Volunteer Spotlight: Sweetser loves serving the city he calls home
Editor's note: For the next several weeks, The Destin Log will be highlighting in the Saturday editions people in our community that voluntarily offer themselves for service around town.
Destin is his home, and what better way to give back than to volunteer for the city he loves.
Matthew Sweetser, 36, a fifth-generation Destinite, volunteers and serves on a couple of committees for the city of Destin — Parks and Recreation and Town Center CRA.
"I love my home and I have no desire to ever leave. I just want to keep giving back and preserving what's left of what we have," Sweetser said.
So when city councilman Rodney Braden asked him to serve on the Parks and Recreation Committee in 2018 he took on the charge.
"I was hesitant at first ... I said Lord no, I have no business being on a committee doing that," Sweetser said.
But after a little more thought and attending council meetings he agreed to serve.
"Destin has afforded me so much. It's given me so much growing up here. It's just my way of giving back," he said.
As part of the parks and recreation committee, they do yearly inspections on the parks around Destin.
"I try to take it a little further. I try to volunteer for any type of events we are doing," Sweetser said.
One of his favorite events that parks and rec heads up is Founder's Day. Sweetser is proud to be from one of the first families' of Destin, the Walter family.
He also likes to help out with any of the events that involve the kids, such as the Fall Festival.
"I love to get dressed up and do that," he said.
He also helps out at the library whenever needed.
As for the parks, Sweetser said, "I try to take the extra step. Instead of just doing a one-time of year walking my parks and giving an inspection, I try to do it quarterly, that way when I go into my meetings I can report things that I find ... and if it is something that needs attention right away I'll just call Lisa and tell her."
Lisa Firth, parks and recreation director for the city of Destin, said Sweetser is a real credit to the committee.
"Matt has grown up in Destin and continues to love this community," Firth said. "He's an asset to our Parks and Rec committee, shares his great ideas and volunteers at all special events.
"Matt serves Destin with his heart and time," Firth said.
Sweetser actually goes out and walks the parks, especially Clement Taylor Park on Calhoun Avenue.
"It's got a piece of my heart. Most of my fond family memories were at Clement Taylor Park," he said.
He recalls birthdays as a kid at that park, his great grandmother taking him to swim over at the park, as well as the cardboard boat races from the school.
"My pawpaw, Capt. Harold Walter, would walk me around the park and tell me about a hidden buried treasure there ... and one day we would go back and dig it up. There's a lot of sentimental value to that park," he said.
As for the Town Center CRA committee, Sweetser has been on this committee for almost a year.
Sweetser said this committee hasn't met as much due to the COVID-19. But when it does it's very informative.
One of the biggest goals of this committee right now is "restating the development code," he said, noting the wording of it needs to be updated.
Sweetser said this committee also talks about new developments.
"We look at any type of development order ... what the impact fees would be ... improvement to the town," he said.
One topic of discussion is Main Street and turning it into an art district. Also, they are looking at a walk/run park that would follow the route of the power lines between Airport Road and Main Street.
"I just try to get as much involved as I possibly can," Sweetser said, who is thinking about a run for city council in 2022.
"Getting the experience under my belt with being on both of these committees is definitely going to help my decision to run for city council," he said, noting he's not 100 percent sure.
However, when Sweetser is not volunteering around town, he works full time with Compass Resorts as a key service manager.
As for free time, he likes to spend it with his dogs. He likes to take his 11-month old English cocker spaniel for walks at Joe's Bayou and walk around the Mattie Kelly Park off Beach Drive.
"The fact that we were able to have some of the parks pet friendly ... and to be able to walk our dogs out there is just amazing," he said.
And when he's not spending time with dogs, he's spending time with his grandma or going antiquing.
"Antiquing is one of my main hobbies," he said.
As for volunteering, Sweetser said, "It's a lot. Some of it's nerve racking. Some of it gets pretty heavy, but somebody's got to do it ... and I enjoy it and love being a part of it."