The nation’s oldest city is celebrating its 450th anniversary, so we sat down with Mayor Nancy Shaver to learn more about her experience as a leader living in one of America’s iconic communities.
Why is celebrating history an important aspect of growing the city’s community and economy?
It’s exceptionally important for us, because St. Augustine really is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in this country, and it has a very rich and layered history. Recognizing that we are the birthplace of the United States is an important piece of the celebration, not only for those who live here, but also for the rest of the country and even the rest of the world. The top goal of celebrating the 450th has been to have its story told as broadly as possible. Having the exhibits and the communications and all of the things that come with that story is a big part of making sure that story is known.
Our economy is built on tourism. That’s what provides many of the jobs and the range of opportunities for different restaurants and for different experiences. Telling the story and making sure people know about St. Augustine is an important part of what makes that economic engine thrive.
How has your past experience helped you as a mayor?
First of all I just want to say that I feel my children have been my best work, and raising them taught me the most. But all of the skills that I have gathered over the last thirty-something years have helped me in this role as mayor. All of my work—past and present—feels more like a continuum. I have learned that it’s all about communicating clearly: listening a lot and moving to a consensus. My past experience has also taught me that you need to know where you are before you know where you are going.
What is your favorite thing about living in the nation’s oldest city?
The greatest thing about St. Augustine is the people. I live in an area called Lincolnville, one of the oldest historically African-American communities, founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. People really look out for each other here; they bring in each other’s mail and watch their houses when they go out of town. This neighborhood reflects the people of St. Augustine as a whole. It is a really warm, caring, welcoming place. We care about our buildings, we care about our history and we care about the people who live here. I’ve traveled a lot in my work, and it’s the one place where I walk down the streets and I don’t see people staring at their cell phones.
How can First Coast readers find out more about the anniversary’s festivities?
Go to staugustine-450.com to see a schedule of events; there is something for everyone!