Workspace: Jill Johnson, director of communications, Florida State College at Jacksonville
A new president for Florida State College at Jacksonville arrives in January, auguring change for the institution.
That's the best time to be in public relations, said Jill Johnson, who started her own new job as communications director for the college last week.
"I liked the idea of transition," Johnson said. "It's a new era for FSCJ, and I wanted to be part of it."
In her role, Johnson handles media inquiries, such as getting advice from an economics professor for a news story on
gas prices, and spreading the word about what's happening at FSCJ.
Johnson is a 15-year veteran in the field of communications, most recently with Duval County Public Schools.
It's experience that shows in her manner. She greets newcomers with an open smile and ready handshake that puts one immediately at ease.
As a child she didn't dream of being a media spokeswoman, even though her father did similar work as vice president of government relations for St. Vincent's Hospital.
"I wanted to be a detective. As a kid, I read Nancy Drew and also Sherlock Holmes," she said.
But her father's example, she admits, figured highly into the person she became.
"He was a workaholic, well-spoken, never afraid of a crowd and always poised in public," she said.
He also introduced her to a life where community service was the norm.
He worked regularly with charities, state legislators and the City Council.
Johnson's career path led her toward community service as well, favoring nonprofit and government jobs over corporate communications.
Her first job was at WJCT, where she developed on-air promotions for radio and TV programs.
But, it would be her second job that changed her career trajectory most dramatically.
In 2002, she became a public relations specialist under former Mayor John Delaney.
Johnson came into the administration just as Delaney's signature achievement, the Better Jacksonville Plan, came to fruition.
The half-cent sales tax raised money to build a new arena, courthouse and equestrian center, as well as funding road construction.
Johnson helped handle events and groundbreakings as part of the city's public relations efforts.
"John Delaney still to this day is one of the most influential people in Jacksonville," Johnson said. "Being able to work for him had a huge impact on my career. Most of the people I met and still have relationships with to this day stem from my time, albeit short, at the mayor's office."
It's those relationships that will continue to serve Johnson as she takes on FSCJ's mission to create a better-educated workforce.
"Today kids leave high school from Jacksonville and don't come back," she said. "One of our challenges is to figure out how we can grow Jacksonville from within."