Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
December 5, 2017 9:08 a.m.
Back in October, Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin forwarded six nominations for consideration by the Northeast Florida Regional Council as this year’s recipients of their Regional Excellence Awards. Last week three of the Fernandina Beach nominees were officially notified that they had won:
The Regional Leadership award was given to Vice Mayor Len Kreger, who has exhibited regional leadership by representing the City of Fernandina Beach for several agencies: the Northeast Florida Regional Council, Nassau County, and several environmental and conservation organizations. In addition to his current service as a City Commissioner, he previously served on the City’s Planning Advisory Board.
Planning Manager Kelly Gibson won the Planning and Growth Management award. Ms. Gibson has provided exceptional leadership and direction to the City of Fernandina Beach. Her efforts include revitalization plans for the gateway corridor to downtown, increased density regulations to promote housing options and economic vitality, several non-motorized trail projects, and a leading role in tree conservation.
The Environmental Stewardship award was granted to the Fernandina Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant Solar Program. The Solar Project has reduced the need to purchase energy from traditional power providers, with the expected savings to be significant over its thirty-year life. An additional benefit is the substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, thereby improving the quality of life in Fernandina Beach.
The nominees had not been aware that they were being considered for this regional recognition and reacted with surprise when informed.
The award nominations and comments from the winners and City Manager Dale Martin appear below.
Vice Mayor Len Kreger
Northeast Florida Regional Council Regional Leadership Award
NOMINATION: ” Len Kreger was elected to the Fernandina Beach City Commission in November 2015. He was selected by his fellow Commissioners to serve as Vice Mayor in November 2016.
“Prior to his service to Fernandina Beach, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for twenty-four years, achieving the rank of Master Sergeant. He was highly decorated for his nineteen months of combat duty in Vietnam. After his military service, he worked for several private employers as well as a community school district. He has earned an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor’s degree, and several graduate credits at a variety of schools over the span of his career.
“In the past, the City of Fernandina Beach has not been well represented in regional efforts. Vice Mayor Kreger has led a renewed effort to represent Fernandina Beach in northeast Florida. He is active with the Northeast Florida Regional Council (currently serving on the Affordable Housing Ad Hoc Committee) and the Nassau County Affordable Housing Committee. He has been active with several environmental efforts: serving on the Sustainable Fernandina Committee, Chairman of the Bike Friendly Committee resulting in the Bronze Bicycle Friendly Designation to the City, working to bring the Blueway Designation to the City, working to acquire and implement the Coastal Partnership Initiative Grant, and leading efforts related to the Sea Turtle Conservancy Lighting Grant. He previously served on the Nassau County Code Enforcement Board, the Board of Directors for Wild Amelia, and as a part-time Executive Director of Keep Nassau Beautiful.”
Kreger called this “An unexpected but appreciated award. My goal is and continues to be is to provide balanced effective leadership and service to maintain and improve the quality of like in our City County and Region.”
When asked for comment, Martin said, “During my two years of serving with Vice Mayor Kreger, I have admired his development as a City Commissioner and his leadership in the City and the County. His regional participation has re-introduced Fernandina Beach to other organizations after a lengthy absence. This participation should result in long term beneficial relationships.”
Excellence in Planning and Growth Management
NOMINATION: “After completing her Bachelor and Master degrees at Florida State University and a short-tenure with private industry, Ms. Gibson joined the Fernandina Beach staff in 2007 as a junior planner. Since then, she has advanced into more senior roles: Senior Planner and, effective this month, Planning Manager.
“Her project leadership includes the City’s 8th Street Small Area Plan redevelopment overlay (the primary gateway to downtown), development of increased downtown density regulations to provide for varied housing options and enhance downtown economic vitality, and several pedestrian and bicycle trails, notably the River-to-Sea trail across Amelia Island. Her management of the City’s Comprehensive Plan earned the City a Bronze Award from the American Planning Association (APA) for Standards for Sustaining Places. She is an advocate of managing, maintaining, and mapping the trees of Fernandina Beach.
