Susan Hardee Steger
As city employees are wrapping up a Friday afternoon work week, enters the Romney – Ryan team exploring Fernandina Beach as a site to hold a political rally for Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The advance team composed of secret service personnel and front men for the Romney Ryan campaign meet with City of Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley, and Community Development Director Marshall McCrary.
“The campaign team showed up unannounced at 4:00 p.m. on Friday and indicated they had seen eight sites in northeast Florida,” says Hurley. After being told by Superintendent of Schools John Ruis that School Board approval was necessary to use the high school or junior high facilities and there simply was not enough time for approval, Ruis directed the team to the city.
“The first thing that must happen is you tell them yes, we can handle it,” says Hurley. “We just had the Blues Festival and the Great Southern Cook-off at main beach, so logistics, security, safety, and parking issues are pretty fresh in our minds. “
As the advance team considered the task before them of setting up an event over the busy Florida Georgia weekend, the city’s numerous event planning contacts moved the event forward. Although an announcement of the event was made late Friday night through the Nassau Republican Facebook page, City Manager Joe Gerrity indicated a firm decision was not made until Saturday morning. “It was Chief Hurley who pulled this together,” says Gerrity who happened to be out of town when the initial planning took place.
When asked the cost to the taxpayers, Gerrity said extra costs for security and personnel will be paid for by the Romney-Ryan campaign. Hurley mentioned that the City of Fernandina Beach relies heavily on volunteers to support the numerous festivals held throughout the year. This event will be no exception.
As Sunday afternoon progressed, the quick transformation of Wolff Park at Main Beach to a political rally site is impressive. Security fencing is up, staging is almost set, a large American Flag is flying, two electronic screens are in place, and red, white, and blue banners line the park.
Tickets are required to attend this event. Click here for free tickets. Security will be in place. No bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids, lawn chairs, or signs will be allowed in the venue. The procedure for entering will be similar to airport security. Cameras are permitted. Bring as few personal items as possible. All attendees will go through the security system and everyone should bring as few personal items as possible. There will be limited bleacher seats available for those who require seating.
Congressman Ryan leaves Fernandina Beach for a 5:00 p.m. event in Melbourne followed by a 7:30 event in Lakeland, Florida.
Editor’s Note: Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, Monday is a historic day for our town. According to Doug Adkins, avid Republican, the Ryan political event is the first time a President or Vice Presidential Candidate has held a rally in Fernandina. Having strong connections to Fernandina my entire life, until someone proves us wrong, I agree.
Which begs the question asked by local Republicans and Democrats; With days before the election, why is Ryan coming to a solidly Republican Fernandina? The Fernandina Observer posed that question to the Romney campaign. If we receive a response, you will be the first to know!
October 28, 2012 7:56 p.m.