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Candidate for City of Fernandina Beach Commission, Seat 1: Joyce Tuten

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.

Joyce Tuten candidate headshot

2024 City of Fernandina Beach Candidate Questionnaire


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

The City’s first responsibility is safety. Businesses require critical infrastructure - roads, bridges, sewer, water, sanitation, electrical and internet networks. Supporting organizations like Main Street is important. Protecting the unique natural beauty of Fernandina is vital. It is the engine driving our local economy, and what sets us apart from other beach communities, and keeps our economy strong.

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

My brother is an electrician, my sister has a craft shop - their entrepreneurial needs are unique and varied. All small entrepreneurs benefit when a city streamlines permitting. Efficient use of technology enables a small business with a limited workforce to compete. The City can facilitate access to capital, host networking events, support mentorship and internship programs and provide incentives to re- imagine unused commercial space.

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.

Periodic review of regulations is essential to ensure fairness and efficiency. Streamlining compliance requirements, in light of changing technology, is important. The City Commission should regularly meet with the business community for feedback to jointly craft solutions. A free market economy with smart regulations protects businesses from bad actors. Regulations that are clear, fair, grounded in evidence and evenly applied are not burdens. Good businesses thrive in this environment; bad ones are weeded out. Smart regulations are essential “quality of life” safeguards for the entire community. It is also important to remember that much regulation comes from outside City control - the FL Building Code, FEMA, the St. John’s Waterway Management, EPA, FWC and the insurance industry. The City can provide support to businesses to help navigate these many organizations.


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

The City must fund infrastructure maintenance and regularly review permitting processes, updating technology and best practices. Promotion of varied, annual events is important. Our businesses will maintain their competitive edge if the City formulates long term protection plans of the natural beauty that draws so many tourists here.

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.

Harmonizing more regulations between the City and County would reduce confusion and encourage more investment. But it’s also important to remember that the City provides a unique business environment. The Tourist Development Council recently reported that tourists listed our historic district (over our beaches) as the #1 reason why they chose Fernandina. Protecting the unique character and natural beauty of the City provides a competitive edge to our local businesses.

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

Continued improvement of the online Self Service portal is necessary to streamline permitting, particularly for small businesses. Hiring of a permanent City Manager will bring necessary leadership to provide staff training and technology improvements to support our businesses. The City Commission should regularly meet with the business community for feedback to improve services.


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

  1. The City must protect the historic district from flooding. Our dunes continue to grow and protect our oceanfront, but our riverfront is at risk. Timely completion of the seawall and enhancing living shoreline grasses and oyster beds is critical.
  2. The City must implement a detailed Hurricane Recovery plan. Swift action by City workers will be paramount to getting businesses back on their feet and providing goods and services to citizens. Critical infrastructure impacts could be Long term maintenance plans must be implemented.
  3. The City must develop a sustainability plan that ensures our natural beauty is here for generations to Safeguarding our dwindling natural resources protects our fragile barrier island and maintains our competitive edge. Our long-term economic resilience is ensured only when we put environmental resilience first.

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?

Everybody should have a voice at the table. Community input avoids negative externalities and unintended consequences and creates a well-functioning government. Citizens serving on advisory boards play an important role in researching issues and providing input to Commissioners. The City Commission should establish more regular stakeholder meetings and provide more opportunities for public Q&A sessions. Moving citizen comments, for items not on the agenda, back to the start of Commission meetings is a simple example of how the City can foster more dialogue.

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.

City property taxes provide the majority of income for City budgeting. Efficient use of those funds is critical. If residents are happy with current levels of service, additional funding is only needed to match inflation. Alternative funding sources in the form of grants and public-private partnerships should be maximized to minimize the burden on property owners. Our property taxes also fund nearly a quarter of Nassau County’s budget. We are all County residents and should receive services equally. The City Commission should continue to grow interlocal agreements for County funding within City limits, particularly for recreational services. City residents should not bear the full cost of services provided to non-residents.


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

Protection of our natural resources serves to create economic resiliency. Fernandina’s main selling point to tourists is our unique beauty - our dune systems, riverfront, marshes, tree canopy and wildlife are unparalleled. Fernandina is at a critical tipping point and needs smart development. Prioritizing conservation of our natural environment will protect us during flood and storm events and will directly protect the long-term viability of our economy. Denigration of our ecosystems will lower our quality of life, and reduce both tourism and home values on the island.

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?

Cars will continue to be the main mode of transportation in the short term. Regional population growth increases traffic on the island. Our Comprehensive Plan has a multi-modal network design objective that seeks safe access to alternatives like walking, biking, e-bikes, golf-carts, EVs, ride sharing and public transportation. Citizen input is necessary to develop networks that are efficient and enhance quality of life. Nassau County and the Tourist Development Council must provide significant input and funding to any increase in City public transportation routes. City residents must not bear the full cost of services used by non-residents within City limits. In October 2024, the Council on Aging will no longer serve as the Community Transit Coordinator for Nassau County. This gap must be filled for our most vulnerable population. Collaboration must increase with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to provide public transportation options with routes to the airport, universities, jobs and shopping. Return of expanded daily routes of the Island Hopper bus would serve to decrease traffic congestion and air pollution, moving residents and tourists more efficiently around the City.

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?

A robust Information Technology Department in the City government can meet the demands of tomorrow. When my family moved to Fernandina, our home did not have access to high-speed internet services. A comprehensive review of our digital infrastructure is necessary to ensure that all citizens have access to affordable network connections. They are the gateway to accessing basic government services, along with economic and educational opportunities. Businesses thrive when their customers are connected.


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?

Amelia Island real estate values are high. Recent state legislation allows commercial property owners to build workforce housing. The City has approved Accessory Dwelling Units to add housing without changing neighborhood character. Tax incentives and streamlined permitting would help offset the cost of their construction. Partnerships with non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity should continue. The County has nearly 70 times the land area as the City and therefore must play a large role in off-island construction of workforce housing.

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

Non-profit organizations seen as beneficial in the community receive funding from the City. Along with the County, I would continue to fund those organizations. Public-private partnerships are important to a community. The City can provide resources and technical support to help non-profits thrive. Involving them in the planning and implementation of projects is vital. The City Commission should regularly meet with non-profits for input to jointly craft solutions.


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


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