Marian Phillips does not shy away from being in the public eye, stating strong opinions, or standing up for what she believes in, characteristics she believes make her a strong advocate for Fernandina Beach residents and a top candidate for the Group 1 seat on the City Commission.
Phillips has lived in Fernandina Beach since she was nine years old and is a graduate of Fernandina High School. Her campaign for City Commission is her first foray into local politics but not her first time being active in the community.
She said the decision to run for City Commission was made three years ago during her efforts to fight HB 631, which would have curbed access to Florida’s beaches.
“I made up my mind I needed to do something,” Phillips said. “The city means so much to me and I feel like I can do more in the city than anywhere else. I am not going anywhere. I will be here, even after I die. I am buying property in Bosque Bello (Cemetery).”
Beach access, and all the issues surrounding the beaches, are a priority for Phillips, along with the city’s marina.
The Fernandina Harbor Marina is owned by the city, which has been financially supporting the facility by borrowing money from other city funds, leaving it millions of dollars in debt. The situation has been a major issue taken up by city government and citizens, along with plans to create a large park at the marina with public funds. Those plans include a space for public and private events. Phillips said she is against those plans. She wants to bring back shrimp boats to the marina, where shrimpers sell their catch, children can learn about the shrimping industry, and restaurants can sell seafood dinners. She supports forgiving the marina’s debt and working to make the marina financially self-sufficient.
“It is a working waterfront (and) it needs to stay that way,” she said. “We do not need an amphitheater down there. We need adequate parking so people can launch their boats. It needs to stay just like it is. (If) they want a park, they need to take it somewhere there is open field. They need to fix it so people can utilize the marina. We have enough parks.”
Development is a concern by citizens and city representatives, and the city is making efforts to purchase land to be put in conservation to preserve it from development. Phillips supports those efforts.
“We need to slow development. Right now, it’s just too much,” she said. “People have a right to do what they want with their land, but we have to protect it.” She said she feels she has a personal stake in conservation because the uncle of her son, Wyatt Lee, is Smiley Lee, the late former city commissioner and mayor who donated land to the Egans Creek Greenway. “It is our legacy to protect,” she said.
Phillips is president of the Nassau Educational Support Personnel Association, fifth vice president of the North Florida Central Labor Council, vice president of the Florida AFL-CIO Executive Board, vice president of Citizens for Public Beaches and Shores, and a member of Citizens for the Restoration of the Fernandina Harbor Marina as well as Fernandina Beach Citizens Against Beach Parking. She is also a member of the Fernandina Pirates Club and self-proclaimed “Queen of Nassau County.”
Phillips works for the Nassau County School Board as secretary to the supervisor of attendance. She said in matters involving the school board and city government, she may have to recuse herself. She would make those decisions on a case-by-case basis. However, she said representing the citizens of the city would be her first
Green spaces and the beaches, the city’s tree canopy, the marina – these are what Phillips calls the city’s treasures, which she said she will work to
“The people, the history, the trees – they are all treasures, and people are coming here seeking to take our treasures,” she said. “They want to take land, trees, and push people out. Our island is under attack. I will stand up against that. I won’t be bullied. I am very blunt and to-the-point. People will not have to second guess with me.”
The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 18 primary is July 20. Early primary voting is Aug. 7-15. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 5. Early general election voting is Oct. 19-31.