Give the proposed Marina Advisory Board a defined mission – An opinion

By Mike Lednovich
June 11, 2018 10:30 a.m.

Mayor Johnny Miller wants to form a Marina Advisory Board. That’s probably a good idea.

But before having citizen volunteers take a seat at the first MAB meeting, there’s important foundational work the City Commission should do to support the group’s success.

First, the City Commission needs to define why the Marina Advisory Board exists. What is its mission; what is its purpose?

The City has more than a dozen boards and committees manned by well-intentioned, civic-minded volunteers. Some, like the Code Enforcement and Appeals Board, have a well-defined purpose. Others have no stated purpose and, like a rudderless ship, no direction. They have meetings, but nothing of substance is accomplished.

To avoid the latter, City Commissioners should answer these questions before seating a Marina Advisory Board.

• What does the City Commission need from the Marina Advisory Board? What is missing now, and how will a Marina Advisory Board fill a need?

• What unique contributions can the Marina Advisory Board make?

Once City Commissioners can answer those overarching questions, they can move to the second question. What are the most important goals/objectives in the next quarter, six months, first year of the Marina Advisory Board? What are the specific, deliverable goals that can be measured, and in what order do they need to be accomplished?

In high-performing organizations, including city government, what gets measured gets done. With clearly defined, time-bound objectives, the Marina Advisory Board can hit the ground running.

Third question: How will City Commissioners hold the Marina Advisory Board accountable for achieving the goals? Without accountability, there will be no urgency to get things done.

The City Commission needs to establish guidelines for the Marina Advisory Board. These guidelines specify the boundaries and establish the parameters of how the Marina Advisory Board operates. Such guidelines include governmental laws and regulations; standard procedures; organizational policies; and the ‘dos’ and ‘don’t dos’ for the group.

The Marina Advisory Board needs to know its role. Is this a fact-finding group that makes recommendations to the City Commission? Or, does this board make and determine policy regarding the marina? Or, it is a combination of the two? What resources will the City Commission provide for the Marina Advisory Board to succeed in accomplishing its goals and objectives? What are the budget parameters? What city resources will be made available? Will city staff be available?

From 2005-2011, a Waterfronts Florida Partnership Committee served the City. It created a Waterfronts Vision Plan in 2006; a Final Grant Report in 2007; CRA Design Guidelines in 2008 and a Waterfront Park Master Plan in 2009.

All that work was for naught and nothing came of its recommendations. I’ve talked with two former members of the Waterfronts Florida Partnership on why it failed. They said the City Commission seated during its tenure could not agree on what should be done with the Marina and waterfront. After years of the City Commission not listening to their recommendations, those committee members threw up their hands in frustration and the group dissolved.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” From The Life of Reason by George Santayana.

City Commissioners should sing from the same page of the hymn book in order to give the Marina Advisory Board a blueprint for success.

Without creating such a blueprint for success, City Commissioners will doom the new Marina Advisory Board to the same fate of its predecessors.

Editor’s Note: Mike Lednovich is a candidate for the Fernandina Beach City Commission.  He will challenge incumbent Commissioner Roy Smith in November’s Group 4 election.  Lednovich is a  former journalist, national media executive, and has served as a CEO of a construction company.  He is now a business consultant.

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3 Responses to Give the proposed Marina Advisory Board a defined mission – An opinion

  1. Dave Lott says:

    Some excellent points for effective committee action, but also need to factor in historical perspective as this is not a blank sheet of paper. With the recommendation of the then marina director (Coleman Langshaw) the City Commission in action led by Ron Sapp in July 2002 abolished the Marina Advisory Board that existed at the time. I am sure Ron and Coleman can articulate detailed reasons for their action, but my recollection from being a new resident of 9 months as the time was it was dysfunctional and there was a great deal of conflict of interest.
    In my opinion, if the MAB is formed it has to be strictly advisory not policy setting – that is the authority of the City Commission. The marina operates under a management agreement with Westrec and their manager Joe Springer is generally regarded as a top notched, knowledgeable manager backed by Westrec corporate. Joe/Westrec can’t do anything about the dredging problems that have plagued the marina since the day it opened. Nor can he control the weather that devastated the infrastructure of the marina with Hurricane Matthew. I am sure Joe and his staff (many of which he has had to lay off due to the deep decline in business) want nothing more than getting the marina operating at 100% but have been in the twilight zone by the lack of City funding for the repairs (who in turn have been hamstrung by FEMA reimbursement certification.)
    The composition of the MAB is critical. If only composed of fishing captains and local operators, I think the public will quickly tire of self-serving policy recommendations. The reality is that the marina needs to service local citizens while also recognizing that transient boaters are the high-profit margin customers essential to a strong revenue stream for the marina. So ask for the knowledge of those that were there and behind the decision leading to the abolishment of the MA in 2002 so history doesn’t repeat itself.
    One other point, don’t mix the mission of the MAB with the uplands riverfront park plan. Neither can work in isolation but the MAB needs to concern itself solely with advisement to Joe Springer/Westrec and the City Commission on marina (west of the bulkhead and boat ramp) issues.

  2. Bronson E. Lamb iii says:

    Perhaps take a look at how Jacksonville’s, waterways commissioners operate. Seems to work
    Well. The waterways commission has served the city and this already existing format might
    Be great for Fernandina.

  3. Sonny Bennett says:

    Another layer added to the already full opinion boards! How about moving forward .

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