Fernandina’s Commission Votes 3-2 For Change, City Manager Terminated

Mark Foxworth, former Fernandina Beach police chief, assumes position of interim city manager.

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

— Steve’s Marketplace —

A new age is dawning in Fernandina Beach. New, and young. 

You see, a youth movement has overtaken the city commission. Three, and sometimes four, younger commissioners are propelling the city in a bold new direction. 

A previous, tired direction was championed by older commissioners, with stale ideas. The only remaining brick in that wall of incompetence is commissioner Chip Ross.

And now the ringleader of the failing city government is gone, following in the footsteps of Mike Lednovich and Len Kreger. With Dale Martin’s ouster Tuesday as city manager, a revamped direction is firmly in place.

New and improved ideas. A fresh, frugal mindset. A new way of governing, with transparency, for the people. The bloated, dysfunctional city government needed this. The old guard was 70 years in age and older; the new energetic group is 50 years and younger.

“It’s time for a change,” said commissioner David Sturges, “and a new vision for the city.”

Sturges initiated Martin’s removal. He was backed steadfastly by fellow commissioner Darron Ayscue. Mayor Bradley Bean stepped forward and cast the deciding vote Tuesday, sealing Martin’s fate in a 3-2 vote. New commissioner James Antun voted with Ross to keep Martin.

At the commission meeting two weeks ago, Bean voted to table a decision to remove Martin. In pursuit of fairness, Bean wanted to allow for public input for the two weeks between meetings.

Commissioners were inundated with votes for and against Martin. After the dust and chaos settled, Bean made his decision. He even lined up an interim city manager in case Martin was removed.

Mark Foxworth, the former police chief here, will assume the interim role. Of course, the obstinate Ross had to pepper Bean with questions about the terms of Foxworth’s temporary contract, his compensation, his benefits, etc. Bean calmly had answers for each, citing “common sense” as a retort for some of Ross’s silly objections.

The most surprising vote was cast by Antun, who ran on a campaign to revamp the city’s oppressive building department. Obviously, Martin oversaw the building department, so presumably little would change by keeping him.

Antun suggested giving Martin something like 90 days as part of a remediation process, with goals to meet. This would have caused more consternation and confusion within the city, however.

In addition, Antun is regularly seconding the sporadic motions by Ross. Otherwise, Ross’s untimely motions would die. Hopefully Antun will figure out that Ross’s camp is deserted, and not the place to be.

Ayscue, who was elected in November along with Antun, has emerged as one of the commission’s leaders. A county fireman, Ayscue has doused critics with a cool, calculated approach. He is to be commended.

Bean and Sturges, the vice mayor, have been exemplary in their short tenure together. They will guide the city with levelheadedness and insight into the new era. And both are fiscally conservative, a characteristic that has been sorely absent at City Hall.

At the conclusion of the meeting Tuesday, Ross had to cast a final derogatory comment. “I hope you all have a pleasant evening,” Ross said.

Citizens appreciate the well wishes, as insincere as they were. It was indeed a pleasant evening, and a satisfying one for the city. And fulfilling, for the new direction.


Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a national brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in weekly newspapers in Northeast Florida and in Southeast Georgia, and on his website at www.SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He has also done financial reports for area radio stations and for National Public Radio in Jacksonville. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 904-753-0236.)