The great divide

Monday’s county commission meeting was interesting to say the least. Two chambers on the agenda presented applications to host the same event in different years. It is the same event that the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (NBACOC) has hosted for 10 years with a new venue. They built the event, grew it and made it a great success. And now the Greater Navarre Area Chamber of Commerce (GNACOC) wants to ride on their coattails by snatching the event out from under the NBACOC in 2018. But let’s be honest, the divide goes much deeper than one event.

The Greater Navarre Area Chamber was created in August 2016 after Tony Alexander and Tony Hughes had an ax and a (frivolous) lawsuit to grind. Our own commissioner, Rob Williamson, who berated Judy Morehead at the meeting Monday, affectionately has said the “Tony and Tony bromance is beautiful.” At the time, we warned that an organization formed out of a need for revenge would be hard pressed to develop anything positive. All things considered, Navarre wouldn’t be in this divisive mess if it weren’t for that chamber. Case in point: They announced their existence and formed a foundation (exactly like NBACOC), they formed a military affairs committee (exactly like NBACOC), they host a Friday morning breakfast in the same location as NBACOC and even use the same caterer. Knowing that NBACOC has an annual Military Appreciation breakfast in May, they scheduled a Military Appreciation breakfast in April. In order to not put a burden on the military leaders of two appreciation breakfasts, NBACOC backed away from theirs and changed its event to a military appreciation picnic in May.

Now to Thursdays in the Park. Our very own District 4 County Commissioner and chairman of the board of commissioners showed his true colors during the meeting Monday. Judy Morehead, CEO of the NBACOC presented the application for Thursdays on the Beach and asked if there were any questions she could answer. Commissioner Williamson tore into a tirade chastising, belittling and admonishing Morehead and her board for refusing to move the event from the park to the beach. He was in such a tantrum that even the vice chair, Bob Cole, couldn’t stop it – and he tried to twice. He yelled, talked over and bullied from his chairman’s seat. He got personal and lost his cool. Is this really how a chairman should behave? An elected official addressing the CEO of a District 4 business with anger and contempt? There were more supportive comments from the other districts’ representatives. They were professional.

The truth of the matter is, since October Morehead has been communicating with the commissioner who indicated that the concert series could be held in the park for one more year. She scheduled and asked for several meetings that were either canceled by Williamson or weren’t attended by him. He left her with the understanding that they could come to an agreement to continue to host it for one more year in the park. It wasn’t until the application was pulled from the agenda twice that a new application was submitted with a change of venue for the beach. The chamber board had Plan B (the beach)ready and it had been ready for quite some time.

The other chamber submitted an application as well for Thursdays on the Beach in 2018. Commissioner Lynchard said it all when he said, “You are preemptively jumping ahead of them on the Thursday night concert series. They have built it up for years and years and years and applied for 2017. And come next year Thursday is taken.” If the GNACOC was interested in what is best for the community, why don’t they withdraw their application and host an event of their own creation? Why don’t they have an original thought, on their own? Can you imagine what a great community this would be if they did? More events, more benefits for small businesses, more of all the good a chamber can do. But they can’t and they won’t, because that isn’t their true mission. They are purposefully attempting to position their events (the same events) on top of the NBACOC’s. It is divisive. People are confused. It is not what is best for the community. It needs to stop.

Greater Navarre Area Chamber of Commerce – take your anger somewhere else. You are not doing anything positive here. You certainly aren’t making a difference.

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