By Mike Lednovich
The ultra-conservative political group County Citizens Defending Freedom-Nassau is proposing a retired local financial expert become the next city manager of Fernandina Beach.
The businessman is David Howe, a former Fidelity financial executive now retired and living in Fernandina Beach.
In a March 29 email from CCDF-Nassau Executive Director Jack Knocke to a group of CCDF members Knocke wrote: “There is a local guy who could be an excellent City Manager. He was a CFO for Fidelity in Japan, treasurer for a school district in Vermont and Treasurer for a city in Vermont. He lives here now and wants to help our city. Everyone he has met locally has been super impressed. With the current timing, David could be an interim city manager working with Foxworth and then on his own to try him out.
“I would like to introduce him to y’all. Let me know if you are up for a group meeting. – Jack”
Also receiving the email were two members of the Citizens City Manager Search Committee charged with vetting city manager applicants and then making a recommendation on finalists to the City Commission. The two committee members were Steve Simmons appointed by Vice Mayor David Sturges and Tim Poynter appointed by Commissioner James Antun.
The Citizens Committee will hold its first meeting April 17.
“CCDF-Nassau has no position on Mr. Howe. He came to me with an interest in helping the city – even volunteering as an unpaid consultant. Whether he wants to be a candidate for city manager is up to David,” Knocke said in an email to the Fernandina Observer. “I was introduced to someone with strong credentials and a great attitude. I forwarded his information.”
Howe said he was unaware of the CCDF Knocke email and knows nothing about the organization.”I stay out of politics, I haven’t looked at them,” he said.
Howe’s name was first raised by Knocke in a February text to Mayor Bradley Bean.
According to text records obtained by the Fernandina Observer, on February 24, Knocke texted Mayor Bean of a financial expert named David Howe. Knocke texted “David Howe is a financial and municipal treasury expert may be willing to assist FB team on budgets for no cost.”
Howe said he purchased his Fernandina Beach home in 2020 and became a fulltime resident in November of 2022.
“I want to help and I care for this town,” Howe said,
Howe’s resume states he was Fidelity Investments’ Japan chief financial officer in the late 1990s responsible for meeting Ministry of Finance financial reporting requirements, implementation of business plan, and budget forecast. Howe says, “The successful creation of this new company is considered a major milestone in Fidelity’s corporate history.”
He was director of operations for Finance Fidelity Capital, the venture capital arm of Fidelity.
Howe also lists municipal and public service experience in Vermont from 2000 to 2015.
He was elected Town of Fairfield treasurer. He says, “In this position, I identified (discovered) spending practices that were contrary to the state code. This work led to the town conducting annual audits of town financial records.”
He was on the School Board of Franklin County and worked for about seven years to improve student education and to control spending in Vermont. He wrote, “As a school board member, I discovered that those who control the budget process control the agenda.”
He is adamant that he won’t apply for the city manager’s position unless he is asked to so by all five city commissioners. “I also won’t take the job unless it’s a unanimous 5-0 vote by the commission,” Howe said.
CCDF-Nassau was active in the 2022 City Commission elections sending candidates a questionnaire on such issues as critical race theory, gay rights, abortion and Civil War monuments. The group endorsed Commissioners Darron Ayscue and Antun after they answered they opposed all of the listed cultural issues.
Media outlets have said CCDF is “The group calls itself an organization that empowers and equips American citizens to defend their freedoms and liberties at the local level. CCDF has been involved in efforts to remove books from school libraries in Polk County, Fl. and Travis County, Texas and a lawsuit questioning the results of a local referendum election in Montgomery County, Texas. In Collin County, Texas, CCDF worked to have churches in each of the county’s school districts start their own “Community Impact Ministry” in order to “bring back biblical values by participating in civic duties within their communities.”
Locally, Nassau CCDF was part of a movement that resulted in the ousting of former Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin with Knocke telling the city commission Martin should be fired.