Okaloosa County commissioners have selected 11 residents to serve on the panel to help decide how RESTORE Act money will be spent locally.
The Okaloosa RESTORE Act Advisory Committee is designed to represent multiple areas, including local government, education, tourism, economic development and the environment.
The members are: Crestview City Councilman Thomas Gordon; Destin Mayor Sam Seevers; Gary Jarvis of the Destin Charter Boat Association and Fisherman’s Cooperative; Jack Azzaretto of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce; and David Goetsch of the Niceville Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce.
Also, School Board Member Cindy Frakes; Kay Rasmussen of the Economic Development Council; Martin Owen, regional director of sales and marketing at ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacations; Steve Shippee, a marine biologist who works with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge; and Jonathan Tallman and James Breitenfeld, citizens at-large.
“I’m honored to be chosen,” Owen said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the area.”
Owen, who was named as a representative of the tourism industry, said he hopes the RESTORE Act money will provide the Emerald Coast with ongoing jobs.
“The area needs to look at this unemotionally,” he said. “We have to have a very mature and far-sighted view of what we’re going to do.”
Breitenfeld agreed, saying he was interested in serving on the committee because it’s a chance to “be part of a solution.”
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the county and the region to address both some immediate and long-term economic development needs,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Breitenfeld said projects approved by the committee should be able to provide the area with “long-term and sustainable benefits.”
The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies Act, was approved last year. It will give Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas 80 percent of all the fines levied against BP for its role in Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.
The eight Northwest Florida counties directly touched by the spill will receive 75 percent of Florida’s share.
For example, if BP was assessed $10 billion in fines, Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa, Escambia, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties would receive about $420 million. Of that total, Okaloosa County’s share would be about $63.9 million.
The RESTORE Act requires that every county establish an advisory committee and distribute its funds according to specific rules set forth by the U.S. Treasury Department.