Historic City News founder Michael Gold was invited to meet with former St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver this week on a visit mixed with business and pleasure. The now-retired Shaver, like many Florida retirees, finds that although her life with her two children and granddaughter is abundant, with hobbies including photography and appearances as a washboard player in a local band, she misses her day-to-day involvement before leaving the public eye.
The mayor came into office a relatively new resident and a political neophyte in November 2014. In an upset election that confounded many political pundits, Shaver unseated long-term officeholder, Joseph L Boles, Jr. then overcame opponents to be re-elected mayor in 2016 and again in 2018, on the same campaign platform that “she’s tough and nobody owns her”.
Shaver, who was winning a fight with early-stage breast cancer, had become an outspoken advocate for self-examination and the importance of early detection. But, in the early months of her third term, she suffered a stroke at the conclusion of her final meeting of the St Augustine City Commission on Monday, February 25, 2019. She was transported to Flagler Hospital and then transferred to Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville for treatment. On March 1st, she announced that her condition and therapy regimen made it necessary to resign for the remainder of her term.
She described her recovery over the past three years as “slow but steady”. Knowing and having worked with the mayor during her years in office, the word “slow” seemed a recent addition to her vocabulary. Seeing her current condition, however, I am excited to report that she is sharp as a tack, she was traveling without a car, so we walked throughout the historic district, and she was as well-read and interested in the City’s current affairs as I am.
The unavoidable elephant in the room, of course, is her plans for St Augustine and interest in returning to public office. Here I must report that she is playing her cards “close to the vest” — but she’s not walking away from the table, either. We talked about other friends and supporters who she also visited this month. It seems she has received encouragement from several people who I know to have considerable circles of influence in our local neighborhoods, so we will have to watch and see how this plays out in November.
She still has her sense of humor, too. Right after her stroke, she told me that she was looking forward to seeing me very soon along the bayfront or playing her washboard at Mi Casa Café. She brags about her son’s garage band and says he lets her play with them to keep in practice for her return to the old city’s nightlife.
After lunch at the Columbia Restaurant, she presented me with the check and her new business card advertising herself simply as “washboard player”. I’ve seen her perform live during a celebration at the Old Jail and one night at the Prohibition Kitchen. I know that her repertoire includes appearances at several other renowned local entertainment venues. Who knows? Maybe she’ll need an agent soon.