Fernandina Observer

Welcome to the Fernandina Observer, a news and opinion blog that focuses on the City of Fernandina Beach and the news and issues that impact our community. News sources, whether print media or blogs, lose their credibility when opinions filled with half-truths take over the delivery of information. Our goal is to deliver news and opinions that are thoughtful, and well researched. We will be different!

The Fernandina Observer is a news blog and using the web offers alternative platforms for delivery of information. We will start out simply, and as we grow we will increase our coverage and develop greater avenues of news delivery.   We will help you develop a deeper understanding of community issues. We will be different!

Douglas M Newton and Susan Hardee Steger began the Fernandina Observer  as co-editors.  After Doug’s move to South Carolina,  Susan Steger became editor. Full disclosure:  At the time of our formation, Doug and I  were both involved in losing city commission campaigns, but we  both committed to  our community. Doug was treasurer of the campaign to elect John Elwell, and Susan was a candidate for re-election to the city commission in 2011.

So how will the Fernandina Observer benefit our community?  We will inform and educate, not confuse and mislead. When credit is due, we will build up our community, not tear it down. When issues arise that demand public attention, or if mistakes are made that demand accountability, you will be informed.

So join us. We are committed, and we will be different!

Susan Hardee Steger

Susan Steger earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston University. During her 19-year career in banking she was involved in commercial and consumer lending and marketing.  In 2005, she retired from banking as Vice President of First Coast Community Bank.

From 2008 – 2011 she was a city commissioner for the City of Fernandina Beach and while on the commission she was mayor of the city for two and a half years.

Steger’s current community activities include serving as a board member of the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation, and board member of the Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society. She has previously served as volunteer for Meals On Wheels,  Take Stock in Children, United Way of Nassau County Chair in 2001, treasurer of the Book Island Festival and the A.I. Fernandina Restoration Foundation.

Steger was married to the late Ted Steger Jr, who also grew up in Fernandina Beach. Prior to returning to Fernandina, she lived in St Louis, Missouri and Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She has two sons. Ted III lives in Longmeadow, Massachusetts with his wife Michelle and sons Teddy IV and John Hardee Steger.  Her son William Hardee Steger lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Suanne Z. Thamm

Reporter-News Analyst

Suanne Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994.

She earned an A.B. degree cum laude in Soviet/East European Area Studies from Syracuse University; she later pursued graduate studies in demography at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Suanne worked for the Library of Congress for 25 years in various capacities, including research, public service, collections management, and technical processing. She retired in 1993 as Assistant Executive Officer in the Collections Services Department.

Her post-retirement volunteer activities are many and varied. She has served on several state, regional and local boards of organizations devoted to history and historic preservation, including the Florida Trust, Northeast Florida Preservation, the Amelia Island Museum of History, the Gen. Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society, and the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation. She established and co-chaired the local Veterans History Project at the Amelia Island Museum, a partnering institution with the Library of Congress. Civic activities have included serving on the Historic District Council for the City of Fernandina Beach, two City Charter Review Committees, and the Steering Committees for both Vision 2000 and Forward Fernandina.  She served on the District Board of Trustees for Florida State College at Jacksonville from 1999 to 2013, during which she twice served as Board Chair and 5 times served as Vice Chair for Nassau County.

Suanne is married to author Gerhardt Thamm, and they live happily in their little Fernandina Beach Historic District cottage along with their indoor and outdoor cats, occasionally sitting on the front porch to enjoy their garden while sipping an adult beverage with friends.

Deborah Lavery Powers, Staff Reporter

Deb Powers Cropped 3Deborah Powers grew up near the sea — in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Her first two years of college were spent 14 miles inland at the University of New Hampshire.  After 4 semesters, she decided to take a “short” sabbatical before completing her university studies.  That short sabbatical lasted 38 years!  Her Magna Cum Laude degree in Humanities was awarded her by Georgetown University when she was 57 years old.

From the time of Deborah’s first marriage until her “last” retirement from the Federal Government in 1994, she chose the part-time, rather than full-time professional route – even when working in Alice Springs, Australia.   She started her pre-marriage career as a secretary in Washington, D.C., where she was first given the opportunity to write professionally — over her boss’s signature of course.  Her last of four “careers” with the Government was in adult education, with a focus on course design and development.

Her involvement in community voluntarism ebbed and flowed as the years went by.   But there was always some level of being a “part of it all” as her children grew up.   Once on our island, her first volunteer love was serving as a docent for the Amelia Island Museum of History — and then came the Fernandina Observer!   Sandwiched in between was a two year stint as president of the Board of Directors at Forest Ridge Village.

Deborah and her husband Jim admit to having the travel “bug” — particularly enjoying their 20-plus years of exchanging homes with families in other countries.

Anne H. Oman, Reporter At Large

After graduating with a B.A. in history (cum laude) from St. Lawrence University, Anne Oman joined the U.S. Foreign Service and served in Cambodia and Indonesia.  Forced to leave both countries (for political rather than personal reasons), she moved to New York and began her journalism career and a writer/editor for Senior Scholastic magazine.  She freelanced from California and Japan for several years, then joined the staff of National Geographic World.   Her articles, on everything from art to zoning, have appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, Washington Woman, Where (Paris edition), The New Leader, Family Circle, Sailing, and other publications.  She has also authored four books, including two on bicycling.  She and her husband Ralph Oman, who teaches and practices copyright law, have three grown daughters.  


Karen Thompson, Features Reporter

Karen moved to Fernandina Beach two years ago after working in Chicago as a senior public relations specialist for the Midwestern regional office of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Prior to that, she was an editor,  columnist and writer  for a chain of Chicago newspapers ,  an account executive for several Chicago public relations agencies and proprietor of her own pr/marketing business.  She grew up and earned her journalism degree in Wisconsin.

Adam Kaufman, Legal Analyst

Adam Kaufman - s Copyright Steve Leimberg - UnSeenImages.Com _U0U0724
Adam Kaufman, Legal Analyst
Photo courtesy of Stephan R. Leimberg

Adam Kaufman is a semi-retired labor mediator and attorney.  He was  born and raised in the Bronx, NY. and attended NYC public schools, including Stuyvesant High School, and graduated from Northwestern University School of Law. While in New York he served on the American Arbitration Association Labor Panel; Regional Director of New York State Public Employment Relations Board Arbitration Panel (1994-2005); New York State Education Department Teacher Dismissal Panel and various New York State local government contract grievance and discipline arbitration panels.

For twenty-two years he served as General Counsel, labor negotiator and legislative lobbyist for the Rochester City School District

Adam received high praise for his coverage of  the two day impact fee bond validation lawsuit held at the historic courthouse in Fernandina Beach.


Evelyn C. McDonald, Arts & Culture

evelyn-mcdonald1-150x150Evelyn McDonald moved to Fernandina Beach from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2006. She is a chair of Arts &amp; Culture Nassau, a city commission charged with support of the arts in Nassau County. She serves on FSCJ’s Curriculum Committee for the Center for Lifelong Learning. She is also the chair of the Dean’s Council for the Carpenter Library at the UNF. Ms. McDonald has MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland’s University College and a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan.</em>

Cindy Jackson, Reporter

Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Cindy received her BA in Political Science from Dickinson College. Upon graduation, Cindy began her career on Capitol Hill working as a legislative aide and director. She later became a part of the public relations and lobbying team of the American Iron and Steel Institute and served as director of the office of state legislative affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Cindy was involved in economic development with the state of Maryland, and served as executive director of Leadership Washington County. As a community volunteer, Cindy participates in numerous volunteer activities serving as a member of Sunrise Rotary, and as board member of Cummer Amelia Board of Directors.