Matthew Sweetser may be new to city council, but his Destin 'roots run very deep'

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
Matthew Sweetser loves the Destin History and Fishing Museum. Pictured here he kneels beside a sign from the old St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church that was made in memory of John George Maltezo. Sweetser is a fifth-generation in the Maltezo family.

Matthew Sweetser is anything but new to Destin, but he will be new to the Destin City Council in November. 

Sweetser, a fifth-generation Destinite who hails from one of Destin's founding fathers, John George Maltezo, will be filling one of the open seats on the Destin City Council. 

Sweetser ran unopposed, like Torey Geile and incumbent Jim Bagby, and was not listed on the recent ballot. But the three councilmen-elect will be inaugurated on Nov. 28, along with a new mayor. 

“I was born and raised here. My roots run very deep,” said the 38-year-old Sweetser. 

Sweetser went to Destin Elementary School, then sixth grade at Bruner Middle School in Fort Walton Beach until the new Destin Middle School opened in 1997. 

More from Sweetser:'The Earth is not your ash tray,' says Destin volunteer on Earth Day

And:Destin History and Fishing Museum adds new board members

“I was in the first seventh-grade class,” he said. He then graduated from Fort Walton Beach High School and continues to make Destin his home. 

Why run for council? 

“It is my generation's obligation. It’s not that I don’t want to... it’s our turn,” Sweetser said. 

“We have to step up and do what our families have done for generations,” he said. 

In recent years, Sweetser has served on Destin's Parks and Recreation committee as well as the Town Center Community Redevelopment Area committee. He is also on the board of the Destin History and Fishing Museum.

As a councilman-elect, Sweetser has about five areas he’d like to dive into once on the dais.

Councilman-elect Matthew Sweetser shows off an article in a book about his making a dive for the cross in the harbor when he was only 14.

More about Sweetser:Volunteer Spotlight: Sweetser loves serving the city he calls home

More:GoFundMe set up for 3-year-old boy with cancer, a sixth-generation grandson of Marler family

The first being beach access.

“The day it was put in the paper about acquiring the new piece at Crystal Beach … I jumped for joy at the thought of us having more beach access,” Sweetser said. 

“That is huge. I can’t even say how big that is, not only for the locals but also for the tourists and tourism in town,” he said. 

Second on his list is short-term rentals. Sweetser has worked in the short-term rental business in the past and hopes to be in it again. 

“I want to make sure that everyone is abiding by the same rules, so that all rental companies, and council, code enforcement … live cohesively. I want to dive into that,” he said. 

Thirdly, are activities for children with disabilities. 

Sweetser explained he was born with a back condition and wasn’t able as a child to participate in extracurricular sports. Instead, he was involved with the Greek Orthodox Youth of America while he was in school.

“There is still nothing in the city of Destin for children with disabilities … any disability,” he said. 

“I want to look into every grant, every alley we can go through to find the money and the staff to have some type of program in the city limits for children with disabilities. 

“It just breaks my heart, because I remember being that little kid sitting on the bleachers. That’s one of my huge goals,” Sweetser said. 

Fourthly, are the wetlands.

“We have to preserve and keep as much as what’s left,” he said, noting there is an entire ecosystem living in them that people are not aware of. 

Sweetser, who lives on First Street in Destin, grew up in what he calls “old Destin” near Joe’s Bayou and is surrounded by wetlands 

“Every time I see another lot cleared; it breaks my heart. I hate to see trees coming down,” he said. 

Lastly, the history of Destin. 

“Anyone living or working in Destin and is in the tourism department in any shape or form, I urge and beg them to come in here (to the museum) and learn the true history … and the current everything of Destin,” Sweetser said as he sat in the Destin History and Fishing Museum.

Another area he is big on is the “leave no-trace initiative” on the beaches. 

"People need to understand that there is no one coming behind you to pick up, that's countywide, not just Destin,” he said. 

Although Sweetser’s name wasn’t on the ballot, he said, “I hope the residents of Destin understand where I’m coming from. I’m old Destin. I only want what is best for our home.” 

He said he is going to try and make the best decision, understand both sides of every story and then do what’s right for the citizens.

“We can’t do anything about the things we don’t like going on, by sitting back and just watching. We have to be involved,” Sweetser said.

Sweetser is engaged to Nikki Johnson, who also volunteers on the city’s Parks and Recreation committee. He also enjoys playing with his dogs and going for walks on occasion with his dog Romeo, the master lizard chaser.