Fernandina Beach, Fl.
October 20, 2017 12:01 p.m.
Although the official date of Election Day is not until November 7, election activities are well underway for the City Commission election.
This year’s City Commission election will be the final “off-year” election. In 2015, City electors amended the City Charter, changing the terms for City Commissioners from three-year terms to four-year terms. Following this year’s election, City elections will be held in conjunction with County (and other) elections in even-numbered years. In 2018, two seats will be filled, and then in 2020, the remaining three seats will be filled. That sequence will then be repeated over four-year cycles.
For this year’s election two seats on the City Commission are open: Group 2 and Group 3. Please note that these “groups” are not actually districts, but subject to City-wide election. As is the case with some issues, many residents of Amelia Island are not residents of Fernandina Beach, and are therefore not eligible to vote in this election.
The Group 2 seat is currently held by Commissioner Timothy M. Poynter, seeking a second term (the City Charter restricts Commissioners to being elected to only two consecutive terms). The other candidate for this seat is Philip A. Chapman, III.
The Group 3 seat is currently held by Mayor Robin Lentz. Ms. Lentz decided not to run for a second term. The three candidates for the Group 3 seat, in alphabetical order, are Orlando Avila, Medardo Monzon, and Ronald “Chip” Ross. If none of the three candidates for the Group 3 seat secures a majority (not simply a plurality) of the votes cast during the November 7 election, the two candidates receiving the most votes shall proceed to a second election (scheduled for December 12, if necessary). The candidate receiving the most votes in the second election shall be elected. If on November 7 one of the three candidates does, in fact, obtain a majority of the votes cast, that candidate shall be elected and no additional election will occur.
The only other issue on this year’s City ballot is the straw poll for Mayor. Vice Mayor Len Kreger and Commissioner (former Mayor) Johnny Miller are listed on the ballot for this contest. The winner of the straw poll shall be given primary consideration by the City Commission to serve as Mayor until the next General Election, assuming office at the City Commission’s Organizational Meeting (third Tuesday in December). It is also at this meeting that newly elected City Commissioners assume office.
I encourage all residents to vote in the November election. Although voter registration for the November 7 election is closed, it is still possible to register to vote for the December 12 election (if conducted). Registration for that election closes on November 13. The on-site polling places for Election Day are located at the Atlantic Recreation Center (Atlantic Avenue), the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center (Elm Street), and the First Baptist Church (8th Street). Polls will be open on Election Day from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM.
Vote by mail ballots have already been distributed. If you still wish to vote early, you can visit the Supervisor of Elections office in the James S. Page Government Complex (96135 Nassau Place, Suite 3, Yulee, 32097; located behind the Merita Bakery Outlet store). At that location, you can obtain a ballot and complete and submit the ballot at that time, or take the ballot and return it in person or via mail (but the ballot must be received no later than November 7).
Information for each candidate is readily available through several media sources. I encourage you to also reach out to the candidates if you have specific questions or want to learn more about them. All of the candidates have published contact information.
Do not rely on social media sites for accurate information. From my perspective as the City Manager, all five candidates, although with different philosophies, seek to enhance the quality of life in Fernandina Beach. The candidates may differ (and people may disagree with the various philosophies), but absolutely none of the candidates want to make things miserable in Fernandina Beach. If accepting of your responsibility as a City elector, it rests upon you to explore the differences between the candidates and support the candidates that best represent your philosophy and vision for Fernandina Beach.
The International City/County Management Association Code of Ethics indicates, in Tenet 7, that I am to “refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators [and] refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body.” Additional ethical guidance regarding that tenet includes maintaining impartiality for all elected officials, not participating in political activities for candidates (such as circulating or signing petitions, offering or soliciting contributions, or providing endorsements). These principles are expected to be adhered to for all elections, not solely local elections.
Again, I encourage everyone to research and review and reach out to the candidates. The role of a City Commissioner is often under-appreciated and over-politicized, but the City Commission does represent the collective City. Take this opportunity to shape your community.