By Dale Martin, City Manager
Thank you to those who joined me at the Open Table Dinner on Christmas Day at the Nassau County Council on Aging. About 40 – 50 people, most of them unfamiliar with the others except for a spouse or companion, celebrated the bounty of this community: fellowship, food, and spirit. We had turkey and ham, salads, casseroles, vegetables, rolls, cheese, and desserts. Special appreciation goes to Ms. Zen Waters and Mr. John Carver for their promotion and logistic assistance and then finding others in need for the quantities of leftover food (we probably had enough to feed twice the number that attended). Thank you also again to Ms. Janice Ancrum and Mr. Don Harley of the Council on Aging for the use of the facility. Please mark your calendar again for next year’s Christmas Day event.
After everyone had departed, I was left alone to complete the final clean-up activities: clean the dining tables, return the service tables, wash some dishes, and discard the trash. It was about 90 minutes of quiet solitude to reflect on the afternoon event. I have come to value the introspection time of quietness. The “sound of silence,” devoid of the cacophony of human noise (beeps, chirps, traffic, sirens, “buzz”), can be overwhelming and “awe-ful.” It is refreshing to set the phone aside or step away from a computer. It is those quiet times on a morning bike ride or at the beach, serenaded by the crashing waves, which give rise to the thoughts, priorities, and emphasis of the people and business of our lives. I hope that you can find the joy in peace and stillness and focus of the things of great meaning and value to you.
As we end 2022 this weekend, a simple summary is due. It was a challenging year for me. I leaned (hard) on some friends and they stood strong with their support. I had some hopes dashed and a few dreams smashed. I fared better at work, so let’s categorize 2022 as a successful year. Turning the page to 2023, though, let me offer my hopes and resolutions for the coming year.
The obvious first items are family. I want to love the special people in my life more deeply (especially three daughters and one grandson; every day). I should be welcoming a daughter to Fernandina Beach (January) and always welcome the others to visit often. I look forward to celebrating the wedding of another daughter (May 12). I’ll celebrate my 60th birthday (November) and my mother’s 84th birthday (December).
I want to read more (see the stillness discussed above). Although I read both fiction and nonfiction, my bedside table now has an incongruent variety of nonfiction. I was gifted a large series of the “Quarterly Journal of Military History,” and I’ve started with Vol. 1, No. 1 (and look to work my way through the collection to Vol. 28, No. 3). Each volume has a diverse collection of articles: Vol. 1 alone discusses modern naval warfare, General Westmoreland and the Vietnam War, Lee vs. McClelland in the U.S. Civil War, Roman military prowess, World War I, Generaa Custer, Britain’s “Finest Hour,” and the Spanish Armada.
The other books on the table are a four-book series by an author whom a Facebook “friend” introduced to me. She had shared a poem that a few weeks ago had a strong personal impact, so I purchased a four-book series by the author. The books include short narratives about hope, inspiration, and encouragement. These books fit very well into the quiet reflective time of nighttime reading.
I enjoyed my recent visit to the Jacksonville Symphony so I’ll continue to listen to it: two performances in January (Copland’s “Rodeo,” celebrating American cultural diversity, and Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody,” a piano concerto). Many years ago, I watched a performance of “Riverdance” while in Dublin, Ireland, and I’ll see it again in January in Jacksonville. I also want to sing more, both with the church choir and the Big Orange men’s chorus.
What is likely of more interest to the community, though, are my 2023 professional goals and resolutions. I’ll assist with the development and goals of the City Commission (year-long, beginning in February). I’ll support my fellow Charter Officers (every day). I’ll continue to develop senior staff for executive leadership (frequently). I want to meet more frequently with junior staff. I’ll plan to conduct another series of the Citizens Academy (likely beginning in late January, but already full from a surplus of applicants to last year’s academy). Working with staff, we’ll publish a City Annual Report (February). We’ll complete the re-opening of Alachua Street as directed and funded by the City Commission (October). We’ll construct two beach walkovers (funded in part by city and state funding; May). We’ll begin the design effort for the next segment of the Amelia River seawall (April).
I’d like to speak to more civic and local organizations (as requested). I plan to appoint the next Police Chief (January; 61 original applicants from across the country, which I have whittled to six finalists for further discussion). I’ll likely hire a new Community Development Director to coordinate efforts of the Building, Planning, and Code Enforcement sections (May), returning Deputy City Manager Charles George to his principal engineering role. We’ll install and open new playground equipment at Central Park (February). I’ll continue to provide articles to local media (weekly).
2023 is a year that begins, as all years typically do, with great hope and promise. I want to sustain these efforts for as long as possible before the inevitable distractions shift the focus elsewhere. With concerted efforts, we can accomplish much and prepare for even more challenges next year and beyond.
Enjoy tomorrow’s Shrimp Drop (thank you, Light Up Amelia and Florida Public Utilities). Happy New Year, Fernandina Beach. I wish you success for your 2023 hopes.