'A PROBLEM SOLVER': Mary Anne Windes takes reins as chamber chairman

Matt Algarin
Outgoing Chairman Bill Lindsley, left, officially passed the gavel to Mary Anne Windes during the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce's annual awards banquet and installation gala last month.

As the 2013 Destin Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chairman, Mary Anne Windes says she is ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work.

"I'm a problem solver," she told The Log. "I'm looking for people to bring us problems so we can solve them. That's how you build a great community."

Windes, the broker/owner of Real Estate Professionals of Destin, was officially sworn in as chairman during the chamber's annual awards banquet and installation gala in January.

Less than a month after she took the gavel, Windes sat down with The Log to talk about the upcoming year.

In her professional life Windes keeps a full calendar, busy with appointments, volunteering efforts and community activities. She also helps run the Fishing Fleet Marina, which she owns and operates with her husband, boat captain and County Commissioner Kelly Windes.

Growing up in Fort Walton Beach, Windes was no stranger to community involvement, as part of the local 4-H Club, where she served as the vice president on their county council.

She was also part of a local horse riding club, the Wright Riders.

Over the years Windes' commitments have varied, including a term as the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors president in 2010, but her heart for service has stayed strong.

"I've stepped back from a lot of other commitments to make time to do this," she said. "My entire focus this year is going to be the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce."

Now as chair of the chamber, Windes wants to keep the momentum going that was set in place by the chairmen before her, Bill Lindsley and Mike Freeman.

"We're going to be more engaged, more involved," she said, adding that the chamber would have a greater role in the community and in local politics. "Some people think the chamber and politics don't go together, but I think that special interest organizations and politics go closely together."

Windes said she doesn't see any major "obstacles" facing the chamber, but she sees areas where they could partner with the community, business leaders and county organizations to make Destin the best place to live along the Emerald Coast.

Windes said it's important to continue focusing on diversifying the economy, while also working toward creating a stronger economic development base in the city. Working with the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, she said, will be key for the city of Destin and the chamber of commerce.

"We don't want to take the lead on economic development," she said. "Our job is to make things better for businesses, for people."

With about 900 members, Windes said the chamber is a class organization that can only get better. And during her time as chairman, she plans to do everything she can to make the organization the best it can be.

"I want the chamber to be able to reach a place where it's not a matter of 'if I should join the chamber,' but how fast I should get my membership to join this organization,' " she said.

"I can't fathom that any business wouldn't be part of the chamber."

As for the "legacy" she would like to leave, Windes said it's simple.

"I want people to say I'm glad she took the gloves off and I'm glad that she was here," Windes told The Log. "I want people to remember what the chamber accomplished. It's not about me … it's about Destin."