Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Will $47K Define Nassau County’s Real Image? Is It Sprawl Ya’ll, Swamp Ape, or Naked Folks?

Nassau County is paying Jacksonville marketing and advertising agency Burdette Ketchum ( $45,000 plus $2,000 in travel expenses to come up with a logo, seal and tag line in an effort to rebrand itself. The campaign is designed to make the county more appealing and encourage folks to move, visit, and do business here.

But isn’t that the job of The Nassau Community Economic Development Board (NCEDB) headed by Laura DiBella, who has a stellar track record of attracting businesses to the community? And what about Gil Langley of  the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council? Where’s his role in all this?  And even if the county’s bypassing these two very capable groups, why wasn’t a local Nassau County agency or company selected?  

I was told by County Manager Shanea Jones that since the amount is under $50,000 it didn’t have to go out for bids, and was approved by the County Commissioners. This is the same commission that recently discussed cutting the NCEDB’s budget but is willing to spend almost 50 grand for a new tagline and logo. It doesn’t add up.   

But let’s discuss what the agency calls “creative deliverables”, a common Croatian phrase for “Please don’t ask what any of this means.” First let’s look at the $2,000 travel expense item. If these Jacksonville agency folks are traveling around Callahan, Bryceville, Hilliard and Yulee, talking to 60 county “movers and shakers” to gather information, the two grand in expenses is $1,900 too much. Where in any of these communities can you find a meal that costs more than $12.95 that doesn’t include unlimited refills of sweet tea in huge plastic glasses? To spend two grand these slick agency folks are going to have to eat a whole bunch of hush puppies, pulled pork sandwiches and collard greens, fill up lots of to-go boxes, and tip heavy.

I looked up the agency’s website. It  features videos and photographs of very attractive, smiling, young people describing some of the creative things they have accomplished. I’d liked to have seen at least one picture of an agency employee leaning out of the cab of his pickup chewing on a toothpick saying “Billy Bob here designed a branding campaign that increased revenues for Bubba’s Roadside BBQ by 150 percent.” Billy Bob doesn’t say things like “creative deliverables.” No siree Bob!

During his presentation to the Commissioners Monday, May 14, Will Ketchum, president and CEO of the agency, said he traveled throughout the county, met with 60 local leaders, including constitutional officers, asking them to answer: “Who is Nassau County and what do they want to be?”  He said a couple of common themes emerged about the county’s independence and life in a coastal, rural, relaxed and accepting community. “It’s a place, he said, where people are ‘working hard and relaxing well.'”

Working hard?  There’s only one place in Florida where folks don’t work hard — The Villages. And what does “relaxing well” mean? How does a person relax poorly? It sounds like Mr. Ketchum may have graduated from the Close Cover Before Striking School of Advertising or learned everything he knows about his business from the Mad Men TV series.

Anyway, after roaming the county for the past several weeks and talking to  “local leaders” here’s what the agency told the County Commissioners that it has come up with:

  •  The tagline “True to Our Nature.”
  • A proposed new logo and seal shown here, below.

That seems like thin soup for almost $50 grand.

I understand that Nassau County, once a sleepy backwater, has suddenly and unexpectedly plunged headfirst into  the 21st Century, except for that part of the county west of Interstate-95, that is still enjoying civil war reconstruction, homemade whiskey, deer hunting from a lawn chair in the bed of a speeding pickup, and backyard alligator wrestling.

The nonstop road construction along Highway A1A/200 east of I-95, the new strip shopping centers, housing developments, 100-pump gas stations, retirement communities and fast food joints popping up, should also inspire multiple tag lines and logos.

We need something that balances the needs of all of the county’s diverse “stakeholders”, the agency’s secret code word for residents whose taxes pay its fee. So, I got together with some of my pals at our favorite local watering hole recently and we came up with some ideas. It should be taken into consideration that beer was involved in our efforts, in order to unleash our creative juices.

If the county wants to stick with the tagline “True to Our Nature” — which we unanimously decided sounds like it was left over from the agency’s rejected pitch to a nudist colony — and the railroad logo concept, then how about a logo picturing David Yulee lashing his slaves that built the railroad. The tag line could simply say: “Whip It Out In Nassau County.”

If the county is hell bent on extending the frantic, chaotic east side development westward, then how about a tagline that says: “Sprawl Ya’ll” and a logo with a flashing neon sign pointing to a pot hole. It could also feature a white sidewall tire planter to cover all demographics.

Another attention grabber would be a logo of a buxom blonde hottie in a bikini with her blue-tick hound dog,  fishing from the back of a pickup on the beach in front of the Ritz Carlton while sipping a martini. That covers a lot of bases.

