Destin Forward Class of 2015 Kicks-off (photos)

Kristiana Scott
The 2014-2015 Destin Forward Class met at the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce for their welcoming reception and first day of class last week.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Log Reporter Kristiana Scott is a member of this year’s Destin Forward class. She will be filing stories monthly chronicling her experiences in the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.

Since I am fairly new to the city of Destin, I jumped at the opportunity to join this year’s Destin Forward class. My knowledge of Destin is very limited — my only exposure being through work and the classic tourist attractions. Needless to say, I knew it would be beneficial to learn more about the city and the people I write for each week, so I signed my life away to the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce for the next nine months.

Our first day and a half was entertaining as our group of 15 got to know each other through a series of team building exercises. And although we all come from different backgrounds, different jobs, even different generations — the city of Destin is our common ground. As we navigated through SWOT exercises analyzing Destin’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we found ourselves on the same page.

The city’s strengths are easy to see — literally. The emerald green waters, the white sand beaches, the variety of entertainment — we live and work in paradise.

The weaknesses are just as obvious: traffic, overdevelopment, infrastructure, a city that hasn’t kept up with its growing demands.

Opportunities for the city of Destin are plentiful as we seek a future that combines our rich fishing heritage with a diversified economy and an infrastructure that supports growth.

But our threats are just as abundant: hurricanes, environmental disasters, declining water quality. For a city that thrives during tourist season, these threats are a real danger to our lifeline.

The class was in agreement about where Destin should be in the next 20 or 30 years, but it wasn’t so easy agreeing how best to get there. What issue do you tackle first? What would make the biggest impact on the city of Destin that’s also a realistic goal? I believe the key word here is realistic. It’s easy identifying the problem — where you are. It’s even easy agreeing on viable solutions — where you want to be. The hard part is figuring out how to get from one point to the other while remaining a unified group.

This kind of open dialogue was very refreshing. Exchanging ideas, concerns, and possibilities for this paradise we all call home helped open our eyes to the impact we locals have on Destin and its future.

As we move forward, I am excited to continue learning about Destin and getting to know the 18 other great professionals joining me for this journey. I hope you will follow along as I share my experience with the Destin Forward class of 2015 each month.

The 2014-2015 Destin Forward Class members are:

Jeramie Bates: ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Jason Belcher: First National Bank and Trust

Ann Boynton: Newman-Dailey Resort Properties

Pamela Cooper: The Destin Log

Dena Critch: Destin Area Chamber of Commerce

Lana Daniel: Coldwell Banker United, Realtors

Brad Davies: Liufau McCall Insurance Group

Sarah Davis: Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance of Northwest Florida State College

Hense R. Ellis II: Insight Investments

Tami Groth: Community Bank

Marissa Marinan: Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village

Casey Murray: ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Skip Overdier: American Legion Post 296

Heather Pike: Destin Commons

Shervin Rassa: Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast

Kristiana Sanford: The Destin Log

Jonathan Slater: First City Bank of Florida

Elise Whittenburg: Alliance Association Management