The Okaloosa County Commission recently appointed three people to four-year unpaid terms on the county’s Tourist Development Council (TDC), including unanimously appointing Heather Ruiz, the director of marketing for Destin Commons.
Under the oversight of the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners, the TDC is run by county staff and an appointed council of nine individuals who are directly involved in the tourism industry. The primary responsibilities of the TDC are to promote tourism sales and increase overall visitation, operation of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Convention Center and Visitors Welcome Center, funding of beach safety life saving program, funding of local special events, research and evaluation of all programs and economy to promote tourism in the region along the Emerald Coast. The monies utilized to run the aforementioned areas are generated by Okaloosa County’s bed tax.
Ruiz brings with her a background that spans 10 years in marketing and public relations on the Emerald Coast. Last year, Ruiz was the winner of the International Council of Shopping Centers Foundation’s John T. Riordan Professional Education Development Scholarship and has now completed both Marketing I and Marketing II courses. She is now eligible to sit for the certification exam to earn the prestigious Certified Marketing Director designation from ICSC. Destin Commons was also recently named For–Profit Communicator of the Year by the Northwest Florida Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.
In addition to her business background, her involvement in the community on behalf of Destin Commons is extensive. Ruiz has been active with the Destin, Fort Walton and Niceville chambers of commerce. At the Destin Chamber, Ruiz is a 2015 graduate of Destin Forward, winning that year’s Leadership Award. The Niceville Chamber named Ruiz the recipient of the You Rock Chairman’s Award. She is also a 2016 graduate of Northwest Florida State College’s Leadership Okaloosa, a nine-month leadership training and development program. Volunteering with a number of area non-profits is also high on Ruiz’s list of endeavors, including serving on the executive board of Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation and the marketing and public relations committee for Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.
From an educational background, Ruiz made the dean’s list for four years and received her bachelor of science in business administration with a specialty in marketing and management from Florida State University in 2007.
“Having spent the majority of my life on the Emerald Coast, and now raising my own family here, it is an honor to be chosen to serve our area with the Okaloosa TDC,” Ruiz said. “I look forward to working with the TDC to promote the Emerald Coast as a world-class destination, while maintaining sustainable economic and environmental practices that ultimately benefit both our residents and millions of annual visiting tourists.”