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Annmarie Kent-Willette
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Sep. 3, 201312:00 PM EST

New city education czar named

by: David Chapman

Annmarie Kent-Willette was appointed city education commissioner on Tuesday morning, replacing Donald Horner Jr.

A Jacksonville University communications professor, Kent-Willette succeeds fellow JU faculty member Horner, who serves as a management professor at the Davis College of Business and as the JU chief government and community affairs officer.

Kent-Willette begins a two-year term this month in an on-loan capacity, as Horner did. She will report directly to Brown and act as his senior policy adviser for education matters.

"As an educator, I believe we all must work together so students have extraordinary opportunities for educational success," Kent-Willette said in a news release.

Kent-Willette has a bachelor's and master's in communications from the University of South Florida and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Florida, according to her JU faculty biography.

Her achievements include development of managed strategic communications, public image campaigns and community partnerships for TV stations and corporate executives, according to the biography.

She has been with JU since 2001 and was named JU Woman of the Year in 2008. She also has experience as a television news reporter.

During his campaign, Brown stressed having a focus on education and announced Horner as the first education commissioner during his first month as mayor in July 2011.

In the role, Horner served as the liaison between Brown's office and agencies such as the Jacksonville Children's Commission and Communities in Schools.

Learn2Earn, a summer program to acclimate incoming high school sophomores and juniors to the college experience, the Mayor's Mentors program and an education summit this year headlined by Bill Cosby were education initiatives established since Brown took office.

"We've already made great progress with efforts to build mentorship, expose more young people to the possibility of college and promote financial literacy for all ages," Brown said in a news release. "We must continue to intensify our focus and work together. The education commissioner plays a key role."

Last week, Horner was confirmed by City Council to serve as a board member of the Jacksonville Children's Commission until July 2017.

The office is housed as a division within the mayor's office and has a proposed budget of $82,820 in fiscal 2013-14. The office is privately funded.

Kent-Willette said she looks forward to continuing Horner's work, which also was praised by JU President Tim Cost.

"Dr. Horner made tremendous inroads with the community as the city's founding education commissioner, and I have no doubt that Dr. Kent-Willette will bring the same leadership and talent to this position for our schools and residents," Cost said.

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