Chairman Jones hosts Local Business Leaders Roundtable Meetings

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July 24, 2017
On July 19th, District 2 Commissioner and Chairwoman Cecilia Jones hosted her second Roundtable of Local Business & Community Leaders meeting at the Walton County Tourist Development Council Visitor’s Center.
During the first meeting, held on June 21st, Walton County RESTORE Act Coordinator Billy Williams presented a PowerPoint and gave information regarding the RESTORE Act and provided a review of the Triumph Legislative that was approved last legislative session by the Governor.
At this most recent meeting, Williams provided a brief recap of the first meeting to the approximately 30 attendees, and provided updates on the Triumph Board that was created by the legislation.  The attendees consisted of a very diverse stakeholders group from business leaders to ministerial associations, bankers, environmental leaders and governmental leaders.
Included in the Triumph update was information that the Triumph Board membership has now been finalized and the full 7 member Board comprised of former Senate President Don Gaetz, former House Speaker Allan Bense, Gulf Power CEO Stan Connally, Pam Dana with the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Stephen Riggs IV, from the accounting firm Carr, Riggs and Ingram, Bonezzi Development Company founder Bob Bonezzi and Vice President of St. Joe Natural Gas Jason Shoaf. 
The Board’s first order of business will be to hire the staff that is required under the legislation and to begin vetting the group’s application process.
In order to provide information to the public and keep them updated on the workings of the Triumph Board, the group has established
Following the updates from Mr. Williams, he introduced the representatives from the West Florida Regional Planning Council (WFRPC), Austin Mount, WFRPC Executive Director and Jessica Sunday, WFRPC Executive Administrative Professional, who were on-hand to give a presentation to the group.  Their presentation began with them distributing a survey that gave attendees the opportunity to rank items they feel are most important to Walton County’s future.
Following the survey period, Mount gave a brief explanation of the WFRPC and discussed the importance of planning for the future growth of Walton County.
As another part of the presentation, Mount gave an overview of one of their current projects, Northwest Florida Forward. The plan was developed using guiding principles which include focusing on the diversification of industry, increased collaboration and the creation of a sustainable and enduring economic base.
Northwest Florida Forward is built around five specific goals that the group believes should serve as the focus areas for the vitality and growth of the region in the future:  Talent, Business Vitality, Infrastructure, Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Quality of Place.
As part of the presentation, Mount provided information on the overall growth patterns that have been seen in Walton County, and what the County could expect to see in the future.
Detailed information on the full Northwest Florida Forward program can be found online at
Throughout the meeting, presenters continued to stress not only the importance of strategic planning for Walton County, but more importantly, the importance of working collaboratively with our neighboring counties to develop strong regional projects in the Panhandle.
While Walton County is in line to receive their portion of RESTORE Act funding on an individual County basis, collaboration on regional projects will be an important part of securing additional funding and completing large scale projects that will lead to the future success of no only Walton County, but the entire region as a whole.
Following the presentations, Williams opened the floor to the Roundtable participants.
Many items came to the table regarding Triumph Board meetings; the application process, how to get involved as citizens and many strategic planning comments. The Roundtable participants discussed how Walton County would structure its approach and even mentioned the importance of involving the school board and working with colleges and local communities.
The next meeting is scheduled for August 16th from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at the Freeport Community Center.  Those interested can monitor the County’s Calendar at

Louis Svehla, Public Information Mgr
(850) 892-8155