Jessica Palombo

News Director

News Director Jessica Palombo came to WJCT after years of reporting on state government for Florida Public Radio in Tallahassee. Among her accolades are a statewide Society of Professional Journalists award for Best Government Reporting and a regional Edward R. Murrow award for Best Continuing Coverage.

Jessica is no stranger to the River City or WJCT: She grew up in Jacksonville and freelanced at the station as a legislative reporter before going to Tallahassee. She also interned at NPR's "Weekends at All Things Considered" in Washington, D.C., helping produce two hours of national news and feature stories each week.

Jessica has a master's degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Florida. Her writing has appeared in publications including Jacksonville Magazine, Skirt! Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun.

Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JessicaPubRadio

waterworks building
City of St. Augustine

A historic St. Augustine building is a step closer to getting a major renovation after state officials signaled this month it’s a strong grant candidate. The former water pumping station was essential to the city’s growth at the turn of the last century.

For five years, the former waterworks building turned garden club has sat empty, bolstered against the weather and time with scaffolding.

St. Augustine Planning and Building Director John Birchim says the octagon-shaped structure supplied water to residents and tourists during Henry Flagler’s hotel boom starting in 1897.

WJCT Hometown

A Jacksonville wildlife sanctuary has gotten its Christmas wish—and then some—after asking for discarded holiday trees. The Catty Shack Ranch finds itself turning down hundreds of hopeful evergreen donors.

After Christmas, the Northside wildlife refuge located near the Jacksonville International Airport asked for Christmas trees to use as toys for its big cats. Coordinator Jordan Joseph says the response has been overwhelming.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has resigned from the board of a Jacksonville-based timber company. Bush appears to be preparing for a presidential run.

The Rayonier timber company announced Bush’s departure from its board of directors in a filing with the SEC Monday. The company’s document says Bush expressed no disagreements with Rayonier or its employees in his resignation letter. He quit just before Christmas, and his last day with the company will be December 31.

child smiling
David Biasack via Flickr

President Barack Obama has signed into law what’s being called the greatest advance in disability protection in 25 years. Northeast Florida Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL4) has been pushing for passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act, for nearly a decade. 

Closed sign
Liz Ferla via Flickr

Most Jacksonville city offices and buildings are closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Those include

  • City Hall,
  • Duval County Tax Collector's office 
  • Duval County Property Appraiser’s office
  • County courthouses
  • Duval County Supervisor of Elections office

Also closed are all community and senior centers managed by the city, all library branches, the Ritz Theatre and the Tillie Fowler Park Nature Center.

GastroJax

It’s full speed ahead for a Jacksonville food festival called GastroFest. The organizers have been granted nonprofit status.

Caulfield speaking
United States Interests Section Havana

More elected officials are condemning President Obama’s decision to release Cuban prisoners in exchange for American contractor Alan Gross. Among the latest voices of opposition is Northeast Florida Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL4). But others are cautiously optimistic about what could lead to better relations between the two countries.

Longtime diplomat John Caulfield headed the U.S. mission in Havana, Cuba, until last year, when he retired to Jacksonville. In Cuba, Caulfield says he saw firsthand the struggle of imprisoned contractor Alan Gross.

hemming plaza
Jessica Palombo / WJCT News

As the city of Jacksonville works to revitalize its Downtown, several organizations are trying to keep up with the changing needs of its homeless population. WJCT visited Hemming Park today as a handful of nonprofits showcased the services they offer to unsheltered people.

At lunch time in Hemming Park, the paved square between the Downtown library and City Hall, throngs of people are passing through or ordering from food truck windows, while other sit on benches and socialize.

Fullwood/Gaffney
Florida House/City of Jacksonville

Tomorrow, December 16, is primary election day for Democrats in Jacksonville’s House District 13. The heavily Democratic district includes much of the city’s urban core and the areas of Brooklyn, Springfield, San Marco Square, St. Nicholas, Arlington and Jacksonville University.

The race is between District 7 Jacksonville City Council member Johnny Gaffney and former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood, who was originally disqualified over clerical errors on his paperwork.

police tape and vehicles
News4Jax

A local nonprofit is holding a meet-and-greet and breakfast this weekend with the mothers of high-profile violence victims. Ticket sales from the events go to support anti-crime and victim-advocacy services.

The group called Hurting Families with Children of Crime is hosting tonight’s meeting and an all-day event tomorrow at the Wyndham hotel on Southbank. Organizer Linda Dayson says it’s a chance for people affected by crime to commiserate.

Massey
Peter Haden / WJCT News

The Jacksonville Symphony announced its new president and CEO today. Just months after conductor and music director Courtney Lewis came on board, the symphony has chosen former Orchestra Iowa chief executive Robert Massey to lead the organization.

"He and I share a vision for the future of the Jacksonville Symphony, a future founded in reaching new levels of artistic excellence, strengthening our cultural citizenship and broadening our reach in and outside of this community," Massey said Thursday. 

handgun
Robert Nelson / Flickr

Florida has had the second-highest number of school shootings among all states since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting two years ago. A study by a pro-gun-control group records nearly 100 shootings on campuses nationwide.

The report from the group Everytown For Our Safety counts any time a gun was discharged on a school campus, including assaults, murders and suicides.

Nichos / Wikipedia

The Jacksonville City Council has passed a pension reform package in an effort to reduce the city’s deficit of more than $1.6 billion. Three council members voted against the bill, while 16 voted for it despite many of them expressing reservations.

Just after the vote Tuesday evening, council member Bill Gulliford said the measure goes a small way toward reducing debt, but the council still has its work cut out for it going forward.

Denise Cox / WJCT

  UPDATE: 5:13 p.m. News4Jax reports the protesters are marching on the Hart Bridge and are blocking westbound lanes. 

A handful of people who blocked Interstate 95 in Jacksonville Monday morning say they’re planning a second demonstration this evening but would not provide the location. The group’s morning-rush-hour protest near Emerson Street delayed commuters by up to an hour.  

The activists call themselves the Kemetic Empire. Their leader, Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks, says the group will keep blocking traffic until law enforcement policies change.

Florida Department of Health

A mobile flu shot clinic is offering Clay County residents two chances to get vaccinated this month. That’s just after state health officials say the winter flu season has gotten off to an early start. The Florida Health Department reports widespread flu activity across the state with the highest infection levels in children.

The free shots will be available at the following locations and times listed below. 

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