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

Why Are Outsiders Financing Rep. Adkins’ Nassau County School Superintendent Race?

a young caucasian man wearing a gray suit seated at an office desk full of charts and financial balances holds a burlap money bag with the US dollar currency sign in his hand

I haven’t paid much attention to the three-woman race for Nassau County School Superintendent until it was recently pointed out to me that some 80 percent of all the financial contributions for Janet Adkins, who has the largest campaign bank account so far, have come from folks that don’t live in Nassau County and don’t have kids in schools here. I find that odd.

The three contenders in the November election for the seat of Dr. John Ruis, who is retiring, are Republican Adkins, the current state representative for District 11 who is term-limited from running for that seat again; Republican and educator, Dr. Kathy Burns; and Libertarian and realtor Cheryl Reynolds James.

As of November 30, based on the latest numbers I’ve seen, Representative Adkins, whose District 11 covers Nassau County and parts of Duval County, has raked in almost $51,000 with $49,845 of that coming from outside of Nassau County, or close to 98 percent from outside of the County, some of it way, way outside.

Dr. Burns has contributions of $18,765 with just $1,350 coming from out of the county, while realtor Ms. James has raised a paltry $890, all of it from non-county folks and $715 of that was spent to qualify for the job by petition. Almost 98 percent of Dr. Burns contributions come from within Nassau County while less than 23 percent of Ms. Akins originate here, and if you exclude the $2,000 from her husband’s Hilliard company it’s even less.

Here’s what I interpret from these numbers: Dr. Burns has the most financial support of country residents despite lagging in overall fund raising; Representative Adkins’ financial backers must have other motives since they don’t have families here; and Ms. James should throw in the towel and concentrate on selling or leasing property.

Ms. Akins has almost a year remaining on her State House of Representatives office so maybe those folks writing checks for her campaign are hoping to continue to curry favor in Tallahassee. Or maybe they are involved in providing services or products to schools. Otherwise why would they have such an interest in the results of the school superintendent’s race in Nassau County?

I personally don’t know any of these ladies. I met Ms. Adkins at events such as the county fair, parades, special events etc., but have never spent any time socializing or talking with her at length. I’ve never even met the other two and wouldn’t recognize them if I bumped into them on the street.

What I know about them is what they said in their announcements declaring their intention to run for the superintendent’s office, local news reports in the online Fernandina Observer, and the NCFL Independent, and what I have learned from the campaign finance summary found in the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections website which a friend alerted me to at

What my acquaintance and I find most intriguing is why so many organizations and individuals outside of Nassau County have an interest in the outcome of our school superintendent election. Why would consulting and lobbying firms such as ASG Consulting Group LLC and RSA Consulting Group, LLC of Brandon FL, and Education Policy Experts of Miami combine to donate more than $2,000 to Ms. Adkins? Why are the other outside contributors so generous?

Following is a summary of what I have discovered about the three contenders:

Dr. Burns, who is a native of Nassau County and a graduate of Fernandina Beach High School, earned a Bachelor of Education, a Masters in Elementary Education and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She spent 20 years teaching, eight in Nassau County, and was named Teacher of the Year in 1992, 2008, and 2014. She also serves as a Nassau County School Board member working with the retiring Dr. Ruis. During her tenure the Nassau County School District earned an A grade for 10 of the past 11 years, graduation rates have continually risen and dropout rates have been among the lowest in the state. After her election to the school board in 1998, Burns has continued her teaching career but outside of the Nassau District, as required by law.

Representative Adkins, a former Nassau County School Board member, was elected to the Florida House in 2008, 2010 and 2012. She chairs the K12 Education subcommittee and is a member of the full House Education Committee, the committee for Education Choice and Innovation and the Education Appropriations subcommittee.

As for Ms. James, I can’t find doodley-squat about her other than she’s a realtor for CB Isaac Realty and lives in Bryceville. A call to her asking for additional information hasn’t been returned.

