(In the run-up to the 50th anniversary of consolidation, we have written several columns on the history of that local political miracle.)
During the heated process of bringing about consolidation, one of the lesser known parts was played by Pat Caddell.
Today, Caddell is known as a polling genius who has worked for a number of liberal Democrats.
In the late 1960s, however, Caddell was a high school math whiz in Jacksonville.
He began predicting election results very accurately, calling politicians before the election to tell them whether they would win or lose. One of those he called was Fred Schultz, banker and legislator, and later a member of the Federal Reserve.
Schultz was impressed by the youngster and after talking to him hired him as an adviser to the Duval Legislative Delegation.
The fact that Schultz was to become House Speaker while Sen. John Matthews was to become Senate president made those two Jacksonville legislators the most powerful politicians in Florida, and had a lot to do with the city’s charter being written in a way that would gain favor with voters, ensuring the city-county consolidation Oct. 1, 1968.
Caddell’s major contribution was to solve the thorny problem of drawing district boundaries for the new City Council that would be found acceptable by everyone, including black politicians who were a bit nervous about the plan.
Mary Singleton and Sallye Mathis had become the first blacks elected to the old City Council, in 1967.
Caddell managed to draw overnight a map that preserved the districts of both without obvious gerrymandering or making the other districts unacceptable to the voters or candidates, a puzzle that had stumped the much older legislators.
Just eight years later, Caddell was working for Jimmy Carter, and was credited for developing the strategy that helped Carter become president. He also was the one who told Carter ahead of the election results in 1980 that his presidency was over.
In recent years, Caddell seemingly has evolved. He has been very critical of Democrats and especially of the effort to unseat President Donald Trump, whose campaign he had advised.
“Let me tell you, as a person who has been in seven presidential campaigns, the notion that the FBI or the CIA had informants in a campaign to give information to government agencies is incredible and unheard of and frightening,” he said on a radio show recently.
Caddell is now loathed by Democrats, especially after he said that the Democratic Party “has become no longer a party of principles, but has been hijacked by a confederacy of gangsters who need to take power by whatever means and whatever canards they can.”
But he has not lost his touch. He was one of the few to predict the Trump victory on Nov. 8, 2016.
Regardless of his views today, as a young prodigy Caddell was one of those who made it possible to form the consolidated government of Jacksonville.