“Ms. Gibson serves as a key liaison to several City Boards and Commissions: City Commission, Planning Advisory Board, and the Main Street Economic Vitality Committee. She also previously supported the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board and Waterfront Advisory Group. Ms. Gibson recently served on the City Manager’s Parking Committee to examine downtown parking challenges and opportunities. She works with prospective business owners and developers to ensure compliance with City zoning regulations and to offer an alternative perspective during the planning process. Additionally, she works cooperatively with County planning staff on intergovernmental issues and projects.”
‘Ms. Gibson is greatly respected by the community for her knowledge and experience. She represents the City with exceptional professionalism and unquestionable integrity.”
Upon hearing the news of her award, Gibson said, “Over the past 10 years, I have had the privilege to serve the citizens of Fernandina Beach. Professionally, I have grown tremendously during this time and have been able to play a critical role in the implementation of several successful planning initiatives. Working by my side, have been colleagues and mentors who share the same vision for continual improvement that brings increased transparency and credibility to small town public service. It is our efforts, as a team, that have enabled the City to develop innovative strategies and find creative solutions to address local needs. I am truly humbled by this award and firmly believe that when you find what you love to do, work becomes a joy, and you tend to never settle for anything, but excellence.”
Martin said, “As the award illustrates, Ms. Gibson is an exceptional planner and the City is fortunate to have someone of her background, her experience, and, most notably, her passion for planning. She is a leading advocate for environmental, transportation, and economic development programs and projects within the City. She is the most professional planner with whom I have worked throughout my career. Ms. Gibson greatly deserves this regional recognition as an excellent planner.”
City of Fernandina Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant Solar Program
John Mandrick, P.E., Utilities Director
NOMINATION: “The City, in an effort to promote community sustainability and to reduce rising energy costs, has undertaken a solar initiative at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). This solar site consists of 1,068 solar cells, producing a total of three hundred kilowatts. The systems installed have been specially designed for each area of the Wastewater Plant. Some of the systems are roof-mounted, while others are ground-based. All of the systems have been designed and installed by City personnel, which has resulted in significant project cost reductions. The expected benefit of the solar initiative is annual savings of approximately $34,000, or over the anticipated thirty-year project lifespan, a total savings of nearly $750,000.
“Additionally, the City’s solar program will prevent the daily emission of approximately 1,764 pounds of carbon dioxide, or over three hundred tons annually. This greenhouse gas reduction is the equivalent of removing nearly one hundred cars from traffic every year. Other related benefits of the solar initiative include the elimination of fossil fuel usage, which requires additional fossil fuel usage to mine (drill), process, and deliver.
“With the daily presence of wonderful Florida sunshine, the City is considering additional solar projects to support other departmental operations. Given the increasing awareness of the fragility of barrier islands, these efforts will enhance the City’s reputation as an environmental steward.”
Utilities Director John Mandrick commented, when informed of the award, “I am very proud of our Utilities team that has worked on our solar program powering our Wastewater facility. Environmental Stewardship is a mission objective for the Utilities Department.”
In recognition of the efforts of the team, Martin said, “This effort by Mr. Mandrick and the City demonstrates that the City is keenly aware of its role as a local environmental advocate.”
Award recipient representatives will be presented with awards at the NEFRC Regional Leadership Awards to be held December 7, 2017, at WJCT Studios.
Last year the city’s Ocean Rescue received the Public Safety award. This is the first time that such recognition has been accorded to so many city employees and projects under this program. But if Dale Martin continues his efforts on the city’s behalf, it won’t be the last.
The complete list of this year’s award winners appears below.
About the Northeast Florida Regional Council http://www.nefrc.org/
The Northeast Florida Regional Council, which covers Regional District 4 (one of ten throughout the state), was formed in 1977 by an inter local agreement, pursuant to Chapter 163, Florida Statutes, to “…establish an organization that will promote area-wide coordination and related cooperative activities of federal, state, and local governments ensuring a broad based regional organization that can provide a truly regional perspective and enhance the ability and opportunity of local governments to resolve issues and problems transcending their individual boundaries.”
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.