Jacksonville Bold for 6.12.24: Qualifying week offers few surprises

Aerial view of downtown Jacksonville during sunrise.
Qualifying week offers no surprises in NE Florida.

State Board inflicts pain on respected Jacksonville dentist

Have you ever been uncomfortably parked in the dentist’s chair, just waiting for someone to come back and give you the verdict on that pain you’ve been suffering?

Well, just imagine you are stuck there … indefinitely.

Nobody tells you if or when the appointment will end and what your diagnosis and prognosis will be.

If you’re Dr. Howard Fetner, you don’t have to imagine. The Florida Board of Dentistry (FBOD) is doing that right now to this respected Jacksonville dentist with a 38-year spotless record of service to his patients and his community.

Imagine being stuck here indefinitely.

Fetner is facing an FBOD probable cause hearing over conflict-ridden and unfounded accusations (more on that shortly). There is only one problem. The Board’s probable cause committee hasn’t met since April (its only meeting all year) and doesn’t have another meeting on the 2024 calendar. The entire Board doesn’t even meet again until a week before football season starts and Dr. Fetner’s remarkably clean career record remains unfairly in question.

If you think that’s bad, it’s not even the worst part.

Fetner is being sued in civil court, in a dental-practice-sale-gone-wrong action by another dentist who is … wait for it … the Chair of the FBOD and pushing the Board action against Fetner.

Here’s the backstory:

Dr. Jose Mellado and his wife have sued Fetner in multimillion-dollar litigation. Through this litigation, Mellado is trying to regain control of a dental practice for which he and his wife were paid $24 million.

Shortly after that mammoth deal closed, documents and news reports reflect that Mellado and his wife launched a toxic campaign to sabotage the practice and its expansion plans. According to court documents, they reportedly swore and cursed at employees and even became disruptive during Board meetings. Ultimately, the Board fired Mellado as CEO and brought in Dr. Fetner to take his place.

Mellado sued and appears relentless — but unsuccessful — in pursuing a vendetta against Fetner.

Part of that pursuit has been through the Board of Dentistry, where Mellado orchestrated trumped-up charges to turn the tide in his floundering lawsuit. He tried to cover his tracks with a recusal, but according to court filings, he has still communicated with the Board through his attorney, Edwin Bayo. This Spring, Bayo was acting as the Board’s de facto investigator and was bringing new “evidence” about Fetner to the Board.

In other words, Mellado is driving the process to align with his own litigation.

Mellado’s conflict is brazen and blatant.

What do current Board members know about this blatant orchestration and what will they do about it? Further, when will his actions bring enough embarrassment to the state that someone in Tallahassee decides Mellado’s weaponization of the respected Board of Dentistry has to stop?

Finally, how long will the Board leave Fetner in the metaphorical torturous virtual dentist’s chair without ending this sham of an investigation? This whole matter has groundlessly and intentionally hurt Fetner, his family, his practice and his community.

It feels like people with personal and political agendas are drilling decay and cavities into the process and fairness. It needs to stop.


Anyone looking to run for a legislative seat has less than two days to meet the Friday noon deadline.

However, looking at the candidates and campaigns that have manifested so far reveals a few nail-biters ahead in August or November.

The power of incumbency is definitely a factor here. While people may complain that Rep. Kim Daniels isn’t enough of a Democrat for them or that Rep. Angie Nixon doesn’t bring home sufficient money for her district, the manifested opposition has limited time to overcome the institutional reinforcements that being in office offers. So even though they have live Primaries, it’s difficult to imagine them losing them.

Qualifying is almost over; let the races begin!

On the Republican side, we’re not seeing fractious internecine Primaries, meaning that most candidates can look forward to November, when voters will be driven to the polls by the top of the ticket. While not everyone may know Jessica Baker or Dean Black, they know Donald Trump. And Republican standard-bearers won’t go too far off script given the largely motley and inexperienced crew of opponents that they have slated for the fall.

Could things change between now and November? It’s not terribly likely. The closest thing to a competitive General Election looks like the race at the Jacksonville beaches, but party registration suggests that it is Rep. Kiyan Michaels’ to lose.

This edition will provide more details about all the legislative races awaiting voters. But suffice it to say we’re not expecting a change in party splits this time.

One-sided battle

Sen. Tracie Davis’ Primary opponent has qualified.

