Island Issues

Battle-Hardened Fernandina Baker Pens Fictional Account Detailing His Real-Life War Experiences As A Mercenary

Fernandina resident Bill Craun, kneeling, and some of his former co-workers.

Many locals hereabouts fondly recall chatting with Bill Craun (59), the amicable baker who greeted them when they walked in the door of Diana’s Bakery at its South 11th Street and Atlantic Avenue location, until it closed more than a year ago.

Those who encountered the 6-foot one-inch, 190-pounder in his previous vocation in Iraq and Afghanistan, would probably like to forget they ever saw him if they’re still around. And if they are, they have no desire to see him ever again.

Bill, left, and a “co-worker” during a typical day at the office.

Bill is the guy you want watching your back if you’re in a barroom brawl. He’s also the guy who’ll bake you one of the best pastries you’ve ever tasted. While baking croissants and taking out bad guys may not have a lot in common they both require unique skills, concentration, and attention to detail, qualities Bill possesses in abundance.

Bill’s life is fascinating, and it’s vividly portrayed in his soon to be published book: “Working the Kill Zone”. The book isn’t a primer on how to operate a confection oven or bake puff pastries, but about Bill’s actual combat stories told through the eyes of his fictional mercenary character,  ”Alex.”

Why not personally tell those tales using his real name and actual events? The U.S. government says he can’t. Why not? “Ask them,” says Bill.

Following 10 years of active military service Bill left the U.S. Army as a captain in the Airborne Rangers then for fifteen years worked in Iraq and Afghanistan for private military companies (Custer Battles, Triple Canopy, Blackwater, MVM, Patriot Group International, and EODT) on contracts for DOS, DOD, CIA, and NSA. In other words, he was a mercenary, working for the good guys.

He received a master’s degree in history but passed on the PhD when his professors told him it was too soon to write about Iraq. He went back to war and wrote his book instead.

Bill Craun and his “car pool” commuting to work

According to early reviews anyone who reads books by Lee Child, Vince Flynn, or C.G. Cooper will enjoy Bill’s book, it’s like 13 Hours at Benghazi on steroids. By the way, Bill actually trained and selected the heroes of the Benghazi battle.

The events that drive his book are based on fact from his first-hand perspective, even though the story that weaves them together is fiction. “I think this book best fits the genre historical fiction, but it will appeal to action/adventure, military fiction fans,” says Bill.

Here’s how his publisher describes it: “One year after the American invasion of Iraq, the country is a seething cauldron of violence. Alex is a former US Army Ranger who signs up with private military companies to work government contracts in the war zone. His antagonist, Haider, is an Iraqi engineer who has been out of work for a year when he is recruited to make bombs for the fledgling Islamic State. Run the most dangerous roads on earth and kick in doors with Alex, and journey with Haider as his scientific mind struggles with the message from his God. Working the Kill Zone is a unique view into convoy, static, and personal security performed by contractors in Iraq. It is about life and death in the early years of the war as could only be properly told by someone who was there on the cutting edge of this brutal struggle. Told in such vivid detail that you will feel like you are there, here you’ll find all the right ingredients: action, romance, brotherhood, and tragedy.”

You can vote on the book cover you like best, and Bill’s publisher says the voting will go on for another week or two. If readers want, they can click on the following link and vote for the cover of their choice at…/working-the-kill-zone/

Baker Bill

Bill’s wife, Diana – the name behind the now closed bakery – shares a strong military background. She is a former full colonel in the army, who retired last year and has since taken a position with West Rock as Human Resources Director. The two met in Belgium when they were both twelve and their fathers were stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).

When they sold the bakery in October last year they built one in their house in Fernandina Beach where Bill now only bakes for family and friends. And the only take out he’s involved in these days comes from local restaurants.


Hey, Big Spender! As the Building Department fiasco heats up City Manager Dale “The Big Spender” Martin continues to act as though nothing is happening despite a damning Chamber of Commerce survey and local media reports of the department’s missteps.

I’ve heard from a number of local builders, contractors, developers, etc. that Stephan Beckman, the head of the city’s  beleaguered Building Department won’t be around for the next City Commission meeting that has his function’s dismal performance on the agenda. He’s taking a three-week vacation I’m told. Interesting.

Another example of the Big Spenders’ indifference is his Tuesday, March 16, response to a letter from a long-time, well-known building contractor who decided that he will no longer accept jobs within the Fernandina Beach city limits due to the Building Department’s flagrant abuse, incompetence, and vindictiveness. The builder requested anonymity because he feared retaliation by the city.

Here’s how “Big Spender” responded:

“I receive few (less than a half-dozen) complaints about the Building Department. Without definitive and specific complaints, and not hiding behind the urban legend of “fear of reprisals” (I have had absolutely zero complaints of such reprisals- again, if any contractor can offer a specific example of such a reprisal, I can take appropriate action), it is impossible to address the complaints. If complaints are to be taken seriously, contractors (or others) must come forward to share their concerns with me.

