Since the day he got to town from Columbus, Ohio, where he retired as CEO of Experience Columbus, Astleford has been anything but a timid, wait-your-turn newcomer.
Instead, he has taken his challenge of the status quo all over Jacksonville.
In meetings with numerous Jacksonville leaders and more than 30 different organizations (including the media), Astleford has seemed eager to confront sacred cows.
His primary message is that Jacksonville is being held back by its well-intended leadership, each with a separate agenda that basically says, "My project can only live if your project dies."
As a result, Astleford says, Jacksonville lacks an identity.
The city, he says, doesn't have a unifying vision because it has not been able to achieve community ownership.
Astleford talks about a need for energy and pride, which he says comes from community ownership.
Jacksonville should — and can — play a role on the national and international stages if we can get our act together.
For those of you who were around back in 1979, isn't it a shame that Astleford wasn't here when Bob Irsay, the owner of the Baltimore Colts, was invited to come down to the old Gator Bowl to help persuade him to bring his NFL team to Jacksonville?
It seemed like an absurd notion, but on five days' notice more than 50,000 people turned out in what became a raucous and spirited night.
People from all walks of life showed up, business and civic leaders sitting alongside blue collars and all pulling for the same thing.
After that evening, the now-defunct Jacksonville Journal editorialized that it was the first time in the history of Jacksonville that so much of the community had come together to passionately pull for the same thing.
I think that's what Astleford is talking about: community ownership of one agenda that creates energy and pride.
We've been there and we need to go back.
I first met Astleford right after he arrived in Jacksonville. I had just written a column calling on Mayor Alvin Brown to create a Council of Leaders to take advantage of all the new talent in CEO positions at numerous public organizations, such as the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Jacksonville Port Authority, Jacksonville Electric Authority, Duval County Public Schools, Downtown Investment Authority, Office of Economic Development, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Chamber of Commerce and Civic Council.
I thought back then — and I strongly believe today — that we have a great opportunity to seize the future by harnessing all of this new talent to help develop a community strategic plan and set a vision for Jacksonville.
Inadvertently, in that column I had left Visit Jacksonville and Astleford off the list and he came to my office to find out why.
That was my first indication that Astleford intended to be proactive in his approach to working in Jacksonville.
While I didn't tell him this during his visit, in the past the CEO of Visit Jacksonville had been pretty much of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
In fact, the last guy to hold that job was criticized for not being involved in the community.
That's a mistake that Astleford is obviously not repeating and he is right about what he is preaching.
We've got a lot of well-intentioned people in Jacksonville providing business, civic and political leadership. But often, we seem to get in our own way.
Maybe it takes someone from outside, like Astleford, to help us see our way through the forest.
Jacksonville has attracted some highly qualified people to fill the top positions at the public organizations I've been writing about.
Understandably, these executives are focused on their own agendas.
They have big jobs to do and they are going to be held accountable.
But, I still think we are missing a big opportunity if we don't bring them together to work on one agenda, one strategy and one vision for Jacksonville.
And, this time I would strongly recommend that Astleford be included.
Paul Astleford, the accountant-looking CEO of Visit Jacksonville, is closing in on a year on the job.