But political newcomer Francky Jeanty doesn’t have much chance to win if fundraising matters.

With all fundraising through May accounted for, Davis has more than $40,000 cash in her campaign account, with $6,250 raised in April and May. She also has over $230,000 in a supportive political committee, “Together We Stand.”

Francky Jeanty has qualified but doesn’t have much chance to win — if fundraising matters.

Jeanty, meanwhile, has $2,560 on hand, with $1,905 raised in the last two months.

Davis has lost one General Election in her political career: a 2015 battle for Duval County Supervisor of Elections. While she didn’t win a 2016 Primary for state House in the original count, she was chosen as the Democratic candidate after the original candidate withdrew due to personal legal issues.

As a Senate candidate, Davis had over 55% of the vote in 2022’s General Election over Republican Binod Kumar and write-in opponent Patrick Lee Cooper.

Ahead of that anticlimactic November win, she faced a tough Primary against Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney but dominated fundraising during the Summer months ahead of a convincing win on the August ballot.

Not much competition yet

Rep. Chuck Brannan appears poised to face a November opponent from the Democratic Party, but the HD 10 incumbent has every financial advantage so far.

According to Division of Elections records, Democrat Bobby Brady raised just $1,200 since entering the race in March.

Chuck Brannan’s fundraising is giving him an advantage.

Brannan continues his slow and steady fundraising, with $2,100 brought in during April and May. This gives him over $47,000 raised and more than $20,000 cash on hand.

House District 10 includes Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Union and some of Alachua counties.

The district is 55% Republican, suggesting it’s unlikely to flip.

Yet both candidates qualified Monday, so it’s in play.

Garrison’s war chest

In Clay County’s HD 11, the gap between Rep. Sam Garrison and Democrat Charley Brown is even more pronounced.

Brown, who hasn’t qualified for the ballot as of this writing, closed out May with $375 in his campaign account, and that won’t offer much resistance to the future Speaker’s machine in a heavily Republican district.

Sam Garrison pulls ahead with his growing war chest.

Garrison raised $4,000 in hard money during April and May, giving him more than $81,000 in his campaign account.

He also has two political committees of note.

The Clay Conservatives political committee brought in $57,500 during the two-month reporting period, with the UnitedHealth Group leading all contributors with a $25,000 donation. That committee has more than $356,000 on hand.

The Honest Leadership p.c. raised an additional $308,500 during the same period, with leading donors including the Florida Credit Union Political Committee, the Florida Medical Association PAC and Simpson Nurseries of Monticello. That committee has roughly $595,000 on hand.

Duggan holds edge

HD 12 offers another example of an underfunded Democrat against a Republican with every resource advantage.

Political newcomer Benjamin Sandlin had $740 banked as of the end of May. Incumbent Wyman Duggan is somewhat better positioned.

With $3,000 raised in April and May, Duggan has more than $71,000 in hard money banked.

Wyman Duggan is somewhat better positioned than his political novice challenger.

The “Citizens for Building Florida’s Future” political committee raised $70,000 during the same two-month period, with port operators Keystone Properties donating half that amount.

The district, which crosses the St. Johns River in Southern Duval County, has roughly 10,000 more Republicans than Democrats, suggesting it should be a safe Republican hold in November.

Building a lead

Rep. Nixon continues to amass resources for her August Primary battle with Brenda Priestly Jackson in HD 13, ahead of what appears to be a November election against write-in Terrance Jordan for the winner.

The second-term Democrat raised $17,324 in hard money in April and May to her campaign account, giving her more than $65,000 to spend ahead of the August Primary, which looks like it will decide this race. The largely small-dollar donations came from across the country.

Angie Nixon is amassing resources for her August Primary.

Nixon’s affiliated political committee, Helping Florida Families Flourish, raised $8,350 over the same period and has more than $9,300 to spend. The “Florida for Everyone” political committee donated $6,000 of that.

At this writing, Priestly Jackson reported just over $10,000 in fundraising, with recent donations from a former Republican City Council Colleague. “Friends of Rory Diamond,” a political committee affiliated with the Beaches GOP legislator, gave the maximum $1,000 to the candidate last month.

Slow start

One Northeast Florida incumbent has been slow in beginning re-election fundraising, but whether that matters remains to be seen.