That is my simple expectation for professional contractors, engineers, and architects.”

Complaining to Martin is like a businessman asking a Mafia don for help because the mob is extorting him for protection money.


Heard On The Street: During this week’s downtown St. Patrick’s Day celebrations I heard numerous complaints from residents and business owners who said they have been “shaken down” by the Fernandina Beach Building Department. One prominent citizen who said he’s had enough publicly declared that he is in contact with the state attorney general. He, like many others, believe the city is using Florida’s building code to shake down citizens in the same way the city used Florida’s impact fee legislation to illegally shake down city residents. In our conversations it was noted that, when Fernandina citizens brought their successful lawsuit against the city for unlawful impact fees, the state of Florida joined the citizens’ class action against the city. The city has simply doubled down on their illegal behavior in the view of our sources. Big Spender Martin’s troubles appear to be just beginning.


A view from the Boat House Restaurant and Bar, Tuesday March 16, of some of the disgruntled residents assembled in front of city hall to protest the city’s confusing “noise” ordinance. (Photo courtesy of Michael Ritter).

Speaking Of Big Spender: Dale “Big Spender” Martin’s failures and mistakes just keep on coming. Isn’t the FEMA decision on reimbursement for the city’s marina blunder long overdue? And how’s the Top Tracer facility at the city golf course being received. You know, the $500,000 one without bathrooms, water fountains or a snack bar.

Oh, and now there’s the live music brouhaha, initiated by tone-deaf Mayor Mike Lednovich and pompous gasbag City Commissioner Chip Ross. A massive crowd of music aficionados gathered in front of city hall to protest what they say is an attempt to close down live music venues in the city’s central business district. City Commissioner Bradley Bean wisely placed the item entitled “Noise Ordinance Review” on a workshop agenda for discussion by the Commission.

Decisions aren’t made during a workshop, it only gives commissioners a chance to discuss items that might come before them at a future date. Protestors pounced and not only made their pro-music views exceedingly clear, but also rightfully objected to music being declared “noise.”

A fellow named John Hillman played the Big Spender’s tune with his March 17, News Leader “Viewpoint.” The opinion piece headlined “Building official does a fine job in Fernandina Beach” reads as you would expect it to with that headline. The author is identified as “vice president of sales and marketing at Crane Island”, a large island housing development. Mr. Hill is doing what marketing guys are paid to do –  suck up to the folks in charge of providing his company permits to build and sell houses. As showgirl Mandy Rice-Davies so succinctly explained in a British court room many years ago: “He would say that wouldn’t he.”

A fellow hereabouts who knows more than most and has his finger on the city’s pulse asks out loud: “What’s  the value of the Fernandina City Commission?”

He says: “They pontificate, prance, and preen….is that useful? One of them actually claims ‘I run this town’…certainly boastful but hardly true.”

“Martin & Co. run things,” he says, “The Commission is along for the ride.”

“Remember,” he adds, “these folks come and go every election, the unelected city staff –   Martin & Co. – remain year after year after year. Let the commissioners warble on, the real city business runs along undisturbed.”

As an example, he cites the adjusted rollback rate that was approved by the Commission for this budget year. “It was against the wishes of Martin & Co., so what he did was take the money he wanted from reserves – no cut in spending plans, showing again where the power actually lies.”


More Stuff That Matters: If they can have their student loans forgiven why can’t we have our car loans forgiven? Don’t all loans matter?


Welcome Home: Jay Robertson is back, this time as Nassau County’s first Parks & Recreation Director, a position he assumed Monday, March 15, 2021.

Mr. Robertson was Parks and Recreation Manager for Fernandina Beach before a May 2016 brouhaha involving funding of an annual BBQ and Bluegrass event saw him resign in frustration and skedaddle to Ware County, GA where he served as Recreation Director overseeing some 50 employees and numerous recreational facilities and parks.

The Dale Martin ordered cancellation of the 2016 event  just 16 days before it was to begin over an alleged financial issue had the more than 80 disappointed BBQ teams from around the country hotter than a spicy Texas sauce. Each team averages three people so local businesses lost revenue the 240 contestants would have spent here while hungry locals and tourists lost out on some tasty BBQ and fun entertainment.

No financial improprieties were discovered, and the popular BBQ event hasn’t returned since. Maybe Mr. Robertson can convince the event sponsors to fire up their smokers at one of his Nassau County sites.

