A New Education Commissioner: JU's Kent-Willette Recevies a Call From City Hall


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Photo Courtesy of: JU Marketing and Communications

On Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 9 a.m., representatives of various programs and departments around Jacksonville and Jacksonville University walked into the Terry Concert Hall to witness the announcement of the city’s new Education Commissioner, Associate Professor of Communications Annemarie Kent-Willette, Ph.D.

Amongst the many domestic changes at JU, this recent event not only rippled through the gates of the campus, but the entire city of Jacksonville.

Serving in the role of Education Commissioner, Kent-Willette, a JU professor since 2001, will guide and instruct Mayor Alvin Brown in subjects involving Jacksonville’s education. Kent-Willette will serve on loan from JU, receiving a ceremonial $1 from the city of Jacksonville. The office of Education Commissioner serves at no cost to the Duval County tax payers.

“I think she is an excellent choice for the job,” said Alvin Brown, Mayor of Jacksonville. “Given her background, her professional and academic experience, having taught here at JU for over a decade, her belief in education, and her sharing of my vision for what Jacksonville could be in terms of education, I think she is an excellent choice.”

Kent-Willette received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications at the University of South Florida. She received her doctorate in educational leadership at the University of North Florida and began her career as a television journalist in Tampa, Fla. She will continue to teach two of her broadcast classes at JU and one practicum course that houses the Dolphin Channel News.

JU President Tim Cost remarked on the impact of Kent-Willette’s appointment for the JU community.

“This is another way we can show the city at-large, and the whole region of North Florida, this incredible role that the university plays in education. We’ve been able to attract some of the best professors in the entire region. Our students know and benefit from that, so we get more, better students every year and they get a tremendous education. I’m glad to make that investment.”

Kent-Willette is also on the board of the Florida Press Broadcasters as a representative, an academic coach for the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership in Duval County, and teaches seminars to K-12 grade teachers as a First Coast Scholar.

Jacksonville’s previous Education Commissioner, Donnie Horner, will now serve as JU’s Chief Government and Community Affairs Officer.

As commissioner, alongside Mayor Brown, Horner upheld the JROTC and middle school football programs, introduced the summer program Learn2Earn to over 200 students, paired about 600 mentors to Duval County students under the Mayor’s Mentors program, and chartered College Student Aid Workshops which provides financial aid for hopeful college students, according to a JU press release.

“Dr. Donnie Horner left a great legacy that directly impacted and enhanced the lives of our citizens and I think that’s a really great benchmark,” Kent-Willette said. “I’d like to leave the office at the end of two years and be able to clearly point to success stories that left the office and the community in a great spot.”

Kent-Willette also shared that she believed that Horner did a great job at crisis management. Kent-Willette plans on supporting programs that are already in place and being prepared for crisis situations.

“At some point during this juncture I’m sure there will be a situation that needs some help. And I plan to be ready to step into action,” Kent-Willette said.

Kent-Willette says she is confident and knows that she is ready for what lies ahead in her new position.

“I don’t think I would say that I’m nervous. I’m excited; I want to do a good job. I expect a lot of myself, and if you read my resume you probably get that real clearly. My expectations of myself are to do an excellent job. I just want to be able to do the job to the best of my capabilities.”

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