As an undergraduate student in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, double Gator Ava Parker (JD 87) hadn’t considered a career in the field of law until she went to court … kind of.
“I had an opportunity to work at traffic court,” Parker said, “and eventually I served as chief justice.”
Parker, who was recently elected as the chair of the Florida Board of Governors, said her experiences in student government at UF opened her mind to new possibilities, which eventually led to her enrollment in UF Law. That open-mindedness, and a desire to help those who are less fortunate, has resulted in a diverse range of projects for Parker.
“What I love most is that I have a unique opportunity to help people and to develop public policy that impacts the community,” she said. “I have several goals that I would like to achieve with my service: one, ensure that the interests of underserved and economically challenged groups are represented and protected; two, encourage and support economic growth and development; and third, as a personal goal, develop positive relationships.”
These themes are evident in much of Parker’s work, and she somehow manages to juggle an impressive number of activities. Parker is the chair of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, she serves on the judicial nominating commission of the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Florida and on the advisory board for Broadband for America, and she is the president of Linking Solutions, Inc., a consulting company. She’s also a practicing attorney and partner at Lawrence and Parker, P.A., in Jacksonville, and Parker and her husband, Rep. Joseph “Joe” Gibbons, are the proud parents of two nine-month-old twins, Parker Joseph and Bailey Mildred.
Parker said she sees her position as chair of the board of governors as a wonderful chance to serve the state.
The board of governors serves to guide and advance the university system in Florida. Parker said as chair of the board, she is involved with issues such as budgets, tuition programs, funding new buildings and encouraging the promotion of programs, like the New Florida program.
“New Florida’s effect will be significant on the State University System and on the state of Florida,” Parker said. The program will promote education in the areas of science, technology, math and engineering, increasing jobs and economic benefits throughout the state.
The program calls for an additional 25,000 graduates per year by 2015, which means that Florida’s university system will send 100,000 new college graduates into the state economy on an annual basis, she said.
“That’s a huge injection of talent every year and that’s how to build a new sector of the Florida economy; one based on knowledge, research and innovation.”
The board is also moving forward on other fronts, recently dropping a lawsuit against the state Legislature over who has the authority to govern the state university system.
“We decided we would try a new approach, and we began a series of long conversations with legislative leaders. The question was, could we resolve these issues of university governance in a friendly fashion? We discovered that, yes, we could.”
Parker’s other activities’ goals aren’t much different from her actions on the board — they often revolve around a sense of cooperation, giving back and educating.
As an attorney, Parker primarily practices in two areas; public finance, where she serves as a part of bond transactions for school boards and local governments; and representing churches, like the 11th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which she also attends. Parker said her work with churches provides the synergy that binds together all of her other activities. It enables her to connect with underserved communities via projects like her consulting company.
Through Linking Solutions, Inc., Parker said she coordinates and organizes education and outreach activities for telecommunications programs for underserved communities. This is accomplished by working closely with the Public Service Commission’s Office of Public Information and Florida’s Office of Public Counsel. Similarly, with her involvement with Broadband for America, the goal is to create accessible broadband Internet access for all sectors of society.
Parker said she has always tried to be open to new experiences in her career and she advises graduating law students to adopt an open-minded and giving approach to their profession and community.
“It is so important to give back to your community,” she said, “if you focus solely on your own career path, then you will wind up missing out on so much.”