Mr. Robertson, a graduate of Fernandina Beach High School who earned degrees from the University of Florida, is well-known and well-liked in the community where he also served as JV Basketball Coach for Fernandina Beach High School. He also served on numerous boards and committees including the Police Athletic League, Light Up Amelia, Parks & Recreation Committee for the City of Fernandina Beach, Micah’s Place Board of Directors, Eight Flags Playscapes, and more.

Welcome home Jay, you’ve been missed.


More Government Welfare: Most people will probably see the $1,400 government checks as a windfall and assume that Biden walks on water, not recognizing that the cash is a refund of their own money returned to them in the form of a bribe. It’s all part of the largest welfare program in the country’s history, with less than 10 percent of the $1.9 trillion COVID Relief bill having anything to do with COVID relief. Every man, woman and child in the United States now owes $84,000 to the government thanks to these Democrat nitwits.


Child Abusers Unions: Teachers unions are unintentionally doing more than any other organization to ensure that thousands of  American children are getting an exceptionally good education in some of the country’s finest primary schools.

The deliberate refusal of the teachers unions to put the best interests of students first, has resulted in thousands of families rushing to yank their kids out of the failed government-run public school systems and enrolling them in far more effectual private and charter institutions.

These successful private and charter schools are run by parents, while the failing and shuttered public schools are operated by incompetent government officials and corrupt union bosses catered to by deceitful Democrat politicians.

The unions are making it easy for the private institutions to weed out the nitwits from educators applying for jobs. The halfwits are the ones standing on the street corners with sloppy misspelled hand written signs saying they won’t teach while they continue to pocket taxpayer funded paychecks.

Unfortunately, many children of less affluent and less motivated families are unable or unaware of how to take advantage of these superior private educational institutions and are being left behind. It’s poor inner city, and minority kids that Democrat politicians and their union minions pretend they champion who are suffering the most.

The unions, who have a corrosive bond with the Democrat Party, are getting what they paid for since Joe Biden’s “goal” of following the science has no basis in science much less in basic common sense. The unions gave 98 percent of their campaign dollars to the Democrat party, their principal recipient of teacher-solicited funds.

These twits are paid to show up and teach but they’re not doing it, even though they know the year-long layoff is destroying the health of America’s children. They don’t care. And they’re getting paid.

It’s time to shun these people, just as we shun child abusers released from prison, maybe even place warning signs in their yards.

The teachers unions and their presidential lackey, Biden, are reasons to be thankful we live in Florida, governed by no-nonsense Ron DeSantis who has most of the schools in our state open. In addition, Governor DeSantis unequivocally stated publicly that there is “no room in Florida’s schools for critical race theory and cancel culture that teaches children to hate this country and each other.”

According to some early polls the next president of the U.S. may well be our state’s clear-thinking governor.


Local Economic Indicator: Years ago – long before social media – economists used newspaper classified ad sections as one of the gauges to measure the health of the economy. Those were the days when classifieds were an entire section of most papers and long before eBay, Amazon, Zillow, etc. existed. Despite the fact that today’s classified newspaper sections are only about a half page, the local News Leader may still be a barometer of the area’s economic health. I’ve noticed that in the last few weeks its classifieds for “Help Wanted” have expanded considerably, while those listings for “Homes For Sale” have shrunk to zero. Personally, I’ve had merchants tell me they’re having a hard time recruiting employees and realtors saying they can’t find listings. So, maybe the local paper’s classifieds are still a measuring stick, even though a small one.


Wait! What? The city of Minneapolis reached a $27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family just weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin for the former officer charged with murder in his death. According to Democrats a common criminal with a drug habit who dies of an overdose and has COVID is apparently worth $27 million dollars.


Things I Wish I’d Said: “After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.” – anonymous. “Is there a tax that we can pay to stop COVID, or does that only work for climate change?” — anonymous.


A Murky Muddle:  A recent meme I saw this week was a photo of Queen Elizabeth, the longest reigning monarch in English history. The copy read: “Peculiar, isn’t it? The Queen who has reigned for almost 70 years and has maintained good relations with 13 prime ministers and multiple different heads of state, suddenly has a problem with a minor TV actress who is on a second marriage, doesn’t speak to her father and siblings, and has had numerous fallings-out with friends and colleagues. Tough call to decide who the problem is here.”


Speaking of Megan Markle: I’m not saying I’ve heard that it’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me if ‘ole squinty-eyed Joe Biden got Meghan Markle and Angela Merkel mixed up.


Mike McClane - 19. Mar, 2021 -

I’ve read Bill’s book. It’s historical fiction and you feel you’re right there. I enjoyed it.

Bill Shaffer - 19. Mar, 2021 -

Spring brings out the best in Scott.

Eddie Brown - 19. Mar, 2021 -

I for one cannot be blamed for receiving a debt increasing stimulus check. I have not received check either time under Trump or Senile Joe Biden. I am four weeks into the wait for a tax refund that for the past 22 years has arrived within 8 days with electronic filing. My refund must be held up by greedy DemoRAT’s who are more concerned about bribes than refunds.

