Jackson surprisingly named city attorney
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
A contentious search by Tallahassee’s City Commission for a new city attorney came to an abrupt end with a right-about turn by members who had opposed appointing Cassandra Jackson.
The commission’s sudden decision to appoint Jackson to the role permanently makes her the first Black female city attorney. She replaces Lew Shelly, who retired in January.
The decision came as a surprise because the commission decided last month to continue its search. At the same time, the members decided on a 3-2 vote to name Jackson as interim city attorney.
A day before the commission voted 4-1 to discontinue its search, Commissioner Scott Maddox asked for the matter to be placed on the agenda. Commissioner Gil Ziffer, who has announced he won’t run for reelection, cast the only descending vote.
“It was a good victory,” said Commissioner Curtis Richardson who along with Mayor Andrew Gillum favored Jackson in two previous attempts to appoint her. “The facts spoke for themselves.”
Both Richardson and Gillum touted Jackson’s credentials as being immaculate compared to the other two candidates. The candidates were vetted by a citizens’ committee before being forwarded to the Commission.
About a month before the commission took the vote a week ago, several community supporters showed up to encourage the commissioners to give Jackson the job. Members of the city’s Black clergy had called on the commission to give Jackson the job.
However, the Commission settled on interim instead. Maddox was one of the three who earlier voted for the interim position.
Richardson and Gillum pointed to Jackson’s credentials then and again when the vote came up for a third time.
“I was pleased to vote for Cassandra for a third time,” Gillum said. “She is head and shoulders above the rest. As we move forward with the business of this community, we are fortunate to have her as our city attorney.”
At the time the commission moved to advertise the job for a second time, it also scaled back the requirements. There also was some contention that because at least three commission seats would be up for grabs in the November elections, the decision on a city attorney should have been left to the new commission members.
Richardson vehemently opposed that suggestion and the move to advertise the job for a second time.
“It really was a waste of time and money when we should have done this earlier,” he said. “We went through a legitimate process that they approved to begin with.”