 3-2 not to reappoint chairman Jamie Etheredge to the board, which is tasked with recruiting industry to the city. Council members against the reappointment said it was time for change on the board, while those who wanted to keep Etheredge said his years of experience attracting industry to the state made him a major asset to the city.
The council voted on the appointments during its regular Monday meeting. Three of the seven seats on the board had expired, meaning the council had to either reappoint or replace the previously serving members. A fourth member had to be replaced because he had resigned.
Councilmen Jimmy Harrell, Tony Taylor and Coty Galloway voted to appoint Paul Hathaway to take Etheredge’s seat on the board for a term that will expire in 2023. Hathaway is an associate professor of political science at Jacksonville State University.
The council also appointed Alabama Power employee Andrew Carden and retired JSU faculty member Angela Sandberg to the board. The council reappointed to the board Don Killingsworth, director of university relations at JSU.
Council President Sandra Sudduth and Councilman Jerry Parris at first nominated Etheredge for reappointment. When that motionfailed, Sudduth abstained and Parris voted against the Hathaway appointment.
“He’s been on this board and kept it going for so many years and we’ve had so many letters from people telling us about what a great job he’s done,” Sudduth said of Etheredge in the meeting. “We have four positions open that if we want someone new, we have three places for them … I think we’re really doing Jacksonville a disservice.”
Etheredge for years served as the director of the Alabama Development Office, which focused on recruiting industry to the state. Etheredge also served as the mayor of Greenville for four terms.
In a brief Monday phone call after the meeting, Etheredge declined to comment about the council vote and instead paraphrased a passage from Ecclesiastes in the Bible that states there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.
“I think it’s time for me to be silent,” Etheredge said.
Mayor Johnny Smith said after the meeting that he was disappointed with the council’s decision on Etheredge.
“He’s done things to improve the quality of life here and help get people jobs,” Smith said. “He has a tremendous amount of experience attracting industry to the state.”
Taylor said during the meeting that he wanted to thank all the members who have served on the board and that the changes were not personal.
“I appreciate all the calls I’ve gotten … I’m just trying to do what’s best for the city,” Taylor said.
Harrell said after the meeting that he appreciated Etheredge’s service, but that it was time for the city to move in a new direction. Harrell pointed to the recent closing of Jacksonville’s hospital and the downsizing of Federal Mogul as reasons for his decision.
Regional Medical Center in Anniston closed the hospital on June 30 mainly because of declining revenue. Auto parts manufacturer Federal Mogul announced in November that it would lay off 200 workers at its Jacksonville distribution center and leave just around 66 employees there. The company stated the downsizing was needed as it adjusted its North American distribution network.
“We’re just trying to light a fire and get some recruitment going in here,” Harrell said.
Also during the meeting, the council approved an agreement with bicycle sharing company VeoRide of West LaFayette, Ind., to provide services in the city.
Casey Rhodes with Bantam Strategy Group, a Louisiana-based bike-sharing consulting firm, said at the meeting that the firm had a deal with the company to bring around 100 bicycles to JSU and the city. The deal is part of a larger agreement to bring bicycles to the cities of Anniston and Oxford, Rhodes said.
“It’s a great bike that’s light and easy to use,” Rhodes said of the VeoRide bicycle.
The deal replaces one the city approved in February with a company called LimeBike. Rhodes said that LimeBike recently decided against expanding its bicycle-sharing services into more cities.
Residents purchase time on the bicycles using a smartphone app provided by VeoRide. A device locks the bicycle wheels in place when they’re not being used. All the bicycles are fitted with GPS tracking devices to deter theft.
The bicycles would arrive in the city in a few weeks, Rhodes said.