Vince Cavallo - 20. Mar, 2021 -

Same boat here, five weeks now. May have something to do with the cold snap and electric problems they had in Texas. Beyond that, anyone getting a refund from actually having gainful employment has probably taken a backseat to those getting free money. Perhaps the refunds will be increased by adding a zero to them to make them equal what they would have been were it not for all the free money bribes devaluating their worth?

There is a work around this. Decrease your withholding to zero till you recover last years overpayment. When, and if, you get your refund, pay back the “prepayment” by increasing your current year withholding.

I wonder if anyone is keeping track of our debt limit. Maybe this time they should just increase it to 100 trillion and not worry about it for a year or two.

Nomadi Costieri - 19. Mar, 2021 -

The cost of the CARES Act / COVID Relief bill moves the national debt to $25 trillion (with further spending increases on the way) but considering that only 56% of Americans pay taxes (the remaining 44% do not earn enough to file per the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center), tax increases for all are on the horizon. And after the combative remarks between Yang Jiechi and Blinken this last week, who knows what cost the Chinese will extract from the Administration to continue their 20% plus investment in our US Treasuries. Another issue that everyone should take serious notice of is the need for and impact of monetizing our debt by the Treasury. It is the classic shell game with no good end.

JEANNE WYATT - 19. Mar, 2021 -

One of your best blogs, Dave. Continue to tell it like it is. See you guys tomorrow night.

Mark Harrison - 19. Mar, 2021 -

Thanks Dave! Mr. Kurpiers makes a great point about the debt increasing under every president in my lifetime (yes even Bill Clinton who is often credited with balancing the budget). I’ll be 62 next week, by the way. I’d like it if someone else can check Mr. Kurpiers math, though. When I do it, the 1.9 trillion dollars divided by 328 million people is $5,793, not $5.78. Again, by my math, that’s a nearly 7% increase in the national debt in about two months in office and from one piece of legislation. To me, that’s pretty rapid debt growth. But if I did bad math, please correct me!

I loved the line about why don’t we tax COVID to make it go away like climate change! It would be really funny if I were sure powerful people were just joking!

Richard Norman Kurpiers - 19. Mar, 2021 -

I checked my math and you are indeed correct Mr. Harrison. It’s been over 40 years since I took math in college and I’m certainly no better at it now than I was then.

Richard Norman Kurpiers - 19. Mar, 2021 -

“Every man, woman and child in the United States now owes $84,000 to the government thanks do [sic] these Democrat nitwits.” Statements like this is why it’s near impossible to take you seriously.

At the end of Trump’s reign, every man, woman, and child in the United States owed $84K to the government. In fact, in just 4 years under Trump the debt per person jumped from $60K to $84K. To be fair, under 8 years of Obama’s presidency it jumped from $30K to $60K. Of course, Obama had that incident called the Greatest Recession with which to deal. The $1.9 trillion Covid Relief Bill adds another $5.78 to the bill for 328 million people living in the U.S.

Vince Cavallo - 19. Mar, 2021 -

You might want to redo your math Richard. 1.9 trillion over 328 million people is not 5.78. It is actually $5790. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your commentary.

As far as the share of the public debt goes, I am not even sure $84000 is an accurate number as the debt seems to grow each day. Anyway, quibbling about the number is the equal of discussing the symptom not the disease. To me, the issue is how soon before just the interest on the debt becomes more than can be funded by taxes.

IMO, the blame for the debt fiasco goes beyond Biden, Trump, Obama and others. It rests with the Congress which has the sole authority for spending. Yes the President approves the budget but the real power is with the Congress, the supposed representative of the people. Unfortunately rather than pursuing budgets that run the country, the last half century congresses have used the power to spend and tax to buy votes, bribing voters with the scam if you vote for me I will ensure you get a direct benefit like a check. The most blatant example of this was the campaign promise by one of the successful Georgia senatorial candidates who said a vote for me is a vote for a $2000 stimulus check (I paraphrase his comment).

History shows that democracies fail when the voters determine they can raid the treasury. We are either at or beyond the precipice now. After that is it is just conversation.

Richard Norman Kurpiers - 19. Mar, 2021 -

See my response to Mr. Harrison on my math skills. Mea culpa. And I agree with you Vince that the national debt is ultimately the responsibility of Congress. The trouble stems from the loyalty to a president or to a party, or both, over loyalty to country. Bipartisanship has gone the way of dinosaurs. We can only hope for more congressmen to follow the lead of Manchin and his willingness to break from party to vote his conscience without fear of retribution. As an independent I have always voted for fiscal conservatism but these days I find myself stumped at the polling booth.