Ocean Highway and Port Authority – Candidate Melvin Usery

Submitted by

Melvin Usery, Candidate Ocean Highway and Port Authority District 1

Melvin Usery

Melvin Usery, Nassau County small business owner and retired UPS manager, will seek re-election to the District One seat for the Ocean Highway and Port Authority. His wife of 40 years, Eleyce, is a retired math teacher. One daughter, Laurie, works and resides in Washington, D.C. Together the Usery family also administers the Kim Usery Foundation (www.KimUseryFoundation.org), a Christian philanthropic non-profit organization.

“During first term as an OH&PA Commissioner I utilized my career experience and education for the benefit of the citizens of Nassau County, resulting in many good works underway. My four year term included two years as a board officer, chairman of the board in 2011 and board secretary-treasurer in 2012. I am asking Nassau County voters to allow me to continue and strive for even more opportunities to bring new jobs and companies that will add to the tax base with non-ad valorem taxes.”

Mr. Usery has been active throughout Nassau County with numerous civic and business related memberships as well as city and county commissions and boards, including:

  • Served six years as a member of the Nassau County Economic Development Board and the first Chairman of the International Committee
  • Served two years as Ocean Highway & Port Authority Representative to Nassau County Economic Development
  • Served as a member of the City of Fernandina Beach Charter Review Committee
  • Served three years as a member of the Nassau County Conditional Use & Variance Board
  • Served as an ad hoc member of the Fernandina Beach Airport Advisory Board
  • Member of Amelia Masonic Lodge
  • Member of Fernandina Beach Shrine Club
  • Board Member of Friends of Scouting
  • Former board member of Communities in Schools
  • Graduate of Leadership Nassau – Class of 04
  • Affiliate member of the Amelia Island Nassau County Association of Realtors
  • Member of the Nassau County & Florida Farm Bureau and Farm Bureaus in Georgia and Mississippi

Following Georgia Southwestern & Georgia College, Melvin continued his education through an employer based program with the Harvard Business School. He put his training to good work in executive management that spanned over 25 years as a UPS Manager.

“My career with United Parcel Service afforded me many years of experience with small package and large containerized freight moved by truck, rail, air and sea. Half of my corporate career was operational assignments working domestically and internationally. The other half of my career was in the area of human resources, workplace safety & security, employee training, public affairs and communications. I was very fortunate to have three-term Port Authority Board Member Danny Leeper provide counsel to me as I filled the seat he once held. He served as an example-setter for me to follow,” according to Mr. Usery.

OH&PA Accomplishments Over the Last Four Years

All while Melvin Usery has been on the board, with specifics for year 2011 when Melvin was Chairman:

  1. The tonnage moved through the Port increased to record levels.

Total tonnage:

2008: 448,477

2009: 506, 896

2010: 628, 841

2011: 647,074

This represents an increase of 44.28% over the course of your term.  Records should show that revenues increased on a corresponding basis as well.  OH&PA has reports (public record).

  1. The representative for Port Operator Kinder Morgan reported adding employees due to increased tonnage.  These are good paying maritime jobs;
  2. Taking advantage of the increased revenues and the low interest rates, the OHPA has reduced its primary bond debt by more than $4,000,000.00, and it has reduced its secondary obligations by over $1,000,000.00.  Based upon current projections, the facilities should be debt free in 7-9 years.  Few if any government entities in Northeast Florida can say the same thing;
  3. The OHPA has obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in State grant funds to maintain and improve the existing port facility; completed the Yard project, beginning to upgrade the fire suppression system in the warehouse and also completed rail-crossing projects.
  4. The OHPA has increased its own cash reserves by over $50,000.00, in addition to the reserves held by the bond trustee.  It began doubling the monthly amount paid for its separate, maintenance account to pay for the items listed at #4;
  5. The OHPA has entered into a new lease with US Customs and increased its rental revenues on the Customs House, as well as collecting past-due monies owed.  OHPA is looking into upgrading this historic structure by the addition of insulation and modern windows to reduce operational costs;
  6. The OHPA has improved its compliance with F. S. 119.021, by implementing a modern records retention system, together with a modern records indexing system.  It has also moved into its own, more centrally located offices, all in 2011.
  7. Under Chairman Usery OHPA conducted an educational workshop on government in the sunshine and public records laws so that all Port Commissioners and staff would know the expectations and obligations that existed;
  8. The OHPA helped the FMX get off of the ground.  Through its support of FMX, there is additional scholarship money available for the vocational education of Nassau County students provided by OH&PA starting with budget year 12-13.