Rep. Daniels of HD 14 closed May with $9,600 in hard money raised, with another $10,000 in personal loans to her campaign. She raised $2,000 in April and May, with Willard Payne and his company each writing $1,000 checks.

Two opponents await Daniels in August.

Lloyd Caulker, who opened a campaign account in April, still hasn’t reported fundraising but has already qualified for the August ballot.

Therese Wakefield-Gamble entered the race last week, so we will get indications of her financial support in a future report.

Therese Wakefield-Gamble entered the race a week ago, and her financials are pending. Image via Therese Wakefield-Gamble.

All three candidates are Democrats and will face off in a closed Primary, with write-in Briana Hughes filing and ending all chances for the August Primary to involve all voters.

Labor movement

Gary McManus is rolling out the North Florida Central Labor Council’s endorsement in HD 15 and linking that to his family’s involvement in union activities.

“My father was a city steward for the CWA and my family’s security was greatly strengthened through his union efforts. The gains were hard fought at times, and I know what it’s like to live in a family of eight people when your dad is on strike. Unions help ensure workers earn a living wage in a safe environment. They will be instrumental in restoring the middle class. I’m looking forward to working with them,” said the Democratic challenger to Rep. Black.

Dean Black’s Democratic challenger is rolling out union endorsements.

The district, which encompasses part of Duval and all of Nassau, is 49.4% Republican and 27.1% Democratic.

Black, who chairs the Duval County Republican Party, has roughly $73,000 in hard money after raising $5,300 in May and June. He also has approximately $38,000 in his affiliated “True Conservatives” political committee.

McManus has $1,000 on hand.

Surprisingly competitive

Two years ago, Michael entered the House on the strength of a Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsement that helped her win a competitive Primary.

This time, the Beaches Republican faces no Primary and can look forward to November.

Thus far, in the early going, Michael has the advantage over likely General Election opponent Rachel Grage, with nearly $19,000 cash on hand through May.

Rachel Grage is emerging as a formidable challenge to Kyan Michaels. Image via Rachel Grage.

But Grage is putting up more of a fight than many other Democrats, raising over $20,000 thus far this cycle and having more than $10,000 cash on hand.

The district has roughly 142,000 registered voters and nearly half are Republicans, so party composition may ultimately decide the outcome. But Grage isn’t going down without a fight if her early fundraising tells a story.

Baker bucks

Democrats looked long and hard for an opponent for Rep. Baker in HD 16, but they’ll struggle to match her fundraising.

Baker raised $49,500 to her campaign account during April and May, giving her nearly $80,000 in hard money as the Summer begins.

Bryson Morgan entered the race last month, and reports $686 brought in the first days of his campaign.

She also has $112,000 in her affiliated political committee, “Conservative Majority Florida.”

Democrat Bryson Morgan, who just entered the race last month, reported $686 brought in the first days of his campaign.

The district has more than 56,000 Republicans and fewer than 34,000 Democrats, meaning it will be tough for Morgan and his allies to flip.

Housing highs

The median price for a single-family house for the six-county First Coast region monitored by the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR) topped $400,000 for the first time in May.

While $400,203 is a new watermark for the median price for a home in Northeast Florida, that figure increased only slightly from April’s median home figure of $399,990. The monthly change is only a 0.3% increase.

Northeast Florida home prices hit a milestone in May.

Generally, home sales statistics were mixed in May compared to April, when nearly every county in the First Coast area saw declines in median home prices. Even NEFAR officials said the May numbers bucked the usual trend this time of year when home prices usually surge.

“At a time when one would expect to see the market showing signs of an approaching busy Summer season, the numbers present a different story. In May’s single-family home market in Northeast Florida, prices and the number of closed sales increased only a tiny bit, while the percentage of list price received was flat and pending sales were down,” said a NEFAR news release Monday.

Jobs jobs jobs

Those looking to work for the city of Jacksonville have an opportunity early next week, so now might be a good time to update their resumes.

Help wanted.

From accountants, attorneys and appraisers to HVAC technicians, firefighters, park rangers and plumbers, the city seeks people to lend their talents in many areas. And on Tuesday at the Prime Osborn, you can join the team.

This is true also for people who want to work on the policy side. For those interested in helping out the City Council, the “legislative assistant” opening might be right up your alley.

