Bradley Bean wants to put “Fernandina First,” so he has put himself on the ballot for the Group 1 seat of the Fernandina Beach City Commission.
Although he did not talk about his family during an interview with the News-Leader, Bean comes from a well-known Nassau County political family: His father is state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, who is also a former commissioner and mayor of Fernandina Beach. This is Bradley Bean’s second run for a seat on the City Commission. He lost to Mike Lednovich in 2018.
A third-generation Fernandina Beach resident and production engineer at Rayonier Advanced Materials, Bean said he considered some job offers after college but ended up in the place he calls home.
“I considered all options and had other offers, but I knew where I needed to be was in Fernandina Beach,” Bean said. “I just love this town so much, and that alone is a big enough perk to work here.”
Bean said the biggest issue facing the city is fiscal responsibility.
“Something that really gets me going is taxes. I don’t think we need to raise taxes,” he said. “I would go as far as to make a promise to the people of Fernandina Beach that I would never vote to raise taxes. I would do my best to lower taxes. One side of it is, how much we are going to take in? The other side is, let’s do more with less.”
One way Bean wants to do more with less is by curbing the amount of money the city spends on consultants, such as the consultant reports used to create a plan for a park on the city’s Amelia River waterfront.
“The primary thing is, let’s put a filter on deciding if we really need to do this before we do it,” Bean said. “It upsets me. By trade, I am an industrial engineer. People call that the engineering of efficiency. I have a degree in being efficient. I would like to bring that to city government as well. We get consultants in that tell us what we already know. Consultants are expensive, especially when we are paying a consultant for what we’ve already had a consultant for before. There’s got to be a better way to do it. We have a great team at the city. We could bring a lot more of this in-house. In-house is usually a much better option for things like this. Let’s do more with less.”
One area where finances are a concern is the city’s marina. The Fernandina Harbor Marina is heavily in debt, having borrowed money from other city accounts to stay afloat after it was closed due to extensive hurricane damage. There have been extensive discussions at both the advisory committee and commission levels about how to make the marina profitable now that it has reopened, although it is still in the process of repair.
Bean said he believes the marina could support itself if the city were to pursue different revenue streams.
“I have talked to … commissioners from the past that have explored other ways that we didn’t follow through,” he said. “Could we do boat repairs? Could our marina offer different services? If we could get more of these commercial ships to pull up there, it might be a win-win. Maybe these smaller tourism boats could dock here, pay the marina a fee and then our local downtown businesses could get business as well.”
Even if the marina is never profitable, Bean said, the city should support it because it is “the crown jewel of Amelia Island.”
“The fact that we have this marina as a place where our people can go and watch the sunset is a great thing,” he said. “I think it should be a public marina regardless of a small deficit. The whole point of paying city taxes is giving us these services. I’m in favor of supporting the marina by any means we have.”
In addition to addressing finances, Bean said his priority is trees. He wants to ensure that the city’s tree canopy is protected and grows.
“I believe we could have our first ever year where we have a net increase in trees,” he said. “We have a great tree ordinance that I fully support. ... Let’s not just provide negative incentives but provide positive incentives such as distributing free saplings. I believe we could have our first ever year where we have a net increase in trees.
“I want to create a key performance indicator. Let’s keep track of our data. Let’s get a number of how many trees we have in our city limits right now and let’s work every day to get more trees than we had before. ... We can plant trees in our city parks and we can encourage, through programs I have in mind, the increase in planting of trees.”
A loss of trees due to several high-profile developments in the past five years, both inside and outside of the city limits, has alarmed many residents. Bean said the reason he began to get interested in local politics was when a development infringed on a recreational area near the YMCA.
“I went through the other day and they already have most of the houses coming up. We had a legal right to maintain that as an open recreational space,” he said. “I am a huge proponent in private property rights. I believe in individual liberties such as that. I would never want to take away someone’s private property rights, but I would make sure that we don’t rush through any processes, because we’ve had issues with that in the past.
“I would never want to build a concrete box around what we can and cannot do as a city, but I do believe we need to properly vet and make sure that each
individual development is legal and just.”
Bean said that preserving Fernandina Beach is important and could be done while also ensuring there are jobs in the city by making sure the city is friendly to business. He said there are restrictions on businesses in the city that cause owners to move out of city limits.
“I know owners of businesses that had restaurants downtown that, due to high taxes, had to move their restaurants – maybe even change the name – to places outside the city limits,” he said. “There is a chair tax. Restaurants pay a tax by-the-seat in city limits.
Bean mentioned additional restrictions, like only allowing one flag per business.
“If you are driving down the street, you know the business that will get your attention,” Bean said, referring to one in the unincorporated county and across the street from one in the city limits. “In the (downtown) Historic District, let’s maintain our historic atmosphere, which is very important to me, but in other areas, let’s look at making it a business-friendly climate. I don’t want to see a world where all of our business goes just over city limits and we are left with not as nice a city because of it.”
Should a conflict between the city and RYAM arise, Bean said he would never allow his position at the mill to interfere with what he feels would be his primary duty – to represent the people of Fernandina Beach.
“I would make sure I do what’s right for the city,” he said. “At its core, I will always do what’s best for the people I am representing. That’s the most important thing.”