February is gone and with it hopefully all the extreme weather. Although I guess I am a bit unusual because I don’t mind some cold weather in winter – I think that must be because I grew up in Louisiana, and I used to get so tired of watching our candy canes melt on our Christmas tree! So, mild cold weather in winter – good. Severe (for our area) cold weather that kills my plants and palm trees – not so much.
So, I welcome March – a beautiful time of year around here, but let’s be honest, with the exception of maybe two weeks, what time of year around here isn’t beautiful? And . . . here come the spring breakers. I am so happy when I hear friends and family from Atlanta and Birmingham say they are coming to the Destin area for Spring Break. Here’s to a safe and successful and FUN Spring Break 2014.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending Mayor Sam Seevers’ last State of the City address. WOW! The City of Destin rocks. Mayor Seevers showcased all that she, the City Council and staff have accomplished this last year. If I had to identify just one theme to talk about, it is that they all had consistently figured out a way to accomplish more with less. Mayor Seevers, you will be missed as will outgoing council members Jim Bagby and Larry Williges. Since this is being written before the March elections, the only thing I know for sure (to borrow an Oprah phrase) is that Mel Ponder will be Destin’s new Mayor. Let me be one of the first to say welcome and congratulations, Mel. I know the City will be in good hands. I am also excited to find out who the two or maybe three new Council members will be and what fresh ideas and new perspective they have for Destin.
While I am on the topic of Destin, I want to recognize a recent action or rather non-action by the Council that was both hard and extremely easy. When no motion was made last Monday, Feb. 24, to approve the settlement agreement in the “strip club” case – I was elated. But, and this is the curse of being a lawyer in my day job, I also understood that in all likelihood a significant amount of money was about to be spent continuing to fight this matter. I guess its good that the City was able to do more with less last year and save money. Now it will be spent, but sometimes you have to take a stand just because it is the right thing to do at the time!!
Recently your Board voted to support the widening of Highway 98 from 4 to 6 lanes in limited portions in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Read the resolution here. I am attaching a link to a draft letter that you may use if you too support this effort.
Last, I attended the EDC’s “Workforce & Education in the New Economy” roundtable on Feb. 26. One statement resonated with me about the challenges facing educators. They need to train today’s students for jobs that do not yet exist. But, instead of the shying away from this issue, the good news is that our area college and K-12 educators are devoting significant time and brainpower to this issue as well as others. As a local business owner and a parent to an elementary school student, thank you for your forward thinking and planning.
I’ll sign off for now with an invitation and a thank you. You are invited to the Chamber's business lunches (every second Tuesday) and our after hours events (every fourth Thursday). We recently had a very successful Business After Hours at Travinia Italian Kitchen. Come join us for the next one at the Boathouse Oyster Bar on April 24! And, thank you to all of you who recently participated in our focus groups.
Pleat, Perry & Ritchie, P.A.
2014 Destin Area Chamber Chairman of the Board