And if you have schedule constraints or don’t want a full-time gig, plenty of part-time positions are available.

No delay

Jacksonville International Airport has the lowest number of tarmac delays among medium airports, according to a study by Upgraded Points and reported by Alexandria Mansfield of The Florida Times-Union.

In 2019, the U.S. had 83,000 tarmac delays — when a passenger is on a plane waiting for takeoff or deplane after landing — which approximately doubled from 2020 to 2021.

Delays on the tarmac are much better in Jacksonville than any other mid-sized airport.

Delays increased by nearly half in 2022, totaling more than 65,000 in 2023.

Jacksonville International Airport ranked 22nd on a list of medium-sized airports in the U.S. with the most tarmac delays.

However, it ranked 13th on the list of the fewest delays.

For the year, JAX had about 243 departure delays of under one hour out of every 100,000 flights and about 306 arrival delays out of every 100,000 flights.

Jaguars key to success: Pass rush

There are two keys to winning in the National Football League. First, you must have a top quarterback who stays healthy and productive all year. Second, you must disrupt the opposing team’s quarterback as often as possible.

While there are plenty of ways to win a game, there are few other ways to win a championship.

So, as the Jaguars conclude the teams’ mandatory mini-camp on Wednesday, the final offseason practices until training camp opens in late July, the two biggest questions about the Jaguars’ upcoming season remain.

Will Trevor Lawrence be healthy and productive all season? And will the Jaguars be better at pressuring the opposing quarterback?

Will Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence stay healthy for the new season?

The former will be answered by how the offensive line with new center Mitch Morse plays and how Lawrence develops in his fourth season in the NFL.

The latter remains to be seen.

The Jaguars gave Josh Allen the most significant contract in franchise history after Allen broke the franchise single-season sack record. Now, the expectation is that Allen will be even better in 2024.

“The challenge is for any player in that position that has had success the year before is, ‘Can you do it again? And you have to do it again,’” said Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson. “The fact that the contract is behind him now and he can just focus on ball, I think that’s his main focus in helping us. He has to understand, too, that he doesn’t have to do it by himself. There are 10 other guys on the field that can help him get to where he wants to be, too.”

After working out independently during the voluntary organized team activities, Allen reported to Jacksonville for the mandatory mini-camp. As a player with a big, new contract and the expectation of continued leadership, he said all the right things.

“One of my goals is … to win defense player of the year,” Allen said. “I have to be tier one. I have to be above tier one because there’s guys already solidified themselves that (the voters are) looking at. Then I’m talking to (cornerback) Tyson (Campbell); it’s the same way. Talking to (linebacker) (Devin Lloyd), ‘What do you want to do?” I want to win defense player of the year.’ Well, you’re going to have to beat me, so you’re going to have to work. And so, like, it’s that. So now I know this is what you want to do. So that’s the accountability we can hold in ourselves. Is to see more guys buy into that bigger aspect.”

In 2023, the Jaguars finished the season with 40 sacks. Only seven teams had fewer. Perhaps more staggering was that Allen and Travon Walker combined for 27.5 sacks. The rest of the team managed only 12.5 sacks all season. That’s where free agent addition Arik Armstead comes in.

Armstead left the San Francisco 49ers for Jacksonville. While he totaled only five sacks last year, his presence on the Jaguars defensive line should improve the team. He is capable of rushing the passer effectively. In 2019, he had 10 sacks while playing for the 49ers.

But it’s not just the pass rush that Pederson wants to see from Armstead, including positively impacting the team’s culture.

“I’m looking down in December and January, what it looks like toward the end of the season, so you don’t have what happened last year happen again,” Pederson said.” You need guys like that. I can only say so much but when you turn it over to the players and the guys that have been there, done that, it means more coming from them.”

And then there is Walker, who broke through last season with 10 sacks after recording just 3.5 as a rookie.

“He’s been good. He’s just another bright spot on defense,” Pederson said. “He’s excited about the new scheme. He’s another young player who will be counted on, even in a leadership role on defense and among the team. Just a great kid. Humble, hardworking, wants to improve, wants to get better, wants to learn and he’s still growing. That’s the exciting part about him.”

If Allen, Armstead, and Walker can lead the Jaguars’ pass rush to the Top 10 in the league, the 2024 season should be much more successful than 2023.

Staff Reports


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