Destin Forward class goes legislative during Tallahassee trip

Heather Pike
The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce’s Destin Forward class spent a whirlwind day in Tallahassee learning the ins and outs of the state legislature.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Heather Pike, marketing coordinator at Destin Commons,  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.

March certainly seems to have upheld the old adage of roaring in like a lion. With spring break in full swing, temperatures heating up and the local event season kicking off, the Emerald Coast is in the midst of a flurry of activity that will keep Destin hopping through the end of the month. After a quick two-hour trip east, Destin Forward saw that the beaches aren’t the only thing buzzing this time of year.

Our much anticipated Tallahassee Day finally arrived and after a glimpse into the background of our city government on City of Destin Day a month prior, it was time to see it play out on the state level and what a show that proved to be. March in Tallahassee brings in the 2015 Legislative Session and marks the start of a 60-day process that will undoubtedly see a lot of action.

We arrived early morning, before the swarms of legislators, staffers and lobbyists hit the capital, and started with a tour of the Florida Historic Capital Museum. This historic building, having been refurbished back to its look from 1902, was bursting with State of Florida History. From Civil Rights to Environmental Legislation, it was interesting to see that many of the issues society was facing in the early 1900s are still concerns today. 

A brisk walk across downtown landed us at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with Destin Forward being a chamber-based group, it was like stepping into the Holy Grail to us chamber enthusiasts. We were greeted by Greg Blosé, the Grassroots Development and Engagement Manager for the Florida Chamber and got right down to business-the business that is the State of Florida.

After reviewing the basics of what the Florida Chamber of Commerce does, i.e. the promotion of business within our state, we started looking at the state of our State. Charts and graphs and stats filled the screen one by one — it was a lot to take in at one sitting, but there was one thing that couldn’t be missed — Florida is on the rise!

More impressively, the Emerald Coast seems to be sitting at the top of that wave. Blosé then took us on a whirlwind trip touching on all of the different legislation slated to hit the floor over the next 60 days, the most pressing according to the public was jobs and the economy, education and health care.

After the optimistic and invigorating presentation by Greg, we made our way back up to the Capitol and were greeted by the masses. A quiet morning had turned into a full-blown production of suits moving in and out of the myriad of offices, elevators and stairwells in the 22 floor building. We traveled up to see the House of Representative and Senate wings and couldn’t help but notice each of these chambers are set up like an arena, spectator seating ringed the top and each member’s spot in the center on the floor-seemingly poised for an impending battle. 

We had the pleasure of hearing from Attorney General Pam Bondi and all of the things that are being worked on to keep Florida safe for its citizens and visitors. Director Jesse Panuccio from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity also spoke with us about the big push to market Florida as not only just a great state to vacation, but a great state to do business in. It was interesting to learn that while other states spend $50-100 million dollars to market bringing business to their states, Florida at this time does not spend any. 

To close out our day, we were met by our local reps Senator Don Gaetz and Representative Matt Gaetz.  Although our time was cut short on both accounts due to the summons of the chamber bell, it was encouraging to see the passion and dedication that our local reps still hold for our area and both Gaetz men are determined to see that Destin and the Emerald Coast gets their fair piece of the pie.

To learn more about the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce’s Destin Forward program, visit or call 850-837-2711.