Nassau County’s schools are ranked some of the best in the state and we should keep doing what we’ve been doing to keep them that way. Whether people have kids in school or not, the value of their property is partially determined on how well the schools perform. Just ask home owners in the metropolitan Atlanta area where failing school systems, lousy and dishonest teachers and corrupt school administrations caused housing prices to plummet.

So far, based on what I’ve learned, I favor Dr. Burns, because: 1- she appears to be the most qualified, and; 2- there is something that doesn’t smell right about all the outside money funding Ms. Adkins’ campaign. Dr. Burns’ vast background in education locally, experience on the school board, and her obvious financial support from Nassau County residents, makes her a solid choice for this very important job in my opinion. If I’m wrong, someone tell me why.


Speaking Of Elections: Congratulations to Roy G. Smith who resoundingly beat incumbent Pat Gass and the voices in her head this past Tuesday to secure a seat on the Fernandina Beach City Commission picking up 57 percent of the only 1,801 votes cast, another dismal turnout with only 18 percent of the city’s more than 9,870 registered voters bothering to cast ballots. The soft spoken Mr. Smith will bring a calm voice of reason to the table along with a vast storehouse of infrastructure knowledge that includes streets, bridges, sewer, waste water, etc. that he gained during his pre-retirement engineering days. With the defeat of Ms. Gass the days of the “Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk” trio of commissioners (Sarah Pelican, Charlie Corbett & Ms. Gass) are over. Now, if new Mayor Johnny Miller will focus on city business and get off his “Let’s save the world” soapbox, we’ll see some progress made. Oh, and can the commission please put a stop to the ill-advised decisions by the city attorney to sue anybody that happens to walk by city hall that have cost a small fortune in losing law suits so far?


“Hey ‘Stupid,’ Read All About It:” Last Friday in the Nassau County, Florida Rants, Raves & Reviews Facebook site News-Leader Editor Peg Davis responded to my blog that criticized one of her paper’s part time columnists, Joe Palmer, who — no matter how you cut it — called her newspaper’s readers “stupid.”

Here’s what Ms. Davis said: “What Joe actually wrote was ‘Do you see a pattern here? You’re stupid if you don’t.’ He did not say readers are stupid if they don’t agree with him. Joe writes an opinion column. That’s why it’s on the op-ed page. You might or might not agree with his opinion on a topic, but I would suggest that if you don’t, feel free to write a letter to the editor (me) to express your view for others to consider, or simply don’t read it. Turn the page.”

I find it odd that editor of a financially struggling newspaper that even its former editor, Michael Parnell, admits is losing money, defends one of its part-time columnists for calling its readers “stupid.” In my experience, no matter what business you’re in, you don’t attract new customers by insulting the current ones.

In his column Palmer listed a series of activities and asked: “Do you see a pattern here? You’re stupid if you don’t.” OK! Ms. Davis, who is the “you” in the “you’re” that he was directing his “stupid” comment to? Call me dim, but it appears to me it was the folks reading his column, people that read your newspaper….your readers. If not them who? What am I missing here? Ms. Davis, If you want a new job, the satirical Amelia Island News-Wrecker ( is looking for confused people with poor news judgment and no analytical talent. We’d love to have you on the staff, as you make absolutely no sense and that’s what we’re all about at the News-Wrecker. Palmer’s welcome too, as obviously this silly, incoherent stuff rattles around constantly in his head.

Oh, and Ms. Davis, two days before you responded on Facebook I DID write a letter to your newspaper. I sent it to your publisher, Foy Maloy, and copied you. It’s obvious you don’t read and edit the paper’s columnists before you print their material, and based on your Facebook comments, you don’t read your mail either as by the time I posted this, the letter hasn’t appeared nor has it been acknowledged by anyone at the paper.

I’ve had both positive and negative comments posted on this blog site and Facebook about last week’s criticism of Palmer’s column with the most critical coming from the “usual suspects,” a handful of local liberals that would disagree with me if I said the sun set in the West. But that’s ok, I’m good with that. Even Palmer submitted a comment saying “Hi, Dave! I just wanted to thank you for the free publicity you gave ‘Cup of Joe’ in your blog this week. I’ve picked up quite a few new fans and readers who came over to see my column as a result. Can’t buy this kind of advertising! Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas, my friend and the Happiest of New Years!” However, I don’t think he was sincere.

