Sam Seevers says hard work and seizing opportunities led her to the hall of fame
As the first female mayor in Destin and only the fourth female elected official, Sam Seevers knows that she holds a special place in the city's history.
"To be honest, I've never really thought about it before, but it's an honor," she said. "I guess it's a little surprising that it's not a little more diverse up there."
During her life and career, Seevers has been called a rental manager, chairwoman, volunteer, wife, mom, Rotarian, councilwoman, and mayor. Now, she can add Hall of Famer to the list.
Seevers was recognized by the Okaloosa County Commission on the Status of Women during an Aug. 26 reception at Northwest Florida State College and inducted into the Hall of Fame, alongside two others.
"I was so nervous," Seevers said. "I can stand in front of people and talk, but when it comes time to talk about me — it's humbling."
"I can't even see myself sitting next to the likes of some of those women who were in attendance," she added.
Sitting down with The Log, Seevers spoke about what it's like to be a woman in a leadership role, as well as some of the challenges that come along with it.
In what could be considered a "man's" world, Seevers has managed to shine, whether it's reeling in the big fish, leading the city of Destin through one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters in history, or being the city's outspoken cheerleader.
"I'm very open and sometimes I don't have a filter," Seevers said. "I've found just being myself has helped me bridge the gaps in the city, at the county level and in Washington."
At the age of 22, Seevers saw one of her first challenges in the workplace. And while she isn't sure whether it was because of her age or gender, she remembers taking the challenge in stride.
"There was a job opportunity for an owner relations/rental management position, and I really wanted to apply, but my boss told me I couldn't apply," she remembered. "I put in for it without telling my boss and decided I was going to put everything on the line to get this job."
And she literally put her money where her mouth was, offering to work in the higher position for three months at her old pay level.
"I said listen, I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse," Seevers told The Log. "I told him 'if I don't prove you wrong you can put me right back where I was or get rid of me all together.’ ”
As for the reply?
"He said 'I love a deal, and you're on,' " she remembered. "Needless to say, one month went by, I had the job, I had the money, and the rest is history."
While still working at Sandestin, Seevers was approached by Jimmy Neilson about working for the resort he managed.
"I remember interviewing with him, and he asked me if I was sure I could handle the job," Seevers said. "It's hard when you are young and you are blonde and you want someone to take you seriously."
"I was with him for 14 years and we did some great things at Sandpiper," she added. "He was the most supportive boss when it came to female employees."
Seevers was also one of the first females to join the Destin Rotary Club. In the early days, she said women were not allowed to join Rotary. She joined the club with Jeanne Dailey and Marcia Hull.
"There was some hesitation at first, but I remember talking to Russ Christensen and he told me ' I'm so glad to have met you and that you joined this club,' " she said.
A shift in dynamics
"I don't see the barriers anymore," she said. "After 30-something years, I see all of the barriers coming down, whether it's sex, race or religion, and it's amazing."
These days, Seevers says her goal is to do everything she can to make Destin the best city to live.
"Our community is so giving and so caring," she said. "It's the basis for what I do; this community is my foundation."
As a vocal leader, Seevers said empowering the area’s youth is something that she takes very seriously. She said being a mentor to children is crucial, and encouraging them to "give back" to the community benefits everyone.
As the city's mayor, Seevers said she doesn't consider herself a role model, but someone who is dedicated to inspiring others.
"I just want to make a difference in the lives of our children," she said. "If I can do that through mentoring or writing letters to colleges, that's what I want to do."
As she looks to the present, Seevers said she's not sure she would be where she is today if it wasn't for the people who took their time to mold her character and give her opportunities in the past.
"People like Marcia Hull, who leads with her heart, and Jimmy Neilson and Dr. Joe Carnley; they have all inspired me," Seevers said. "These are people who have taught me a lot about who I am."