Santa Rosa County workers were busy installing new “Welcome to Navarre Beach” signs Thursday incorporating the new branding researched and designed by Santa Rosa County’s new advertising agency Paradise Marketing.
The process and concept were approved by Santa Rosa County Commissioners as a Board. “I promised Rob Williamson we would have the signs up for the Memorial Day weekend and we worked very hard to accomplish that goal,” said Julie Morgan, Santa Rosa County Tourism Director.
As the signs were being installed, social media was buzzing about the new signs, but not how Morgan would have liked. “I was really taken aback by the negative comments,” said Morgan. “The way the comments were phrased, an outsider looking in may think that the county pulled a fast one and changed out the signs and the slogan in secrecy. However, there were many opportunities for the public to comment and there was no notable opposition to the new logo and slogan until the signs were installed.”
The Highway 98 Causeway sign was accidentally broken by the sign manufacturer as it was being prepared for transport Wednesday. “The sign company felt very bad that the sign broke. The guy stayed up all night working on an alternative so that we wouldn’t be without a sign for Memorial Day Week. We only have to live with the metal alternative for one week,” Morgan said.
Early Friday morning Morgan began receiving phone calls that the causeway sign was no longer there. She thought initially they had been stolen, and then, she discovered on a social media site under a lot of posts about disapproval for the sign, that Commissioner Williamson had posted a picture of the empty framework where the sign use to be with one word, “Done!” The post was made at approximately 3 a.m. Friday morning.
According to the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s office, around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, deputies responded to a suspicious person call at the Butterfly House in Navarre Park. The deputies reported seeing Santa Rosa County District 4 Commissioner, Rob Williamson, in the Butterfly House parking lot around midnight Friday morning. Williamson asked the officers if they had a hammer because he had a sign he had to take down. The deputies didn’t have a hammer for Mr. Williamson and left the butterfly house parking lot to assist on other calls. Around 1 a.m., a deputy reported seeing Williamson alone near the Navarre Beach Causeway sign. Aloy also said that contrary to a deputy’s Facebook comments on social media, no deputies were present during the sign removal nor did any deputy stop or direct traffic at any time.
In a statement issued by the vice-president of the Navarre Beach Leaseholder’s Association, Peter Birckhead said, “The decision made by Julie Morgan, Director Tourism Development Council for Santa Rosa County, and our County Commissioners to adopt a new marketing campaign for Navarre Beach and the southern portion of Santa Rosa County was the correct decision. Navarre Beach ‘Florida’s Most Relaxing Place’ is the message that is needed now to generate more visitors to the island. Navarre Beach’s best selling point is ‘peace and quiet.’ Navarre Beach is the place you want to come when you don’t want what Destin and other similar jammed pack tourist locations offer. The old slogan ‘Florida’s Best Kept Secret’ no longer told people what Navarre Beach has to offer. And as we all know Navarre Beach is no longer a secret, just look around at all of the building going on. In focus groups that Julie Morgan conducted in key feeder cities where our tourists come from “the best kept secret” did not resonate. Participates did not know what that meant? And they did not know where Navarre Beach was. But when ‘Florida’s Most Relaxing Place’ ‘In the Florida Panhandle’ was discussed people thought of less crowds, slower pace, more open spaces and knew where we are. This is exactly what we are and where we are. Instead of fretting about where the old signs are, the locals should be worried about all of the additional tourists this new campaign will bring to the island!
I fully support the decision made by Julie Morgan and our County Commissioners.”