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Interview with Jean Poleszak, September 23, 2013

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:00 - Interview Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Alright, this is the Georgia Environmental Oral History Project, interview number one.

00:00:25 - Moving to Jekyll Island in the early 1980s

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Partial Transcript: And what brought you to Jekyll Island?

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks about moving to Jekyll Island from Buffalo, N.Y., after stopping on the island on their way to Florida for vacation. She describes characteristics of Jekyll that appealed to her and her husband.

Keywords: Florida; golf; golf courses; marsh; migration; natural environment; tourism; vacation; winter

00:03:24 - Early involvement in environmental issues on Jekyll Island

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Partial Transcript: I needed something else to do and I--I don't know if you've ever met Taylor Shuttle

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks taking classes through UGA to become one of the first two a certified nature guides for the Jekyll Island State Park.

Keywords: DNR; University of Georgia

00:04:57 - Jekyll Island Authority in the mid-1980s

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Partial Transcript: And so, going along, what were some of the issues that emerged?

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks about challenges faced by George Chambliss as Executive Director of the Jekyll Island Authority in the mid-1980s. This includes changes in state policy and funding problems, establishing Jekyll as a historic district, and restoring the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

00:07:49 - Poleszak's environmental "awakening"

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Partial Transcript: One day there was all this talk of another golf course, and how it would be done and where it would be, and this and that.

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks about how plans for a new golf course on Jekyll Island brought the clash over the interpretation of the 65/35 clause governing development on Jekyll to a head. She describes how seeing a bulldozed swath of land inspired her to take action to protect the environment on Jekyll Island.

Keywords: 65/35 clause; DNR; Fred Marland; George Chambliss; bulldozer; golf course

00:10:24 - 65/35 clause governing development on Jekyll Island

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Partial Transcript: That was just the beginning of the 65/35 fight.

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks about the history of the fight over the 65/35 clause, including making a trip with other residents to the capital to lobby lawmakers.

Keywords: Atlanta; Bill Donahue; Ed Boshears; Egan; Glynn County Commissioner; Lou Smith; Zell Miller; legislation

00:13:44 - Growth of grassroots citizens groups to protect Jekyll

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Partial Transcript: Let me clarify a few things: did your group have a name?

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak discusses the leadership and history of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, of which she was the vice-president. Poleszak talks about the battles that ensue when the Jekyll Island master plan is redone (every five years). She also talks about the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, a group that is currently active in environmental issues on Jekyll.

Keywords: 65/35 clause; Donahue; Egan; Jekyll Island Authority; Jekyll Island Citizens Association; Joseph Iannicelli; ecology; grassroots activism; mantra

00:18:30 - Conflicts over development and residents on Jekyll Island

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Partial Transcript: I remember when George Chambliss was here--back to the first director we lived with, in the 80s.

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak discusses various controversies over specific developments on Jekyll, including the water park and the private marina.
She also discusses other conflicts with the Jekyll Island Authority, including banning residents from being appointed to the Authority and taxes paid by Jekyll Island residents.

Keywords: George Chambliss; Jekyll Island Authority; Zell Miller; conflict of interest; environment; taxation without representation; water park

00:22:51 - Threat of litigation by citizens groups in the 1990s

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Partial Transcript: Have you all had to file any lawsuits over anything in particular on Jekyll?

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks about how the Jekyll Island Citizens Association threatened a planned golf course development with a lawsuit in the 1990s.

Keywords: 65/35 clause; DNR

00:27:47 - Jekyll's transition into a "resort island"

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Partial Transcript: What's happening now is it's truly becoming more of a resort island

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak describes the trend towards fewer Jekyll houses being owned by full-time residents, and the effect this has on grassroots activism. She also talks about the migration of Northerners to Jekyll Island.

Keywords: migration; vacation rentals

00:31:10 - Culture clashes between Southerners and Northerners

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Partial Transcript: I don't know. I think there are a goodly number from Ohio because they can come right down the--you know right straight down

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks about the differences between Southerners and Northeners on Jekyll and how this sometimes leads to conflicts.

Keywords: Ohio; literacy; sand dollars

00:34:40 - History of Jekyll Island as a Georgia State Park

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Partial Transcript: As far as the 65/35 mantra goes, in the original bill that made the island a piece of Georgia

Segment Synopsis: Poleszak talks about the history of the 65/35 clause, the idea that Jekyll Island is "Melvin Thompson's Folly," and the controversy over whether private citizens should be allowed to live in a state park.

Keywords: 65/35 clause; Melvin Thompson's folly; World Heritage site; salt marsh