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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Republican businessman John Peyton, an executive with Jacksonville, Fla.-based Gate Petroleum Co., defeated a popular sheriff to win election as mayor of Florida's largest city in square miles, spoiling an attempt by Democrat Nat Glover to become Jacksonville's first black mayor.
With 100 percent of the vote counted Thursday, Peyton, 38, had 133,408 votes or 58 percent to Glover's 96,603 votes or 42 percent, according to The Florida Times-Union.
A Jacksonville native, Peyton serves a vice president of Gate Petroleum, one of the largest privately held corporations in Florida with $600 million in annual revenues and more than 3,500 employees. Gate is listed on the Forbes list of America's 500 Largest Private Companies.
Under Peyton's leadership, Gate transformed from service stations in the 1960's to 150 convenience stores in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina with sales exceeding $100 million. Peyton, heir to his family business, has only limited government service. He served also three years on the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and was chairman in 1999.
While convenience store and petroleum operations continue to be Gate's core business, the company began to diversify its assets in the early 1970s as a result of the 1972 oil crisis. As a result, Gate also operates six concrete plants in Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas. In addition, Gate owns and operates three private clubs -- The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Epping Forest Yacht Club, and The Lodge & Club. Real estate holdings throughout the Southeast include Deerwood Park, a 1,000-acre office park in Jacksonville, Riverplace Tower in downtown Jacksonville, and the Blount Island maritime complex on the St. Johns River near the Atlantic Ocean.
Peyton acknowledged he has a difficult challenge ahead in running the city. Acrimony and negative campaigning marked the Jacksonville mayoral campaign. Vandals also painted racial epithets on Glover's campaign headquarters, the report said.
"It's about unity now," Peyton told a cheering audience after Glover's concession. "This job is about bringing people together. I am going to accept Sheriff Glover's challenge to unify the city and I am going to expect you to do the same."
Glover, who in 1995 became Florida's first elected black sheriff in over a century was gracious in defeat. "This is a great city. Now it's time for us to work together and move forward together," he said.