I'm a rare breed in a sense. I'm a Florida native. I have lived in this state for every minute of the past 38 years of my life. Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, where my Mother still resides, I graduated from the University of Florida (go Gators) and moved what felt like a billion times to several different counties for work, but there were two letters of my address that remained unchanged through it all - FL.
October 1st marked two years of my leadership at the Nassau County Economic Development Board (NCEDB) and we rung in the new fiscal year with not only the great news that all projects in the pipeline previously reported were still very much in play (read about them here
) but also with one of the biggest events in Northeast Florida's recent history, Hurricane Matthew.
The storm was very unique in that its trajectory had it barreling up the entire east coast of Florida - not one county, from Monroe to Nassau, was omitted from the cone of uncertainty and that fact paralyzed my decision as to where I should go to protect myself, my assets, my "home”. After much thought and admitted prayer, I decided to leave my Mother in Fort Lauderdale, where I felt she was going to be safer, while I stayed here in Nassau County as we appeared to face more of a direct hit and where my responsibility to the assets of the county, namely the business community, were more dire.
A certain gravitas consumed me as I continually deliberated over this decision while on duty at the Nassau County Emergency Operations Center. I shared space with some of our finest and most respected county staff and first responders as we watched the storm approach us and prepared for the worst, per protocol. The NCEDB's function in emergency situations is to address business continuity, ensuring that the needs of our smallest to largest employers in the county would be addressed in very short order should they be disabled for a period of time due to the event.
I am happy to report that we dodged a big bullet and life and business resumed to normal rather quickly here. I also realized during all of this that my definition of home had changed. I will freely admit that my move to Nassau County was purely a business decision and remained so for quite some time, but like many transplants to the area, I have grown so attached that I now feel differently. I realized what made people call Nassau County home is not the southern charm of the area, the beaches or the countryside, but rather the people of the community that support each other and care so much for its assets - its citizens - as if they were their own family.
The image of the police officers waving while chanting "welcome home" to the citizens as they traversed the main bridge back to the island for the first time upon its re-opening after the storm will never leave my mind, nor will I ever forget the countless number of restaurants and vendors throughout the community that so willingly gave and are still giving back to those that protected them during the storm. These certain intangibles cannot be articulated in any concrete way to the outside world, but when you visit us here you see the commitment to the community and feel the love and passion that all of the residents have for this amazing place called Nassau County.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for what was yet another amazing year for this organization. We at the NCEDB look forward to bringing you a tremendous amount of good news this new fiscal year as we forge ahead in our efforts to bring quality, high-paying jobs to the area, all while respecting the assets therein. I cannot think of a better place for me to be.
Welcome to my home.