Or how about a logo featuring the mysterious Swamp Ape. There have been sightings of this Sasquatch-like creature reported throughout the state for years. But no community has ever claimed him. Why not Nassau County?  They could hire a guy to dress up once a year and have a Swamp Ape Festival, a west Nassau event that would rival the east side’s Shrimp Fest. Or they could offer the job to the unemployed Swamp Ape look-a-like, Harvey Weinstein, and delegate him Grand Marshall of the annual Swamp Ape parade. They could sell Swamp Ape T-shirts, Swamp Ape koozies, Swamp Ape refrigerator magnets, Swamp Ape deodorant, Swamp Ape repellent, Swamp Ape Halloween costumes, conduct Swamp Ape tours, etc. The possibilities are endless. And the logo could feature Nassau County’s Swamp Ape grappling with a Fernandina Beach pirate. Of course Yulee would have to change the name of its high school mascot from Hornets to Swamp Apes.

It’s been a while since I’ve been actively involved in the day-to-day public relations, advertising and branding business, but the “True to Our Nature” tag line just didn’t inspire me or my focus group pub pals to do much of anything but order another round. And the railroad seal with the railroad spike and South Carolina’s trademark palmetto (that suspiciously looks like a marijuana plant) was pretty lame too. Maybe it should be a silver spike as the only way to kill Swamp Ape is to drive one through his heart, which is what we think the county should do with this branding campaign. But we’re not county leaders and we weren’t asked.

 However, county officials say they want public feedback through June. Contact ’em at the county manager’s office at or 904/530-6010 and tell ’em what you think.

Fernandina Beach is also jumping on the branding band wagon. According to Mary Maguire’s NCFL Independent online news service, a Boston-based consultant, whose specialty is creating brand identity through signs, exhibits, and graphics, says there’re too many mismatched messages posted along Centre St. and surrounding roadways and is proposing a campaign to sort that out.

Following is what Ms. Maguire reported in the Independent from a Wednesday, May 16, meeting on the city’s signs: “They work in some cases, but it is not a comprehensive signage system,” says Jeffrey Dawson, who is working with the city’s Main Street program on a cohesive “wayfinding system” for people and vehicles traveling throughout the historic district. ”

“Wayfinding?” I can’t wait to hear more.

If this Boston group or the Jacksonville Burdette Ketchum agency or any of the county or city officials want to join our local focus group for a cold beer and some hot ideas, they can contact me at and I’ll give them “wayfinding” directions on where we’ll be meeting. All we charge for our advice is a couple rounds of beer.


Amelia Island Loses An Icon: Beloved Amelia Island resident Cal Atwood was one of those rare Americans who lived a historic chunk of our country’s past that is prominently portrayed in school texts, had numerous books written and movies made about it, a statue exclusively dedicated to it, and is represented in one of the most instantly recognizable photographs ever taken.

Cal, 94, passed away peacefully Tuesday morning of natural causes with his wife Carol Ann at his side.

When I first met Cal some five years ago I encountered a witty and entertaining 90-year-old, who didn’t need glasses, sported a head-full of white hair, was reluctant to talk about those days when he was a 20-year-old Marine Corps Corporal in February and March 1945 on Iwo Jima, the only Marine battle where American casualties, 26,000, exceeded the Japanese – most of the 22,000 defending the island. The 6,800 American servicemen killed were double the deaths of the Twin-Towers of 9/11 and the American casualties on Iwo were one third of all Marine Corps casualties in the war.

Cal was one of those statistics when, after three weeks of fierce fighting on the eight-square-mile island that had no front lines, no rear, and was every inch a battle ground, was wounded and evacuated after experiencing the loss – dead or wounded – of 95 percent of his company.

Over the past few years Cal, mutual pal Joe Murphy, and I would meet monthly for lunch to discuss world events, baseball, politics, have a pint or two of cold beers at various island eateries and pubs and enjoy each other’s company.

During those times I managed to drag a few scant words about Cal’s Iwo Jima experience out of the normally effervescent Marine, who was more interested in talking about his pretty blonde wife, Carol Ann, and the latest book he’s reading – one of three he devoured weekly – than he was in discussing his WWII activities, particularly the horrific fighting on Iwo Jima.

Almost 75 years ago Cal and his fellow Marines landed on Iwo and initially attacked Mount Suribachi where they discovered a fanatical Japanese defense. Suribachi was finally taken after five days of fighting, resulting in the flag raising and a Pulitzer award winning photograph that today serves as a tribute to America’s armed forces. A sculpture of the five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the flag stands adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.

“I wasn’t up on the mountain but we were just a short distance from Suribachi and saw it and cheered and raised general exuberant hell when the flag went up,” is about all I could get out of Cal, who was discharged from the Marines in 1946 and went on to lead a distinguished career in academia.

