For the past seven years, Seat 5 on the Fernandina Beach City Commission has been filled by Len Kreger. He’ll leave office as Vice Mayor, after losing votes for Mayor three times in 2016, 2017 and 2020. One of three candidates will replace him, two of which raised and spent money in the realm of five figures as of mid-October.
Those contenders are Darron Ayscue, President of Nassau County Professional Firefighters Union Local 3101; City Planning Advisory Board member Genece Minshew; and home health care professional Staci McMonagle.
Ayscue raised more than $11,000 through Oct. 13, while spending more than $10,300. Minshew started her campaign last year and raised $10,750 through mid-October, spending a little more than $4,750. McMonagle has raised and spent more than $3,700.
Development drives a lot of the conversation on Amelia Island, and Ayscue would like to see development swing toward more commercial, rather than residential, work.
“By and large, I would like to see some commercial businesses come in here,” Ayscue said in a forum. “I think that’s better — it’s better on the tax base, it’s better all the way around. You bring in businesses, you bring in jobs, you bring in more tourism, and things like that.”
The Commission can take up other development issues as they arise, he said.
The city has yet to put design standards into its land development code or comprehensive land use plan, Minshew pointed out, which could provide a defense to objectionable development ideas.
“Even within the historic district, you can build a modern house, because we do not have those design standards,” Minshew said.
Density standards, as well, could be modified by the city’s Planning Advisory Board.
“We’re seeing a lot of in-fill development in the African American community, and that area over around (the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center), where lots are being sold and larger houses are going in,” Minshew said. “That is not something we’ve ever had design standards for, or any kind of neighborhood unit standards for.”
She’s running on less of a platform and more of a buffet of ideas for civic improvement, including creating a strategic plan for the city and looking at a different way to address the budgeting process. Minshew suggested, for instance, that each year staff should present the Commission with three different budgets for consideration: the proposed, the rollback and the adjusted rollback.
On development in the city, McMonagle said it has to be sensible.
“You can’t take what we already have and just shove it aside and not value it and not appreciate it. It’s got to be development that complements this old, wonderful, historic, small-town atmosphere that we have,” McMonagle said. “You have people coming in from all over the place just because they’ve lost this, and they’re looking for it again.”
She said she’s running to be a voice for the community that seemed ignored earlier this year, for instance, when city staff proposed a dramatic reorganization of the city parks.