By Dale Martin, City Manager
Another biannual general election has closed. We can now pause from the contentious rhetoric that plague the campaign season — perhaps for two days before the 2024 campaigns crank up.
Congratulations to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez. The margin of his victory over former governor and congressman Charlie Crist demonstrated overwhelming support for his leadership, especially as exhibited during the pandemic. It was highly noted that Gov. DeSantis became the first Republican to carry Miami-Dade County in 20 years. It is also remarkable to note that after this year’s nearly 20-point margin, Gov. DeSantis scratched out his first-term victory by less than a 1 percent margin.
In addition to Gov. DeSantis, Republicans swept the other state-wide races: attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture. The electoral map of Florida indicates that what was once a highly-contested swing state is now likely solidly Republican. Locally, Nassau County will again be represented by two Republicans, Sen. Clay Yarborough and Rep. Dean Black. I have had an opportunity to meet both gentlemen previously, sharing the issues of concern to Fernandina Beach with them. I look forward to working with them in the coming year.
At the national level, Sen. Marco Rubio also had a similar strong showing, handily defeating congresswoman and former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings. Locally, state Sen. Aaron Bean has earned the new title of congressman, shifting his representation of Nassau County from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C. I have very much enjoyed hearing his insights of Fernandina Beach for the past several years and will remain in close contact with him as he continues to proudly represent our community at the national level.
Congratulations to the new Board of County Commission, Nassau County School Board, and Ocean Highway Port Authority candidates. Compliments are also due to the candidates that were not elected. I appreciate the commitment and effort of all candidates to run for elected office. That effort requires time and resources and often strain family, friend, and community relationships. Thank you to your dedication to our community.
Of most likely interest to the residents of Fernandina Beach were the three city elections. Commissioner Bradley Bean was elected to succeed Commissioner Michael Lednovich as the next mayor of Fernandina Beach. Following the recent City Charter revisions, Mayor-elect Bean becomes the first directly-elected mayor: previous mayors were elected solely by the City Commission after a “straw poll” ballot for residents. Mayor-elect Bean will continue the long legacy of family service to Fernandina Beach. Congratulations. Mayor Bean will serve a two-year term.
Although “seats” are designated on the City Commission, the city does not have districts or wards. All commissioners are elected by and represent the entire community. Seat 4 is currently occupied by Michael Lednovich, who faced three challengers in his re-election effort for another four-year term: James Antun, Christopher Nickoloff, and Chelsey Lemire. Since none of the four candidates surpassed the required 50 percent threshold to win the election outright, the two candidates receiving the most votes will compete in a December 13 runoff election. Those candidates are Michael Lednovich (who received roughly 45 percent of the votes cast) and James Antun (approximately 33 percent of votes cast). Again, I had the opportunity to meet several times with Mr. Nickoloff and Ms. Lemire and both were dedicated and passionate about serving our community. Many other opportunities are available to serve the city (volunteer boards and commissions) so I hope that they consider those options to stay engaged.
Seat 5 is currently held by Vice Mayor Len Kreger. Due to the City Charter term limit restrictions, Vice Mayor Kreger was not eligible to run again. That open seat drew three candidates: Darron Ayscue, Staci McMonagle, and Genece Minshew. This seat, too, will proceed to a December 13 run-off election. Darron Ayscue and Genece Minshew will be the two candidates on the December 13 ballot. Thank you to Ms. McMonagle for her efforts to take a larger leadership role in the city.
The December run-off election typically draws a woefully low turnout. Candidates and residents must shake-off the “election hangover” from yesterday and remain engaged for one more month. The remaining four candidates have spoken at several forums and offered their experience, insight, and comments through a variety of sources. I encourage you to weigh your decision (as you actually should in every election). It is two of these candidates who will represent and lead our community for the next four years. Thank you for your willingness and dedication to serve Fernandina Beach. I look forward to working with you.