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Candidate for City of Fernandina Beach Commission, Seat 2: David Sturges

The Nassau County Chamber of Commerce recently asked each candidate running for the City of Fernandina Beach Commission to answer a Candidate Questionnaire and provide a Campaign Video that we could share with the public. Answers to each question have been copied and pasted directly as they were submitted

For questions or additional information, please contact the Chamber at (904) 261-3248.

Candidate did not provide Campaign Video

David Sturges candidate headshot

2024 City of Fernandina Beach Candidate Questionnaire


In your opinion, what is the City's role in economic development?

The City Commission and by default City of Fernandina should be only marginally involved in terms of ensuring that infrastructure and public safety maintained.  In terms of permitting and regulating it should be the least intrusive and non-obstructionist.  As an entrepreneur, I value anyone willing to take the risk to forge ahead and make their place in this world and we should do everything possible to let them do so.

How can the City of Fernandina Beach better support our entrepreneurial ecosystem?

The default position on this should be how can the City of Fernandina get out of the way and let entrepreneurs do what they do best?  Anytime the government starts to try to “support” anything they end up being a burden.  We should revamp our commercial impact fees and do them on a sliding scale based on actual water/sewer usage and not an arbitrary per seat number.

We need to streamline or eliminate the entire permitting process for any existing commercial space making only cosmetic changes to the retail space.

Business owners know that the phrase “time is money” has true meaning and bureaucrats dragging their feet simply do not.

Discuss your opinion on conducting a comprehensive and continuous review of all regulatory processes that impact businesses/industry and provide solutions that address any barriers.

We should be continually improving the processes that involve our small business community, unnecessary bureaucratic burdens only discourage and stymie economic growth


How can the City of Fernandina Beach improve the climate and competitiveness of our exisiting businesses and industry?

Get out of the way.  A free market economy truly self-regulates, government getting involved ultimately leads to one business gaining an advantage over another because the cost to comply with burdensome regulations can price out smaller operations who can otherwise compete on a level playing field by offering better quality service for a competitive price against a larger company that may has more resources and personnel but loses that personal touch many in our community look for when doing business.

What are your thoughts about the disparity in regulations and processes in doing business between the City of Fernandina Beach and Nassau County? Please explain.

The City is the City, the County is the County, it is hard to compare apples to apples, however that being said, there is no reason, with the amount of technology at our fingertips that we cannot get on the same page and coordinate or at a minimum cooperate with the county to that, while our ordinances and regulations may not completely line up the processes to be in compliance and obtain the necessary permits to open and operate a business or do projects should mirror one another as best as possible.

This accomplishes two things:

  1. Contractors (HVAC, plumbing, etc) can become proficient in the application process and streamline that aspect regardless of whether they are doing business in the city or county
  2. Reduces confusion and alleviates staff addressing questions and issues that are not applicable in the city but are in the county and vice-versa.
  3. Coordinating the 2 governments together to see where we can be as similar as possible.

The Chamber of Commerce supports a clear, concise, accurate and expedient permitting process. Please discuss this process within the City along with any recommendations.

  1. The City of Fernandina Is currently implementing the 400K plus software called City View that will be extremely smooth and Efficient. Therefore eliminating a slow manual procedure of permitting which is currently being used. I pushed for these new renovations with our current commission.
  2. We have made adjustments and alternations to the building department that has improved the level of service extremely since I have taken office.


What, in your opinion, are the three biggest challenges facing the City of Fernandina Beach?

In one word Growth, and that’s a good thing contrary to some opinions.  It is inevitable that the City will continue to grow, it may not be at the current rate, but it will continue to grow, we are a popular tourist destination as well as a retirement location.

2nd is balance, City government has one broad reason to exist, the health, safety and wellbeing of its residents.  How we accomplish that is at the crux of the matter, overregulation and burdensome ordinances do nothing more than frustrate people, conversely without a framework there is a higher probability of increased risk.

3rdProviding the infustructure and services needed for all residents including new and existing business’s.

Any time decisions are contemplated that affect a particular segment of the community, representatives of that affected sector, such as the business/Industrial community, should be invited to the table for dialogue and input. How important is this input as a meaningful direction in developing sound policy and how will you implement it?

The cornerstone of good governance is listening to constituents concerns and acting in the best way possible to have a net positive effect on the City, its residents and business owners.  When I refer to constituents, I mean all stakeholders, not just city residents, we have many business owners who own commercial property in the city but live in the county.  Their input is just as important as anyone else’s input.  Putting a call out to industry specific stakeholders is important, I personally seek them out when a situation calls for it and I encourage them to reach out to my colleagues on the commission.  I also welcome all stakeholders and constituents to contact me to discuss important matters that the Commission may be deciding on.

Do you believe the City of Fernandina Beach has an adequate amount of funding from property taxes or do you expect to require additional resources from property owners? Please explain.

