Candidate Bootcamp Provides Political Preparation

The Nassau County Chamber of Commerce is holding a groundbreaking program to encourage participation in the political process. The first session will address deciding to run, the second on legal and ethical issues, and the third about building a campaign.

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Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

If you believe running a political campaign would be like going through a military-style boot camp, you are not alone. And this negative perception can deter future candidates.

Help, in the form of reinforcements, is on the way. Ironically, it’s in the spirit of a boot camp, of sorts. But it’s the ideal preparation for a venture into political life.

The Nassau County Chamber of Commerce is embarking on a groundbreaking program to address the interests and concerns of potential candidates in our area. Not all the people who’ve signed up are running for office in November, but some are. Others are gearing up to help with a campaign or targeting a political race later.

According to Chamber president Regina Duncan, as many as 25 participants can enroll in the three-part “Candidate Boot Camp.” The innovative Chamber came up with the idea to encourage residents to run for public office.

“It’s been wonderful,” says Duncan about the reception for the program. “We’re seeing a wide range of people interested in this.”

Headlining the presenters is John Delaney, a former mayor of Jacksonville and more recently president of the Univ. of North Florida. Delaney now works for the Fiorentino Group, a lobbying/consulting firm. In addition, several other local companies that frequently operate in the political realm will be offering insight – The Southern Group and On Target Marketing.

Real-world former officials like Ron Sapp, Sarah Pelican and Joe Gerrity will share their experiences in panel-type formats about both running and serving. Gerrity will also address his previous roles as the city manager at Fernandina Beach and more recently Atlantic Beach.

The idea was the brainchild of the Chamber’s government affairs committee. “That’s why it fits so perfectly with us,” Duncan says about the Chamber, a non-partisan body. “In our research we were not able to find another chamber doing anything similar.”

A Chamber of Commerce will typically introduce members in leadership programs to public offices, “but not to the extent we are doing this,” says Duncan.

The three sessions will be Jan. 25, 2020, Feb. 1st and Feb. 8th from 9 a.m. to noon each time. The first session will address deciding to run, the second will focus on legal and ethical issues, and the third will be about building a campaign.

Duncan has a clear vision for the program. She hopes to hold it each year – to encourage participation in the political process.

“I think there’s a certain group in our community that potentially would have interest in serving,” Duncan says, “but don’t know where to start.” Now they do.

Steve Nicklas Financial Advisor
Steve Nicklas

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Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor for a regional U.S. brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns appear regularly in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, and on his website. He has also published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available at local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].)