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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 5, 200712:00 PM EST

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

John Keane has a lot of history at One West Adams Street. He got his first full-time job in 1959 at the W. T Grant’s Downtown store at that address. Now Keane is executive director and administrator of the Police and Fire Pension Fund and comes to work each day in the same building at the corner of Adams and Main streets.

Keane is on what he calls his “third career with the City.”

After W. T Grant’s, he joined the Duval County Sheriff’s office and was a police officer for seven years. Then he joined what would later become the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department and spent 22 years as a firefighter and as its Public and Governmental Affairs Officer.

Keane left his career in public safety to take over administration of the pension fund in 1990.

“On March 12, I began my 46th year of continuous employment with the City government,” he said.

Keane said a lot of his time has always been spent making sure lawmakers understand the importance of the pension fund to ensuring public safety for the citizens of Duval County. That task is even more critical now in light of the property tax changes being proposed in Tallahassee.

“There is an economic crisis facing City government, but when you get down to it, government has two main responsibilities: public safety and education.

“Jacksonville’s police officers and firefighters have very important jobs and they are not the highest-paid public safety personnel in the state. Public safety is not a nine-to-five Monday through Friday job – it’s 24/7 and there’s no guarantee you’ll come home at the end of your shift. The pension fund is probably the most important benefit we can offer them and their families and it is a key component to retaining experienced veterans,” he said.

Keane attributes the strength and stability of the PFPF to increasing member participation and transferring millions of dollars in reserve accounts to the City to fund benefits. The fund has also been behind the development and restoration of quite a bit of commercial space Downtown, beginning with One West Adams.

“The pension fund’s trustees had faith in the vision of a revitalized Downtown. We purchased this building in 1999 and now it’s been completely renovated and is completely occupied. It has been a real success story for us.”

Much of the space in the building is leased by the City and that’s also in store for the PFPF’s latest historic restoration project at the Haverty’s Building at the northeast corner of Hemming Plaza. It will be the new City Hall Annex when work is complete.

The pension fund also purchased the former AOL Call Center in April “And we leased it to the University of North Florida for 10 years the same day,” said Keane, who added while real estate investments might seem out of the ordinary for a public employee pension fund, it’s been a winner for Jacksonville.

“We like to think creatively and out-of-the-box. So far we’ve been very successful.”

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