Full disclosure here: I wrote a weekly column (Dave’s World) for the News-Leader for two years (2011-2013) until I was told by Maloy that my comments had cost his paper some 30 subscribers and due to that he said he discontinued it. Like Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer I was fired from a job I didn’t have as I wasn’t compensated for the column. I didn’t even get a free paper. But the entire time I wrote it, I never called the paper’s readers stupid, it was mostly the other way around.


All We Have To Fear Is Ms. Lynch And Her Boss: Attorney General Loretta Lynch last Thursday warned that the Justice Department could take aggressive action against people whose anti-Muslim rhetoric “edges towards violence” and told the Muslim community that “we stand with you in this.” Speaking at a Muslim Advocate’s 10th anniversary dinner, Lynch said since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, she is increasingly concerned with the “incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric … that fear is my greatest fear.” Really? Ms. Lynch and her inept, clueless boss are my greatest fear.


Turn In A Terror Suspect & Maybe He’ll Be Invited To The White House: Following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino that resulted in the deaths of 14 Americans, FBI Director James Comey asked the public to be alert and report any suspicious activity, no matter how mundane, to the authorities, saying not to worry about repercussions. So how did that work out for MacArthur High School and the Irving, Texas School District? Ahmed Mohamed , a 14-year-old student there showed up in class in September with a brief case with wires hanging out of it that teachers reported because it looked suspiciously like a bomb, and now the city of Irving is facing a $10 million dollar lawsuit and the school a $5 million one for reporting the kid. Oh, Ahmed also got a visit to the White house, where the President took time out from his weather report alerts, to tell him: “Nice looking clock.” Junior and his parents are now off to Qatar where the juvenile “clock maker” has been offered a free education. You can’t make this stuff up folks. We’re in deep trouble until this administration is history.


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The Crescendo Big Band will perform tonight at what it calls its first annual Ugly Sweater Party & Toy Drive at Sandy Bottoms at Main Beach for 10 bucks a person. The music begins at 7 o’clock and runs until 11 with the worst sweater receiving a special gift from the band. Also, the group and Sandy Bottoms would like you to bring a toy benefit families in need in Nassau County. Centre Street’s Alley Cat’s new upstairs “Second Story” area was inaugurated this past Wednesday with a $5.00 wine tasting while down stairs folks partied during the regular 6:30-9:30 Wino Wednesday featuring iconic island guitarist Dan Voll and 50 percent off bottles of wine. This has turned out to be a very fun watering hole. It’s next door neighbor Amelia Tavern looks like it is almost ready to open its doors serving the island’s first start-to-finish craft beers, in the former O’Kane’s location. Stay tuned. If you like cookies then for $25 you can stuff yourself full of them as six local inns (Florida House, Williams House, Fairbanks House, Addison on Amelia, The Hoyt House and the Blue Heron) will participate in the Amelia Island Bed and Breakfast Holiday Cookie Tour tomorrow from noon to 5:00 p.m. Buy a ticket from any of the listed B&Bs. Also today, Friday, December 11 through Sunday, December 13 is another chance to enjoy the Dickens on Centre Street downtown Victorian Christmas and this weekend promises to be terrific as the weather will be sunny and warm.

  • Comment (10)
  • Kathy Burns has my vote. Not only because of her tenure in the classroom, but also the successful job she did as Executive Director of ARC Nassau (now known as Ark of Nassau). She brought the non-profit out of debt and prevented them from closing their doors. Ark serves adults who are developmentally disabled.

  • When we moved to Amelia Island 17 years ago we checked out the local schools and found the Fernandina Middle School to be ok, but the high school wasn’t up to par. Consequently, we elected to send our child to private schools in Jacksonville.

    In the ensuing years, Nassau County schools (as you noted) improved admirably. While I don’t give Janet Adkins all of the credit, she was a Board member and certainly did her part. She was mentioned in the News Leader on a regular basis over many years, and I can’t remember anything that wouldn’t recommend her for the position she currently seeks.

