Navarre chamber rejects instability portrayal

Members of the Navarre Beach Chamber of Commerce take issue with Santa Rosa County Commissioner Rob Williamson’s recent depiction of the organization as lacking stability.

Williamson told an Oct. 1 meeting of the Tourism Development Council that a proposal for the county to partner with the chamber in promoting special events is a reputation risk.

Citing the resignations of a half dozen chamber board members during the past year, Williamson questioned “if we want to partner with the Navarre chamber, given the instability there.”

Back to normal

“There were some resignations but some of those were rescinded,” said Kelly Fuller, a former chamber chief executive officer who is currently training the newly hired CEO, Judy Morehead.

Morehead succeeds Tony Alexander, who was removed as CEO in June by a unanimous board vote of no confidence.

Fuller said the chamber has responded to Williamson’s concerns by sending a letter to the TDC “letting them know we are ready to partner with them.”

Support from the TDC is required for the chamber to obtain thousands of dollars in funds to underwrite the annual Navarre Beach Sand Sculpting Festival next April. The Santa Rosa County Commission usually allocates money, up to $80,000 in the past, to support the festival, which has drawn as many as 20,000 people in recent years.

“It was reasonable, I guess, for (Williamson) to make a comment like that, but the TDC board wants the Navarre chamber to be a success in everything it does,” said Kyle Holly, a member of the tourism panel.

In the TDC’s Oct. 1 meeting, Williamson expressed doubt about whether Santa Rosa County should be “associating our brand” with the chamber until it demonstrates renewed “stability.”

The commissioner didn’t respond to a reporter’s emails since he made the remarks to discuss the matter further.

Mutual need

Holly asserted that Williamson “is just one member of the council.” He added, “The TDC can’t really put on special events by itself. We need partners like the chamber.”

The chamber is ready to do its part, said Mike Sandler, a board member. “Things are really going very well. We just went through a serious vetting process for a new director.”

Although the specifics of the county-chamber relationship going forward aren’t definite, Julie Morgan, Santa Rosa’s director of tourism development, indicated that could be decided soon. “We’re looking at different options and taking options back to the TDC board of directors at the November meeting.”

Cooperation between the commission and the chamber will be “invaluable” to staging such events as the Sand Sculpting Festival, said Vernon Compton, the TDC’s new volunteer chairman. “I know there’s no doubt in my mind that will occur.”

As seen in the Oct. 15 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.

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