Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
December 3, 2015 3:30 p.m.
By a unanimous vote the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) approved the creation of the Fernandina Beach Youth Advisory Committee during its December 1, 2015 Regular Meeting. The committee shall consist of five members in grades 9-12. The inaugural committee will consist of five students plus one alternate selected by the City Commissioners. Members will serve without compensation for one-year terms to correspond with the school year. All meetings will be posted as public meetings. The first meeting will be held in January after coordinating with student schedules.
The inaugural board, whose members were approved by the FBCC at the meeting, consists of five voting members—Dillon Basse, Bethy Spillane, Shanaya Thompson, Elizabeth Lai and Jesse Chapman. Additionally, a tenth-grader—Shelby Bradley—will act as secretary/clerk to the committee. The FBCC will appoint a Commissioner-liaison to the committee at its reorganizational meeting on December 15, 2015.
The general purpose of the committee is to give student leaders a voice in Fernandina Beach government and to give city commissioners the benefit of student input. Students, under the guidance of teachers, will learn about city government and the democratic process. They will also have opportunities to serve on additional city boards or committees as requested; develop and implement opportunities for other students to learn about city government and/or provide input to decision makers. They may also develop and implement at least one community service project supporting a city function.
Outgoing Mayor-Commissioner Ed Boner surfaced the idea for this committee about a year ago after reading about other communities’ efforts to involve youth in government. Commissioner Robin Lentz, a local school guidance counselor, took on the task of working with school officials and City Clerk Caroline Best, to make Boner’s idea a reality. Commissioner Lentz said, “I don’t want to take any credit for this because City Clerk Caroline Best and City Attorney Tammi Bach have really taken this ball and run with it. Also a special thanks to Dr. Lodree at Fernandina Beach High School for tasking my fellow guidance counselor Rob Hicks for gathering these fine young people to be a part of this first Youth Committee.”
Lentz turned her attention to the students, who sat in the front row of the audience. “I just want to thank you,” she said, “for showing this commitment to the community. It is important that you are engaged, because you are going to be the next generation up here [on the FBCC] looking out for the future of our city.”
Lentz moved to the podium, where the students joined her and introduced themselves to the commission.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.