We have consistently kept property tax at the roll-back rate and met our obligations the last two years thanks to unprecedented growth and increased property values.  I see no reason why we can’t continue to do so.  In the near future, when a large capital project is needed, then we take it to the citizens for a referendum on a bond and move forward that way.  We will have to replace some of our older buildings in order to continue to provide the services and amenities our citizens and visitors deserve.  These will be difficult decisions to make but I am confident that the staff and commission can devise the best course of action with stakeholder input and reach consensus on these matters.


How can the City of Fernandina Beach balance and pursue both natural environment protection and sustainable economic development?

This commission has added several parcels to the Conservation Land portfolio of the city and has responsible environmental stewardship among city departments and has taken input from a cross-section of the community on these matters.

Lead by the Chamber of Commerce beginning in 2015, the now completed Public Transportation Study and recommendations concluded in 2017 with no notable improvements. Nassau County is now conducting an update to the Transportation Study. What are your specific recommendations to increase the options and availability for public transit? Do you support City funding for public transportation?

I believe that entering into an interlocal agreement or memorandum of understanding with the County is likely best way to address this issue.  If the County is already working on this issue and pursuing solutions to it then we should join in with them in order to avoid redundancy of effort and duplication of expenditures.

Conversely I also would like to encourage entrepreneurs to come forth with a solution that could be a public-private partnership. No idea should be dismissed if it remotely viable and offers a stop-gap or fills in the cracks.  For example, there are a plethora of golf carts in our city that are street legal, if someone wants to recruit owners to develop a ride-share program akin to UBER or LYFT I encourage it!  Especially for special events and during the busy tourist season.  The city could even open up the use of parking lots at MLK and Atlantic Rec and folks can get a ride downtown on golf cart. 

Other coastal towns have GEM car shuttles that are tip based, but otherwise free and are extremely popular.  I encourage folks to look into these and if they can work for our city, we can get out of the way and let them go to work.

The future innovation economy and efficiency of government is dependent on technology infrastructure. How will you ensure the City of Fernandina Beach continuously improves digital options, infrastructure and faster, more stable, and more secure connectivity?

This is a double-edged sword, we are in an era where technology is advancing and evolving at breakneck speeds and sometimes tech is obsolete the moment it leaves the production line.  I believe our city has implemented a very responsible equipment procurement process which balances budgetary constraints with maintain the level of service our stakeholders deserve.  As a commission our job is to allow our charter officers and department heads do their jobs while giving them direction and ensuring they stay on time and on budget.

When it comes to connectivity, IQ Fiber has in the last year installed high speed fiberoptic lines throughout the city, and while it is only for residential service currently, this helps improve connectivity by reducing the users on commercial internet providers infrastructure that is shared with their residential customers.  However, I would like to encourage IQ Fiber to offer commercial internet when it is viable since competition is the cornerstone of a good free market.  Whatever the city can do help this happen I think we should. 

From a software perspective, we must continue to advance and make our processes as user-friendly as possible and in this era where everything from banking to grocery shopping can be done on a smartphone we need to ensure that we are staying up with those advances offer up any and all services we can via mobile apps.


Land development codes and incentives for workforce housing have not produced the needed inventory for our community. What are your recommendations for access to housing for the local workforce?

Government truthfully has no business being a landlord or real-estate agent, our housing market is very unique, highly-sought after and very competitive.  Prices have steading increased in the last decade, which has meant property values also increased, which have helped us maintain service levels while keeping the rollback rate.  This good news also comes at a price, some folks simply can’t afford to buy or rent in the city and more broadly on Amelia Island as a whole.  The fact of the matter is that there is a finite amount of buildable land left in the city limits (without annexing large tracts of land) and the cost to build “workforce housing” is likely going to be insurmountable at some point.  If the City really wanted to encourage this they would bring stakeholders to the table and get some solid numbers in terms of costs and if there is a developer willing to make the investment to build workforce housing and the city can be the catalyst then I think it is great but using taxpayer dollars to build “workforce housing” is really a non-starter.  We do, however, need to have a very serious discussion about the existing housing that the Fernandina Housing Authority operates, those residences are showing their age, they are inefficient and small.  There is a lot of existing land that could be more efficiently used to increase the inventory of residences and some of that could be categorized for workforce housing.  I have in the past shared my ideas on how to accomplish this and will do it again and again.

Community-based development organizations are vital to the City of Fernandina Beach. How will you strengthen the role of these organizations?

I am a major proponent of CBDOs and public-private partnerships that are beneficial to our community and many times fill a void left by city services. As with anything there is a balance to be struck and we must do everything to encourage their involvement and development to ensure the most positive impact on our city and residents.


Do you have any other comments you would like to specifically address to the business community of Fernandina Beach?


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