Cal, along with many other young men at that time, dropped out of high school to join the war effort, went back to earn their diplomas, and in Cal’s case become class president. “When I was in high school before the war broke out all I was interested in was playing baseball and chasing girls,” says Cal, “but the discipline I learned in the Marine Corps had an impact.”

That discipline served Cal well over the post-war years. After receiving his high school diploma he attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he was also elected class president. Following graduation there he went on to earn a master’s degree from Columbia and then taught at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, which many President’s children have attended including President Obama’s two girls, and then to Istanbul, Turkey, where he was dean of students at Robert College. Prior to his retirement and move to Amelia Island, the modest Marine veteran, was Director of Corporate Liaison and MBA Placement at Atlanta’s prestigious Emory University.  He created a golf tournament that raised thousands of dollars annually for children’s Christmas toys and it was eventually named after him. This Marine warrior also wrote poetry and had several books of his poems published. Cal is a poster boy for the Greatest Generation.

Once, when I asked if he had any regrets following this long and illustrious career? “One,” he said. “I wish I had stayed in the Corps.” He will be buried with shrapnel from Iwo still in him.

Services are being handled by Amelia Island’s Oxley Heard Funeral Home and will be conducted June 9. Cal’s minister son, Nate, of Charlotte, NC will officiate and grandson, Daniel, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, will eulogize his grandfather. Daughter Laura Fox and sons Todd Atwood and Bill Horton also survive Cal.

Carol Ann says a celebration of Cal’s life will be held at Bar Zin following the funeral service and all of Cal’s friends are welcome.

America needs more Cal Atwood’s. Semper Fi, my dear friend. You will be missed but never forgotten.


Things I Just Learned: Members of the U.S. Congress are the world’s highest paid legislators and butterflies are cannibals. Source: “That’s A Fact Jack”, MJF Books, 2013 edition.


Famous Last Words: “They couldn’t hit an elephant from this dist–” Union General John Sedgwick, May 1864, near Spotsylvania, Virginia just before being shot dead by a Confederate sharpshooter.


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: A group of groupies, including me, showed up for the debut of the new Hupp & The Yacht Rockers band last Sunday at Main Beach’s Sandbar and we were not disappointed. In addition to Hupp Huppman on rhythm guitar and vocals, the trio includes Ray Hetchka on bass and harmony vocals and Mike Devereaux, percussion. They also have a CD for sale, which I purchased and my wife, Linda, has been playing continuously in the car and on the back deck. The band has Dan Voll-like stage presence and keeps its audience asking for more. Coming soon to downtown is another wine bar, also featuring coffee, the Pozzi Coffee & Wine Bar at 302 Ash Street, the corner of South 2nd operated by a lady with a strip club name — Candy Pozzi. Social media tells me that Jack & Diane’s on Centre Street, just west of Tasty’s has reopened and features an eclectic menu ranging from sushi to spaghetti, but that’s all I know. If you like bagels and haven’t been to the South 8th Street Aloha Bagels, then get there as it features the best bagels I’ve eaten outside of New York City. Sean McCarthy and his band are aboard the Pajamadave guided sunset BYOB adults only Amelia River Cruise tonight Friday, May 18, and from what I heard it sold out minutes after it was announced. The combination of Sean and Pajamadave is a hard one to beat. The VFW POST 4351 under Shave Bridge on Wade Place Road,  is hosting a prime rib dinner tomorrow, Saturday May 19th at 5:30 p.m. for a $15 donation. Dinner includes prime rib , mashed potatoes with gravy and asparagus with Hollandaise. It’s open to the public. and all money goes to veterans and the community. They’re are selling advance tickets if folks want to  to stop by today. To-go boxes are available. Call ’em at  904/432-8791

  • Comment (19)
  • What a fantastic tribute to Cal Atwood, Dave. But then he gave you lots of good stuff to work with. What a great guy and a very fitting tribute.

    Not sure what to think of that Nassau County logo. Looks like a pot leaf to me. Is that what they mean by “true to our nature”? Perhaps the Thanksgiving morning from 40 years ago is our true nature? I’d say go back to the drawing board….

  • Excellent post! The $50,000 branding we took was hilarious. And the honoring of Cal Atwwod was very moving. Thanks

  • Oh Dave, thank you. I want to forward you piece on Cal to his family. I hope I have your permission ❤️
    Thank you, Dave!
    Carol Ann

  • I am sitting here at about 8:30 Am and about ready to have a stiff shot. After reading what I finally thought was a very well written and entertaining piece of respectable journalism I realized you didn’t once mention, liberals, Obama, or Hillary. This leads me to believe all the local supermarkets are out of Kool Aid or you have finally witnessed enough to bring yourself to the stark realization that Liberals are just the other side of a very complex equation. I will tell you that I for one am proud of you my friend. This article was so fair and balanced I am thinking you have a future with FOX News. Keep up the good work

  • Dave,
    Your description of the county’s “rebranding” initiative is a page right out of the “The Naturalist’s Field Guide to Boondoggles”.

