By Dale Martin
May 20, 2022
As the most threatening aspects of the covid pandemic continue to diminish, many gatherings are re-convening: graduation ceremonies and celebrations, family reunions, community festivals, and civic groups. Several government organizations are returning to in-person activities after a lengthy absence.
The City hosted the monthly Northeast Florida League of Cities meeting last night. The Northeast Florida League of Cities (NEFLC) is a subordinate organization to the statewide Florida League of Cities. The NEFLC is comprised of over twenty member communities in seven counties. The members recently returned to meeting monthly in different communities. These meetings offer each community to showcase itself to other members, to provide insight to key political issues of local interest, to share opportunities that may benefit other communities, and familiarize members with other local leaders.
Last night’s event, organized primarily by the City’s Digital Communications Officer Ms. Mary Hamburg and Main Street’s Executive Director Ms. Lisa Finkelstein, featured an outdoor downtown dinner and, thanks to Amelia River Cruises, an evening river cruise. Other notable sponsors of the event included the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council, Waste Management, Dewberry Engineering, and the Preferred Government Insurance Trust. The downtown Hampton Inn also supported the event by offering rooms to the visiting officials. As with the last event hosted by the City, some of the visitors will spend the night to enjoy a full day today in our community. A morning welcome to those municipal officials that stayed over.
The Florida City/County Managers Association hosts its annual conference in two weeks, meeting in Orlando after Memorial Day. As has been my practice, I will embark on the Amtrak train in Jacksonville for the trip to Orlando. Although travelling by train takes slightly longer (or, because it is Amtrak, sometimes much longer), it is a more relaxing way to travel than fighting the automobile traffic on I-95 and I-4. It’s also cheaper than the parking fees at conference hotels ($18 round trip compared to a similar charge for daily parking).
Before the conference begins, but because it is a convenient location and gathering, I will first participate in a board meeting of the Florida Resiliency and Energy District (FRED). I am one of five City Managers that comprise the Executive Board. Because of our scattered locations throughout the state, we typically conduct our meetings remotely, but we can be together for this meeting.
FRED is an organization (of which the City was one of two founding members several years ago) that provides funding for energy upgrades. The funding is then repaid through a property assessment. The program originally focused on residential projects, but has seen a near-complete transition away from residential projects to commercial projects. FRED’s efforts in Nassau County have been hampered largely because of Jacksonville’s non-participation in this statewide program (without Jacksonville’s significant population, the critical mass needed for financing and contracting success was not evident). This Property Assessed, Clean Energy (PACE) program continues to be discussed at local and state levels as to how to continue the effort.
The actual conference begins with an opening session on ethics. In Florida, elected and senior appointed officials are required to complete an annual minimum of four hours of ethics training. Most of Fernandina Beach’s officials complete the required training locally, instructed by City Attorney Ms. Tammi Bach.
Other conference keynote sessions of interest for the remainder of the week include “Chasing Failure: What Our Goals Require Most is the Bravery to Fail,” a discussion on the willingness to take risks (and possibly fail) with conviction and passion rather than having the fear of failure induce hesitation and stall innovation. Additional sessions will discuss opportunities associated with vacant and blighted properties through lien enforcement; cybersecurity techniques, threats, and legislation; a presentation by a community strategist on key distinctions between a prospering community and a failing community; an examination of the intersection of faith and public service (“Where Service, Excellence, and Integrity Collide”); a personal insight into critical incident leadership (led by a retired FBI Special Agent); a perspective on mental health services and emergency response; and a review of construction contracts. Those topics and conversations should provide for a fulfilling week of training.
The next significant event, for which I join several City Commissioners, is the Florida League of Cities (FLC) annual conference. This year’s conference in Hollywood will celebrate the FLC’s 100th anniversary. The conference is in August, so the specific agenda has yet to be published. Being a statewide election year, it should be an intriguing conference.
I look forward to bringing back to our community the lessons, practices, and techniques introduced or highlighted at these conferences.