'You are the future': Community involvement, volunteerism key to building a community

Matt Algarin, Going Forward
As part of City of Destin Day, Mayor Sam Seevers told members of the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce's Destin Forward Class they are the future leaders in Destin.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Log Reporter Matt Algarin is a member of this year’s Destin Forward class. He will be filing stories monthly chronicling his experiences in the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.

Take it from an unpaid city council and mayor when they say that without help from a committed volunteers, Destin wouldn't be the "world class" community it is today.

"It's the passion, it's the love and it's the relationships that make this community what it is," Mayor Sam Seevers told the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce's Destin Forward Class recently.

As part of City of Destin Day, the chamber's leadership class learned the ins and outs of how the city works on a daily basis, whether it was from the perspectives of City Manager Maryann Ustick or City Councilman Jim Wood.

Over the years, the city's budget has taken hit after hit after hit, but city employees say they are offering more services now than they have in years past. They are also giving more of their time to make Destin the best it can be.

In 2012 alone, city employees gave their time in a big way, amassing a total of 7,200 volunteer hours, which includes everything from city staff working an event, to the scorekeepers at Morgan's Sports Center.

That's pretty impressive.

Maybe it’s the same in other cities, but in Destin the day-to-day operations are run using a business model that I found intriguing.

Lindey Chabot, the city's grants and projects manager, told the group that feedback from the city's "customers" is key to making Destin a great place to live, work and play.

"Citizen involvement is what makes a government run well," she said.

That makes sense. Think about it this way, if you go to the store looking for a specific product and they don't carry it, you can ask the store to consider stocking the product. And while they may not carry it just for you, there are probably others that have asked for the same thing, making the demand greater.

The Destin Dog Park is that product. What started out as a grassroots idea came to reality thanks to a group of hard working volunteers and a public-private partnership with the city. At the end of the day, the result is an award-winning dog park and a community gathering place that is packed with people and pooches almost every day.

Most of us are familiar with the saying "you only get out of something what you put in." Well, that seemed to be one of the underlying messages city leaders drilled into our heads.

Mayor Seevers urged the class to get involved in the community, to make a difference and to take ownership.

"We need some fresh blood, some fresh leadership in this community," Seevers said. "You are the future."

So are you! Are you up to the task?


Destin Forward is the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program that gives participants a “behind the scenes” look at the city of Destin through various programs and educational opportunities. To learn more about the annual program, visit or call 850-837-2711.