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Your friend in the courthouse

01/14/2013

by Fred Seely, Editor

You have a friend in the courthouse and he knows your business — he’s been there, done that.

Ronnie Fussell has plenty of experience in the construction and real estate industries — he holds state licenses in both — and he’s just taken office as the Duval County Clerk of Court.

“It certainly will help everyone in the business to have someone who knows what they need,” said Fussell. “There are complex issues that builders and Realtors face. There are lots of records to be filed, and it will help to have someone who understands the need for speed and accuracy.”

He understands both. He was a developer, was the president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association in 1995, ran a real estate office and is one of the few people to have experience in government administration (he was an advisor to four different Jacksonville mayors,) legislative (he was president of the Jacksonville City Council) and now judicial.

And, he says, he also understands what people go through as they face the maze of regulations in plats, deeds, titles and all the other issues that go into building and selling homes.

“I’ve been in business, where you have to deal with people one-on-one, and I’ve been on the Council, which is a ‘people’ position,” said the 55-year-old.

Fussell set his eyes on the Clerk’s position over a year ago and got the endorsement of key groups, even before incumbent Jim Fuller lost his effort to overcome being “term-limited” because he was a constitutional officer. The courts ruled that the position was, indeed, one that could be limited. Fuller was ineligible and Fussell went on to win the election over opponent Brenda Priestley Jackson.

As the head of the clerk’s office, he will oversee a massive organization that serves the county’s judges and is the caretaker of numerous records.

“A major challenge will be technology,” he said. “The Supreme Court has mandated improvements and I’m the leader. When changes are implemented, builders, in particular, will see great improvements in the way things are handled.”

A native of Jacksonville and a resident of the city’s westside — he’s a neighbor of NEFBA executive Daniel Davis — he became a developer with the Ron Wood Co., doing work in nine Northeast Florida counties. It was during this time that he became the NEFBA president, heading the nation’s largest builders’ association.

He moved into government, heading commissions for mayors Tommy Hazouri and Ed Austin, then joined Mayor John Delaney's administration as Director of Government/Business Relations and Legislative Affairs.

He also was on Mayor John Peyton's transition team as a member of the Planning and Zoning Committee and the Budget and Review Committee, while working his way up the City Council ranks.

Along the way, he has been an active member of Gator Bowl Association board, served as a liaison between the St. Johns River Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Jacksonville; chaired the Duval County Tourist Development Council; was a board member of the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council and is a former board member of the Tolomato Community Development District.

“My goal is the same as anyone who takes office,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to improve service, and I’m going to be out there where people can hear me and talk to me.

“Are the real estate and construction business close to my heart? Of course.”



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