TAKING THE OATH: City celebrates outgoing council and mayor, welcomes new faces on dais

Matt Algarin
Mayor Mel Ponder shared a moment with his daughter Grace during Monday night's City Council meeting. Ponder was sworn in as the city's new mayor.

Monday night's City Council meeting wasn't your typical slate of agenda items, as the city celebrated those leaving the dais and those taking a seat after the March 11 election.

"I wish this council so much success," outgoing Mayor Sam Seevers told her colleagues. "This is our city."

With very few dry eyes in the room, the city said goodbye to outgoing councilmen Jim Bagby and Larry Williges, as well as Seevers, before welcoming Jim Foreman, who was re-elected, and newcomers Rodney Braden and Prebble Ramswell. Judge Pat Maney was on hand to swear in the new councilors.

Known for his toughness on the dais, Bagby told the crowd of more than 100 that his firm nature wasn't to be taken as anger, but preparing the staff for "prime time."

"Probably nobody was harder on the staff, but that's because I had high expectations," he said. "They met every challenge we put before them."

Bagby served eight years on the City Council.

For his part, Councilman Williges told the crowd that he wasn't going to disappear after his time on the council. He served a total of 12 years on the dais.

"First of all, I want to thank the academy for nominating me," he said with a chuckle. "Oh, wrong speech?"

On a more serious note, he said Destin was "the first place I've ever been in my life that I felt like home on the first day I got here."

I still intend to serve the city in any way possible," he added. "I'm just a phone call away."

City Manager Maryann Ustick said Williges’ contributions to the city's senior programs have been tremendous.

"He has been a tireless advocate for services for our seniors," she said. "He has also been a tireless advocate for public safety in our city."

When it came time to talk about Seevers, Ustick said there were too many accomplishments to speak of in one night. Ustick said Seevers was the "go-to" person in Destin.

"Mayor Seevers is the face of Destin and the heart of Destin," she said. "She is a true inspiration."

After taking the oath of office, incoming Mayor Mel Ponder, who had his family in attendance, had a huge smile on his face.

"This is an amazing journey, to get to this point," he said. "As mayor and as the leader, I believe the city is family — what will we do? What will we do that will impact family; that's what our city is founded on."

In a show of support for the new council, Capt. George Eller gave those on the dais a vote of confidence.

"We'll give you all of the support that we can," he said. "It's a team effort — team Destin."