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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 25, 200212:00 PM EST

Profile: Jill Harris

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Jill Harris is the new manager of the Downtown Ambassadors. One of the original ambassadors hired last October, Harris was recently promoted.

WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING NOW?

“I will take over the day-to-day duties of implementing ambassador projects and helping DVI [Downtown Vision, Inc.] implement projects downtown to beautify Jacksonville and make it a better place.”

WHAT PROJECTS

ARE IN THE PIPELINE?

“Currently, we are doing a clean and safe survey, giving data to different agencies so they know what downtown looks like to the person on the street.”

WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?

“We try to help with the homeless situation by giving information on where they can go. We also try to stay current on events happening downtown, report problems and watch out for the property owners. It’s a lot of tracking and giving out information. We are a second set of eyes and ears for the city. Our main thing is hospitality, being helpful.”

WHY WORK FOR DVI?

“I saw a description in the paper and thought it would be interesting. When I was little, it was a big Sunday outing to go downtown and see the parades. I’ve seen it at its peak and then drop down. I thought it would be nice to bring it back and make it fun for families again.”

WHAT’S THE BEST

THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

“I like dealing with people. I didn’t want to be in the same surroundings all the time. Here, I get a wide variety of people in all different surroundings. I really enjoy it.”

PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE

“On the weekends, I see more people from out-of-town because they’re here for a conference. I like when they approach me if they don’t know what to do or where to eat. They’re appreciative. Even the homeless are nice if you treat them with respect.”

WHAT’S DIFFICULT

ABOUT YOUR JOB?

“The hardest thing I’ve encountered is when people don’t speak the language. It’s challenging trying to figure out what they want if they don’t speak English. We have an ambassador now who speaks several languages so he helps out in a pinch.”

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

“On Sunday mornings there is not much going on so we would clean up [the streets] before church services. After a few weeks of the ministers seeing us out there, other people would be out there cleaning up, too. If people see you take interest, they’ll pay attention. Take pride in your city because it’s beautiful.”

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

The ambassadors receive assistance calls, including routine fire drills, crowd control or directing traffic in case the police need to evacuate a building. “The JSO [Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office] has had their bomb squads and beat officers provide us with three days training so we know what to look for and who’s acting suspicious.”

BIRTHPLACE

Massachusetts. Harris traveled a great deal in her youth because her father was an Air Force pilot. He flew in the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War II.

FAMILY

Harris and her husband have two boys, Jimmy and Billy, and two girls, Katie and Heather. They reside in Orange Park. “We just moved back into the neighborhood I grew up in.”

WHEN SHE HAS

A MOMENT TO SPARE

Harris spends her free time volunteering at facilities that assist the physically or mentally challenged. An outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys bicycle riding, hiking, canoeing and backpacking in the mountains. For entertainment, she watches a Mel Gibson movie, tunes into “The West Wing” or reads a novel by Stephen King.

— by Monica Chamness

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