Meet Jay McGovern

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  • | 12:00 p.m. July 25, 2008
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by David Chapman

Staff Writer

Jay McGovern isn’t the most experienced politician on the block – his political career officially started on Super Tuesday of this year – but he’s engaging in a journey he’s devoted more time and effort to than any business in which he’s ever been involved.

You might not recognize his name, but between now and Nov. 4, he is doing what he can to introduce himself to the voting public of Northeast Florida as he attempts to unseat U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw in the 4th Congressional District.

“Probably the biggest weakness I have at the moment is I don’t have the name recognition people know,” said McGovern. “It takes time to earn confidence and trust from the people but it’s my goal.”

The 25-year naval captain and longtime helicopter squadron leader moved to Jacksonville in 1985 with his wife, Carolyn, and settled in the St. Nicholas area of town before relocating to Avondale in 1991.

“It’s where I call home now,” he said. “I love it there.”

So much so that he served as chair of the Riverside Area Preservation, a member organization aimed at preserving historical assets of the area, and was a founding chair of the Riverside Avondale Development Organization in the early ‘90s.

“I guess you can say it was my first foray into the political world,” he said. “A lot of trips to City Hall for Council meetings and such.”

McGovern retired from active duty in 1996 and has been in the reserves since, being called up twice in that time frame – a small tour from March ‘04–July ‘05 around Bahrain, off the coast of Saudi Arabia, and one abbreviated tour on the U.S.S. Nimitz immediately following 9/11.

“Following 9/11, nobody quite knew what was going to happen,” said McGovern, a commanding officer of a helicopter squadron at the time. “There was a lot of uncertainty with what could be coming next, but we were ready for a new mission.”

After several months at sea, McGovern returned home to his wife and daughters, Beth and Maggie, to take on new endeavors.

Aside from being a consulting engineer at Kings Bay, McGovern spends time at his 15-acre ranch on the Westside where his wife and daughters ride their horses and prepare them for show.

He’s not a big rider himself, but McGovern likes the many aspects that horse riding and shows can bring to young girls.

“It’s a place for young girls to have a hobby,” he said. “You see all of the young people involved with it and it really is a neat thing.”

Instead of horse riding, McGovern has hobbies of his own, including one that hearkens to his days of being in the air as a helicopter pilot: he’s building an airplane.

While at sea on the U.S.S. Nimitz, he bought the needed pieces on-line for the Q2 plane and when he gets a few hours he’ll grab the tools and work on it.

“It’s always something I wanted to do,” he said. “I always say it’s about 80 percent complete, but it really is about 80 percent done.”

He’d like to have it complete by election time with the hope that if he’s elected he could fly it back-and-forth to Washington, D.C. on trips to Congress.

If not by air, then McGovern could make the trip by land in his fuel efficient and environmentally friendly biodiesel powered Volkswagon – with fuel he made himself.

At the same ranch, McGovern has created a biodiesel plant that can make up to 80 gallons of biodiesel fuel a day. The plant measures about 6 feet by 4 feet and uses a mixture of used vegetable oil and sodium hydroxide among other materials.

“It’s not huge,” he said, referring to its output, “but it is enough for maybe 10 users.”

After taxes, he can make a gallon of biodiesel fuel for about $1.50 and his Volkswagon gets about 50 mpg with it – much better mileage than the Ford F-350 he uses for hauling and loading.

“Biodiesel and biofuels aren’t the answer completely,” he said, “but they can be a part of it. There is enough demand all over to make it worthwhile.”

Since February, though, McGovern hasn’t had as much time for consulting, the ranch, building a plane or creating fuel. Instead, organizing his campaign, fundraising and getting his name and platform to the public has been his full-time job.

“Time’s been my enemy in a lot of ways,” he said. “I still have time for my family, of course, but I haven’t had a lot of time for hobbies. Instead, it’s been the campaign.”

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