Looking Toward the Future

In addition to doing a good job of “minding the store”, Melvin has led the board to look forward to the future:

  1. Accepted responsibility to work on a Port-Transportation-Logistics Element for inclusion in the County Comprehensive Land Use Plan;
  2. In process of updating the Port Master Plan will also serve to update the Fernandina Beach Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
  3. And, earlier this year, the OHPA held its first joint meeting with the City of Fernandina and recently held a follow-up workshop to develop a cooperative approach to discuss rail, highway, maritime and aviation functions.  Included is the identification of a joint project, namely, bringing a Coast Guard presence to Nassau County;
  4. The OHPA initiated in Melvin’s year as chairman, through the RFI process, the investigation of future logistical projects.  It has entered into a MOU with Civic – Genesis for preliminary work on the future economic infrastructure of Nassau County, including

i.            development of a data center campus north of Yulee,

ii.            development of a power plant to service the data center [possibly a bio-fuel facility],

iii.            as Crawford Diamond area develops OH&PA is ready to assist with distribution, logistics and infrastructure to enhance that area for whoever becomes the principal user; and

iv.            continued evaluation for a cruise ship possibilities on Amelia Island;

  1. On behalf of the OHPA, Usery developed a strong relationship with the economic development units in Camden County and Southeast Georgia including meeting with the Kings Bay USN Submarine Base commander.
  2. Melvin as the OH&PA representative serves along side County Commission Chair Danny Leeper on the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO)…, enhancing the “pull” of Nassau County in getting its fair share of the transportation dollars, specifically the six-lane of A1A from I-95 to the Inter-coastal Bridge.
  3. At the Port itself, preliminary work to acquire FS 311 funding to expand wharf and created a third berth to accommodate additional tonnage through the Port.

All of this has taken place during Melvin’s watch and with his urging, many of which had his signature as chairman and even others in his current role as Secretary-Treasurer of the board.

Being a Good Citizen in the Community

OHPA has not just focused on its own issues.  During Melvin’s term the OHPA has:

  1. Supported the 6-lane expansion of A1A;
  2. Supported the retention of the Mayport Ferry; and
  3. Acted as the “local sponsor” to obtain “beach quality sand” from the Army Corp of Engineers for the protection of our historic Fort Clinch.  OH&PA negotiated and contracted with DEP the easements to move sand across the beaches and OH&PA’s single biggest insurance expense was obtaining and providing liability insurance coverage for the project.

All of the above has been accomplished without one single tax dollar being levied on the citizens of Nassau County by OH&PA. It has been done without adding any additional personnel positions at OHPA.  And, although OH&PA has authorization to increase commissioner salaries as provided in Florida statute, all of the work has been done without raising the salary of the Port Commissioners.

Simply put, during Melvin Usery’s term he has returned significant value to the voters and the community he serves. Melvin comments, “Our accomplishments have been many, but none more important than providing our community with a secure, compliant, profitable and well managed port operation. Specifically concerning the Port of Fernandina, we enjoyed ever-increasing record levels of tonnage moving through the port, with a record year in 2011. It would indeed be an honor to continue to serve and I eagerly seek your support and vote in the upcoming General Election.” Please visit and read more at www.MelvinUsery.com.

Editor’s Note: In a race that is often overlooked, Richard Bruce with 4o years of experience in the maritime industry, and incumbent Melvin Usery are involved in a spirited campaign for a seat on the Ocean Highway and Port Authority board. We thought our readers would be interested in seeing their initial press releases back to back and view their qualifications prior to voting.

October 23, 2012 7:10 a.m.