Ponder announces mayoral ambitions: Destin business leader talks family values, moving forward

Jacob Fuller
Mel Ponder says he believes family-based values are what make Destin a successful community. He is seen here with (from left) his sons Preston and Casey, his wife, Mona, and his daughter, Grace.

2014 Election

There will be four open seats in Destin’s 2014 municipal election set for March 11.  The mayor and three council seats are up for grabs.  While candidates can pre-file, actual qualifying dates with the Supervisor of Elections Office run from noon, Dec. 30 to noon, Jan. 3. Visit www.govote-okaloosa.com for more details

Coming Wednesday

Grab a copy of Wednesday’s Log to read about how the city council race is shaping up.

Mel Ponder is a man of many titles and responsibilities. He’s angling for one more after becoming the first to throw his hat in the ring for Destin’s mayoral election in 2014.

Ponder is a mortgage loan officer with Prime Lending. He also operates Business Empowerment, a Destin Christian faith-based business cooperative.

He said when he heard that mayor Sam Seevers wasn't seeking reelection, he figured the office would provide yet another outlet for him to serve the community.

"Serving the city is something — for whatever reason, right or wrong — I've had the privilege of doing for quite a while now," Ponder told The Log. "I had a heart and passion that if the open door was there, and I felt the timing was right, it would be an honor to step into the position."

Ponder wouldn’t bring a party affiliation, platform or grand plan to the election campaign. When asked about his goals for Destin, Ponder spoke more about his honor and family-based values, which he believes drive a successful community. If he gets into office, he said he will then speak to city leaders to see what issues need to be approached.

"I don't have a political agenda, per se," Ponder said. "I want to embrace what has been done, respectfully look to the future and do what we can as a community to continue to grow on the things that we've done well." 

The one specific goal he said he wants to accomplish is to see the $10.2 million that Seevers and the current city leaders helped obtain for the rebuilding of Norriego Point spent responsibly and quickly.

"If I have any agenda, it's to look at something like that and honor the work it took city staff and a great mayor, and make sure we honor and celebrate that and bring that to completion," Ponder said.

Ponder is not new to the city government or leadership. He served as a city councilman from 2002 to 2006. He was a vice president at the now-defunct Bank of Bonifay. He also served on the Coastal Vision 3000 board and was the executive director of THE Beach branding campaign. He is a current member of the board at Hope Medical Clinic, which serves the uninsured and underinsured of Destin and Walton County.

He also helped organize Destin’s Week of Blessings, during which local pastors and citizens come together to ask God for blessings on the community and the local marketplace. When his retail stores were going through slow times, Ponder took a look at the Destin fishing business and wondered why it was doing so well. He said that's when God laid on his heart that the Blessing of the Fleet, which local pastors have done for decades, was the reason the fishing industry was so successful here.

"I felt like that same message — the same priestly or pastoral message spoken over just that industry — should be expanded to pray over the whole marketplace, or the whole business community," Ponder said. 

Though he has many other responsibilities, Ponder said most of them are flexible enough to allow him time to fulfill the duties of mayor of Destin. There is one duty that will never come second to mayoral duties, though.

"I am a husband and father of three children. I believe that part of the greatest cultural DNA that we have in the city of Destin is a family community," Ponder said. "So if I'm going to sway any way, I'm going to sway toward family. That’s something that the heritage of our city was birthed by, and that's something that I want to continue to see in our community.”