Robert (Bob) Sturgess
Ocean, Hwy, & Port Authority
July 2, 2020
Thank you for electing me in 2016 to serve as a commissioner for the Ocean Highway & Port Authority (“OHPA” or the “Port of Fernandina”). I sought the privilege of serving the port and the citizens of Nassau County for two reasons.
The first reason I ran was because Kinder Morgan was the Port Operator. For decades Kinder Morgan neglected the port and was trashing Nassau County with coal and other materials. They were applying for grants without notifying the commissioners or citizens. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found Kinder Morgan was neglectful in causing the 2016 death of one of its employees. For these and many other reasons, Kinder Morgan had to go.
The second reason I ran for the office of Port Commissioner was the need to somehow resolve the port’s crushing six million dollar (plus) bond debt. Now – less than four years later – Kinder Morgan is gone forever, and so is the bond debt.
In addition to a new operator, the Port Authority also now has a new attorney, a new administrator, and a new director. We have a new two million dollar crane – the first new crane in thirty years. We recently received a multi-million dollar grant for maintenance dredging, which had been neglected for decades. The Ocean Highway & Port Authority is now designated by the federal government as an American Marine Highway (the “M-95” waterway parallel to I-95). None of the more than fifty employees of the port lost work because of Covid-19. But the port still faces challenges after an extended period of neglect. In addition, the trade war with China cut off our crucial steel and plywood business.
No one commissioner can take credit for the port’s successes and turn-around. The consensus of at least three of the five commissioners is required for the Port Authority to take action. Although I have been an attorney for thirty years, my primary profession during the last decade has been mediation, and I have seen that experience with mediation, lawyering and consensus-building gets results for the port and Nassau County.
Despite what has been accomplished, there is much more to be done. I am running for re-election to finish the job and work to put the citizens of Nassau County back in charge of a healthy, debt-free, profitable port. The Ocean Highway & Port Authority was created in 1941 by Florida’s legislature “to benefit the citizens of the County of Nassau and the State of Florida.” Everything I do as a commissioner is to fulfill that mandate.
Editor’s Note: Incumbent Robert “Bob” Sturgess will face Todd S. Ericksen, and Miriam Rose Hill for OHPA, District 1. The outcome of this race will be decided on August 18 in an open primary when all registered voters can vote.
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