By Dale Martin, Fernandina Beach City Manager
Congratulations to Council on Aging Executive Director Janice Ancrum, her staff, and the organization’s Board of Directors for receiving awards from the Chamber of Commerce (on Thursday) and the Fernandina Beach Police Department (on Friday). Following the Police Department award ceremony, I asked Ms. Ancrum what award she was going to win the following night. I forgot that the Grammys were awarded on Sunday night, not Saturday night. To the best of my knowledge, though, Ms, Ancrum did not win a Grammy. Congratulations to such an outstanding leader and organization.
After learning more of the Council on Aging at its annual meeting on Tuesday (also attended by Commissioner Phil Chapman), Vice Mayor Len Kreger, City Attorney Tammi Bach, and I headed out on our road trip to Tallahassee to meet with key state leaders during the current legislative session. We linked with Mr. Arthur “Buddy” Jacobs, a staunch and effective advocate for the City, upon our arrival. After taking our luggage to our hotel rooms, we returned to the lobby to share information with each other on the events in both Fernandina Beach (most notably the City Commission’s Visioning Workshop) and Tallahassee (recent legislative committee actions on issues of concern to the City). We had some casual conversations with several Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers who were training before grabbing dinner and returning to our rooms to prepare for the next day’s meetings at the Capitol.
We grabbed coffee and breakfast in the hotel lobby and got out of the hotel a little ahead of our planned 7:30 a.m. departure time. Mr. Jacobs indicated that we needed the early start since area parking was likely to be challenging in the vicinity of the Capitol. The trip and entry into the Capitol was uneventful. The Capitol is of a “modern” architecture, significantly different than the capitol buildings I visited in Michigan (I believe the oldest working such facility in the country) and Connecticut. Nonetheless, the interior of the Florida Capitol presents excellent art, history, and people of Florida.
Our first scheduled visit was with Governor Scott, but due to some late-arising issues, he was not available to meet personally. We were ushered into his office, however, by his Director of Executive Staff, Ms. Diane Moulton. Mr. Jacobs indicated that she is the most important person to know in the Capitol (and after the day, it was apparent that Mr. Jacobs pretty much knew everyone at the Capitol and, just as importantly, everyone at the Capitol knew Mr. Jacobs- not only politicians and their staff, but also so many of the security and maintenance personnel). Ms. Moulton shared some comments of the artifacts in Governor Scott’s office. We offered a copy of the City’s legislative priority proposal to Ms. Moultan to pass to the Governor as well as our thanks to the Governor for his support over the past few years for Fernandina projects.
Mr. Jacobs hustled us to the elevator to take us to our next meeting with Senator Aaron Bean. For all legislators, lines of visitors stretch into the corridors, but Mr. Jacobs had coordinated a specific schedule and we sat with Sen. Bean for several minutes, exchanging insight and comments regarding pending legislation. The most significant concern raised by Sen. Bean was in regard to vacation rentals-the legislation moving forward strips all municipalities (and homeowners associations) of the ability to regulate vacation rentals. City officials throughout the state argue that vacation rental regulations are best determined by local governments. The pressure of corporate vacation rental operators to gut local regulations is substantial. Stay tuned.
After Senator Bean, we meet with State Attorney General Pam Bondi. The conversation primarily related to the current opioid crisis and anticipated state actions to confront the challenge affecting communities in Nassau County and throughout the country. Ms. Bondi shared her family history in local politics (her father was a mayor) with Vice Mayor Kreger.
Mr. Jacobs led us through more mazes and secret passages and elevators to reach Representative Cord Byrd’s office. Now in his second year, Rep. Byrd seemed much more at ease with the process of legislating. He has been very supportive of City projects and the community, in general-he joined local public safety personnel at last weekend’s Guns and Hoses softball tournament (begrudging congratulations to the County teams that bested the City teams).
After a quick lunch, we visited with Florida League of Cities (FLC) staff to receive additional updates on legislation. Key issues of concern (not already mentioned) remain the pre-emptive tree trimming regulations, community redevelopment agencies, impact fees, and affordable housing. We also discussed proposed legislation related to garbage and recycling, which is of notable interest due to our current negotiations for garbage collection. The FLC staff has been helpful in keeping local officials informed of legislative challenges.
This was my first trip to Tallahassee and the day was very informative. All of the state officials were wonderfully receptive. If you have an opportunity to visit the Capitol, whether the Legislature is in session or not, it is an interesting building to visit and admire. Thank you to Sen. Bean and Rep. Byrd for their support and enthusiasm for Fernandina Beach