I’ve come to know Mr. Gray even more by reputation — only met him once or twice, I think — as it became clear over the last few years that he’s essentially the shadow governor of the I-4 corridor and greater Central Florida. I detailed his myriad involvement–and his firm GrayRobinson’s–in advancing the CSX deal and J.D Alexander’s interests in this post particularly.
More recently, his push for the USFP site has successfully managed to get a major newspaper to conflate J.D. Alexander with Lakeland–as if they’re on the same side. That takes skill and ruthlessness, and I admire it.
(Memo to the Orlando Sentinel, the “group proposing to site its station in what the city planner there calls a vacant cow field” is the same precise “group,” led by J.D. and Charlie Gray, that brought us Sunrail in opposition to that same city planner–not that you care.)
Anyway, Charlie Gray is a stud. If you want to make something happen, call him in. As one person affiliated with the CSX deal — on the CSX side — once told me: Charlie Gray changes communities over lunch.
All of this serves to highlight my amazement that the powers-that-be got Charlie Gray — who is no spring chicken — to drag himself all the way to Lakeland Wednesday evening to make the case — in person — for building the High Speed Rail Stop at the USFP.
Tom Palmer’s remarkably obtuse story about Wednesday’s rigged meeting neglects to mention Le Grande Charles, which is a mistake. But I am told Gray arose to compare the cowfield that is USFP now to the cowfield that was UCF then, which Gray helped turn into the behemoth it is today. Whatever. That’s the argument I would make, too, were I him, particularly if my clients or affiliates had various ego and business interests associated with its development.
I’m more interested in the strange personal dynamics at work here.
It’s fascinating to me that Charlie Gray is going to end his long, distinguished career of making things happen by serving as a henchman for a spoiled inheritance baby.
Really? This is his final act? Helping J.D. use his inherited landholdings to shape Florida to his whims and antagonize every environmental and planning organization not called DOT in the process?
Seriously, Charlie, J.D. Alexander should be your henchman — not the other way around. John Updike once wrote about Ted Williams — “Gods don’t answer letters.” You’re not only answering letters, you’re running J.D.’s errands, carrying his water at meetings he can’t be bothered to attend himself.
Honestly, isn’t it time to write your memoirs? You know where every body is buried in this state. I would pay to read it — at least in paperback.
On a somewhat related note, I understand that virtually every conceivable Polk economic development group, right down to the Associated Boosters of Wahneta. (That’s a joke, for the humor challenged.) spoke in favor of the USFP site. The Lakeland Chamber, which runs Leadership Lakeland (of which my wife is now a part), did not speak and offer a preference.
Could that be, perhaps, because a couple of high-falutin’ Chamber members have land interests near the USFP site? Or did the Chamber poll its hundreds of members on this highly important economic and infrastructure issue and conclude there was no clear position to take?
But, as my boys the Drive-By Truckers sing, I don’t wonder long.