    Like you, I am very curious why so much support money comes from anonymous contributors outside the county. (I am also curious as to who your anonymous tipster is and what their interests might be.) You’ve got 415 subscribers to this blog and I don’t attempt to analyze their motivations or geographic locations. I assume (rightfully or wrongfully) that they like your brand of entertainment for many of the same reasons that I do. If you discover any additional information regarding Adkins individual donors and what their motivations might be, please let us know.

    Joe Palmer? I didn’t always agree with his opinions, but he used to be an interesting read when he wrote about “life”. More recently he has commented on current events and his tone has been a bit mean. I just chalked it up to his inner frustration with Obama’s total lack of effectiveness, or maybe some personal issues. Let’s give him a chance to work through it.

    News Leader? My subscription expired a month ago and, except for the letters to the editor, I don’t miss it so far. The well-written Fernandina Observer and the NCFL Independent are stiff competition. Maybe the News Leader should take a hint from Mad Magazine and let the people who write the letters to the editor write the rest of the newspaper?

  • Was listening to Dr. Bennett’s radio show a few days ago.

    He had a General as a guest, and they both came to the conclusion that we need to be more like France when it comes to Islam . . . banning burkas, etc.

    Only 8 years of Barrack Hussein Obama and we are already saying we need to be more like France . . . that was an interesting—and scary—revelation.

    I’ll share these two facts.
    1) I have received more inquiry about conceal carry permit and firearm training in the last two weeks than I did in the last four months.
    2) I just think it is going to take a lot more San Bernardino massacres for a cultural revolution to take place, but ultimately it will happen.

    SELF-SERVING ADVERTISING HERE: I can answer most of your security and training needs for your family, business or neighborhood. I can even bring the Florida concealed carry permit to you in the privacy of your home.

  • Hey, Dave, you and I had the same thought! I just sent a letter to the editor of the NewsLeader last night regarding Mrs. Adkins’ campaign contributors. Contrary to what another comment said, when Mrs. Adkins was a board member, she was often at odds with the Superintendent and her fellow board members. And we, the audience, had to put up with Mr. Adkins frequently parading around the board room with his giant camera taking hundreds of pictures during the meetings.

  • Too funny. “I never called the reader’s stupid, as it was the other way around.” New to the island in 2010 your “Dave’s World” columns kept the wife and I abreast of who’s who, where there’s good eats and other happenings on the island. Your Friday columns are missed. Dropped my local news rag $40 per year subscription last January. Atlanta, DeKalb County school system corruption along with pathetic test scores helped in creating the mostly successful ‘burb schools in Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee and my Forsyth County offering some of the highest test scores and graduation rates in Georgia. I know as a retired Principal in Forsyth. Nassau County has the potential to be the same as a Jax suburb. Supt. Vitti has a monumental task to improve it. His energy and most decision making is admired. Dr. Burns and Ms. Adkins must prove the same to continue leading our system down the right path. For the record. Georgia went to appointed school Supt.’s two decades ago. Potential candidates can be recruited state and nationwide and not restricting this important position to local residents. Just sayin’…

  • Dave,

    A very interesting question regarding Janet Atkins contributors. Maybe being school superintendent is intended as a short stopover on her way to a higher office in Tallahassee or Washington. Another serious issue is the scheme that allows only registered Republicans the opportunity to select in their primary acandidate who is almost certain to get elected in the general election. As you make clear in your report, Cheryl Reynolds James does not seem to be a serious candidate. Why is the school superintendent a partisan or even an elected position?

  • Glad to hear you’re not letting those loony liberals crack your unshakable viewpoint. You’ve got to remain vigilant, ’cause they’ll try to get in your head with their devious tactics like “facts” and “logic” and “rational thought”. Stay strong!

  • AND< just why is Cheryl James running for this post without any experience in education???? Just wondering !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • AND….just why is Cheryl James running for this position when she has zero educational experience???????? Just wondering !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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