    The habitat of these boondoggles is usually ‘big buck’ organizations – large corporations and government entities spending OPM (other people’s money).

    The fauna here is most likely the “Web-sited Image Shiner”. It is an invasive species that will attempt to infest both successful and failing organizms, offering to enhance the organizm or more broadly, the organization. It can be recognized aurally by its articulated calls of “rebranding”, “image”, and “vision”, especially when coupled with references to characteristic keynotes such as ‘millenials’, ‘demos’ (demographics), and ‘target’ (in a non-military sense).

    The boondoggle is often executed when the victim organization has already achieved considerable success through the efforts of internal expertise. The organization feels confident and is ready to take it to “the next level” – always a key identifying phrase. So they hire an ‘outside expert’ – usually someone more than 50 miles from the locality, and who has a good PowerPoint slideshow.

    The statement that the County didn’t have to put the contract out for bid because it was under $50,000 is a clincher. Why would anyone go for a sole-source contract rather than inviting proposals and bids? That’s the way to see what’s out there. Even if you don’t just rely on the in-house talent that has been getting results.

    What deficiency/gap is filled by this $47,000?

  • “Whip It Out In Nassau County”? A double entendre if I ever heard one. Just shows you how a couple of well-spent dollars at the local pub brings out more creativity than $47K.

  • Dave,
    One has to wonder why the county needs a new logo. Seems to me that would have been thought about before the rush to wipe out all the vegetation on any buildable lot between 95 and the coast while going along with a failed, before completion, A-200 road upgrade. By the way, the logo design does not include any mention of a port or airport alongside the railway and pot like plant.

    $47K? If I were the Chamber of Commerce or Laura Debella I’d be insulted to think I could not do better for less money! In fact, the 47K could have been better spent on putting some lines on the 14st roadway between Sadler and the airport.

    “Will Ketchem” you listed as the CEO and President. Looks like the name is a good logo for what happened as he caught our hapless bunch.

  • dave, i haven’t laugh so hard in quite a while. great tribute to a great man, and no politics…Best article ever. Keep up the good work.

  • Dave, you’ve outdone yourself. First, the fitting tribute to Mr. Atwood, one of a dying breed of American male. He was a brave and true soul in every sense. My condolences to his wife and family. His was a life well-lived. I enjoyed every moment I spent with him, knowing well that none of my Navy stories would ever measure up to ANY of his…
    As for the 47K rebranding , well, my Dad (also a WWII Vet) used to remind me that there’s an ass for every seat., and spending taxpayer’s money in this fashion, is as logical as, say, a new airport building shaped like an old plane that no one will recognize. Again, you are correct. We come up with more creative solutions at our favorite watering hole on an average Tuesday evening. Well done, Sir.

  • Me thinks that any Nassau County Elementary School Gifted class could come up with a better logo/motto and would be $50,000 cheaper.

  • It’s obvious ! Your comments are WAY better, pointed and funny when you and your pals have applied sufficient hops and malt to your brain.
    You should let your fans know when and where the next “think session” will be held so others can join in on the fun. It will likely need to be a large venue.

  • Susie and I are in England for a course and are saddened to learn of Cal’s passing. I was on the Museum Board when he and Carol Ann were Chairs and admired them over the years. Cal was one of the most distinguished men I have ever met. He will be missed by all. Thank you for writing about him and informing us of his death. Condolences to Carol Ann.

  • The big smile on my face is from your warm knowing tribute to our hero-friend Cal Atwood and the underlying grin is for the Burdette Ketchum Fetchem’ Gottem’ column – Nassau County is NOT that logo. Yuck.

  • Nassau County: Where Florida Really Begins! (a sarcastic shot to a tag line used by Jacksonville – “Where FL begins”). Agree with the other the vegetation on the logo looks like a marijuana plant of SuperGrow. And nobody will understand the railroad spike.
    Great and fitting tribute to Cal. So sorry to hear of his passing.


Recent Posts


Recent Comments

Dave, I want to know why more people aren't highlighting the part of the speech…
Great article!!! How can Tim P get away with not paying permit fees? Outside attorneys…
Hats off to Billy Cimino for organizing the “Cross the Line Paddle for Veterans” event…
Let's continue to back our wonderful Congressman, Aaron Bean!! We went to a breakfast with…
Repeating. The 2020 census reveals that just over 70% of Nassau County registered as Republicans.…
How does “Moderate Majority” justify his/her handle ? He or she is not moderate and…

subscribe to my blog