Mike Hightower: JEA’s new top lobbyist

jacksonville

Mike Hightower, who resigned from the Jacksonville Electric Authority Board in December 2014, is back with them in a new capacity.

Hightower is JEA’s new top lobbyist. As the Times-Union reported on Thursday, the job pays $199K.

Competition for this position was fierce. Word is that former Councilman Richard Clark was interested.

With Hightower, JEA gets the closest thing to a sure thing possible. A man with deep connections in Washington and Tallahassee, and beyond, Hightower will ensure that the utility has strong representation with a deep understanding of its needs and how to get them addressed from state and even federal government.

Hightower, born on Jacksonville’s westside, is a Duval County lifer whose political trajectory is typical of his generation.

Hightower got his start in local politics in the early 1970s, when he was secretary of the Democratic Party of Duval County. He met Jimmy Carter soon thereafter, and was enlisted, as he told the Daily Record in 2006, to run Carter’s campaign in Duval County. He then was appointed to run the Farmers Home Administration.

Decades later, Hightower switched parties, and became Republican Party chairman, then the campaign manager for John Peyton.

A former Jax Chamber chair, Hightower is also chairman of JAXBIZ, the chamber’s political arm which endorsed Lenny Curry over Alvin Brown in the recent mayoral election.

Hightower asserted then that “Lenny Curry is committed to a continued low-tax, business-friendly climate for the community and has the leadership ability and vision to move our city forward. There is no more important election than that of Jacksonville’s mayor and JAXBIZ’s decision is a vote for the future of Jacksonville and confidence in the leadership Lenny will provide as the City’s CEO.”

The relationship between the city of Jacksonville and JEA has been fractious of late, with influential councilman Bill Gulliford wondering recently if the two are at “cross purposes and cross goals.”

At least in theory, Hightower will help to smooth that process.

JEA faces a decline in revenues, as well as other existential issues, such as an investment in a coal power plant at a time when policy makers in Washington, DC have coal in their crosshairs. With this in mind, the selection of Hightower as an advocate for their concerns as the new VP of External and Regulatory Affairs at JEA couldn’t have happened at a better time.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski



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