His job is to help bring people of Palatka together
City of Palatka’s culture arts coordinator, Courtney James’ new office, has one of the best views in the city. James can sit at his desk in the southeast corner of the City’s St. Johns River Center and watch the sunrise over the city’s Riverfront Park and the St. Johns River.
But for Courtney, the view from his office is not the best part of his job.
“The best part of my job is getting to meet people from different walks of life and I love that I get to give back to the community when we put on events,” he said.
Courtney has a wide range of duties with the City.
As Cultural Arts Coordinator with the Community Affairs Department, Courtney is responsible for managing the rentals of the City’s buildings, including the Price Martin Center, the Bronson-Mulholland House, the Old City Waterworks, and the St. Johns River Center. The buildings are available for parties, weddings, and other events. Information on renting the buildings can be found at www.Palatka-fl.gov. He also coordinates volunteers for the City and helps plan special events.
Born in Alabama, Courtney moved to Palatka when he was in elementary school with his family so they could be closer to his mother’s family.
“This is home. Most of my family is here, it is just home. It's a nice area. I love the town. I love the people here,” he said”
After graduating from Palatka Junior/Senior High School in 2004, where he was a star football player and wrestler, he attended William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on an athletic scholarship.
“It was so cold, I couldn't take dealing with -5-degree weather, and I was a long way from home, so I ended up transferring to Bethune-Cookman University,” he said.
After college, Courtney worked as a program director at a juvenile detention center in St. Augustine before coming to work for the City 2 years ago.
A big part of his job recently is reopening the St. River Center on the City’s riverfront. The center, which is a collaborative project between the City and Georgia-Pacific’s Palatka Operations, which had been closed since 2021 for renovations, is an educational center that tells the story of the unique ecosystem of the St. Johns River.
“Now that the center is reopened, I think we are going to see big crowds and people from out of town coming here and learning about what a special place this city is,” he said. “This is also a great place for field trips where students can learn about our area.”
Courtney is happy to work for the City because it gives him a way to showcase what the City has to offer to residents.
“ A City is a group of people who live side by side and may come from different cultures and backgrounds but have a lot in common. Having community events and community spaces helps bring the people of Palatka together,” he said. “I see this community growing. I have seen a dramatic change in the City in the two years that I have been here. I see people working together to make Palatka the best place that it can be. I am happy to be home and be a part of the City’s future.”
The St. Johns River Center, 102 N. First St. in Palatka, is open from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free. For more information about the St. Johns River Center or other City facilities, call 386-916-5916 or 386-329-0100, ext. 410.
City joins with County to remember 9/11
City of Palatka Firefighters, Police Officers, and City leaders joined together with their counterparts from Putnam County to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, during the County’s annual Remembrance Ceremony held in Palatka’s Riverfront Park on the morning of Monday, Sept. 11, 2023.
Thank you to ‘Pops’
James Michael ‘Pops’ Broton continued his tradition of delivering donuts to every City of Palatka employee on Monday, Sept. 11 to show his appreciation of City staff and to mark the sacrifice of the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
‘Pops’ is carrying the tradition started 10 years ago by his then 80-year-old mother and retired baker who made pies every 9/11 for firefighters and police officers to show her gratitude for their service.
Work to control flooding
Aerial photographs show the work done in the Tierra Woods community of Palatka between Aug. 22 and Sept. 15 to clear debris from a pond. This $40,000 project is designed to improve flood control in the community, particularly after heavy rainfall. The work on the project should be completed at the beginning of October when sod is laid around the pond.
City Proclamations and presentations
At the September 14 Palatka City Commission meeting, Sept. 17 to 23 was declared by proclamation Constitution Week in the City of Palatka. The proclamation encourages local government and civic, social and educational leaders to reflect on the importance of active citizenship and recognize the enduring strength of our constitution.
Members of the Palatka Chapter of the American Daughters of the Revolution were present at the meeting to accept the proclamation.
Presentation – The Occupation of Palatka
Putnam County Historical Society representative Bill Mattson speaks to the Palatka City Commission wearing a historically accurate reproduction of a Civil War-era naval uniform during a presentation about the upcoming Occupation of Palatka historical reenactment to be held on the ground of the City’s Bronson-Mulholland House on Sept. 22 to 24. The event recreates the 1864 occupation of the house at 100 Madison St. in Palatka by Union troops during the Civil War. For more information on the event, visit the society’s website at https://putnam-fl-historical-society.org/.
The City Commission designated September as ‘Recovery Month’ in the City of Palatka to recognize efforts by local organizations to help citizens afflicted by mental health and addiction issues.
Appearing before the commission about Recovery Month were representatives of the Run Your Race Foundation, a local group working to support residents suffering from these issues.
During the presentation, the Run Your Race Foundation presented Palatka Junior/Senior High School senior Akarie Williams a scholarship check for $500, which she accepted during the meeting with her pastor, Pastor Antonio Ruth of the Zion Temple Church of God In Christ in the City.
Firefighter Saving Lives
City of Palatka Fire Department Fire Fighter David Curran and Engineer John Foley were honored at the City Commission meeting with their department’s Live Saving Award.
According to a presentation made to the commission by City Fire Chief Chris Taylor Curran and Foley responded to a call on July 31 where a patient was in cardiac arrest. After arriving on the scene, the firefighters administered CPR and other life-saving measures and were able to revive the male and restore his life signs while he was transferred to the hospital.
“The quick actions of David Curran and John Foley and proper CPR allowed the patient to recover from cardiac arrest. It is our intention to recognize our employees for lifesaving actions and proper administration of medical skills,” Chief Taylor told the commission during the meeting.
First Baptist Preschool celebrates 75 years
The City of Palatka Commission issued a proclamation recognizing the 75th anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Palatka Preschool. The school, founded in 1948, is believed to be the longest-existing faith-based school in Putnam County.
City Commissioners recognized for continuing education
During their meeting last week, City Commissioners Will Jones, Justin Campbell, Tammie McCaskill, and Rufus Borom were presented with Gold Certificates of Excellence from the Florida League of Cities University. The certificates were awarded to the commissioners for their commitment and dedication to training and continuing education offered by the league in areas such as ethics and municipal governance.
St. Johns Ave testing
On Friday, contractors working for the City of Palatka took core samples from sections of St. John Avenue as part of the planning to resurface the street.
The testing is needed to determine the condition of the road before the project to resurface the road from the railroad tracks by the Palatka Fire Station to the St. Johns River can begin.
Putnam County is planning to start a project soon to reconstruct and resurface the road from South Palm Avenue to the railroad tracks by the fire station.
Work on the remaining section of St. Johns Avenue by the City is planned for the beginning of next year.
For more information, please call Palatka Public Works at (386) 329-0107.
Day of Service
Students and faculty members from St. Johns River State College spent time Friday volunteering at the City of Palatka’s Water Works Environmental Education Center. The volunteers helped weed, paint, and gather invasive air potatoes at the center. The effort was part of the school’s semiannual community service day called the Vikings Day of Service, where students and staff from the college’s three campuses volunteer in the community.
City Hall drop-off location for Bread of Life food kitchen
As summer draws to a close and we approach the holiday season, community members who wish to support our food-insecure friends and neighbors are encouraged to drop off non-perishable food items at Palatka City Hall, 201 N 2nd Street., to be donated to the Bread of Life food kitchen. City Hall is open for donations weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please call (386)-213-2678 for more information.