The (self-serving) Spirit of Navarre

Congratulations to James Dabney, who was honored with the Spirit of Navarre Award at the annual chamber of commerce gala Friday night.

The owner of East River Smokehouse was recognized for his community spirit in leading the volunteer effort to build the Navarre Park restrooms.

Construction on the restrooms, which are located next to the Smokehouse, is complete. We can even get past the bright blue color that beams at us while we drive down 98.

What we can’t get past is the fact that no one thought about connecting the system to the sewer. So now we have bathrooms that we can’t use, and in order to connect them to the sewer the county needs around $10,000. What did they think – we were constructing a building to simply hide the porto-potties? Was that the plan? Because the way it stands now, the restrooms aren’t usable.

In a memo to the county board of commissioners, Santa Rosa County Public Services Director Tony Gomillion wrote that the volunteers didn’t include “infrastructure work” in their estimate.

“To make the bathroom functional it has to be connected to the sewer,” Gomillion said.

The sewer, huh? Ya don’t say.

But who has time to focus on the minutiae?

We’re here to congratulate Dabney for his leadership; his ability to spot a need in the community; and his enthusiasm in rallying the troops and getting the job done.

If that’s not the Spirit of Navarre, then we don’t know what is.

But hold on. Those restrooms that Dabney spearheaded – they’re right next to his restaurant. So you have to wonder if his passion to finish this community project was entirely altruistic.

And when we found out he’s planning to build a marina and a gas dock right outside of his restaurant, it all started to come together. Boaters can purchase gas from Dabney and use the public restrooms. The restrooms that were paid for by the county and built with volunteer labor, at no expense to Dabney.

It makes us wonder if this marina of his will be built with the blood sweat and tears of volunteers. Or will Dabney actually take out his wallet?

Are those restrooms going to benefit the community? Of course they will, and we have Dabney to thank for it. But we disagree with the chamber’s decision to award him the Spirit of Navarre. We’d like to think the Spirit of Navarre is someone who sees a need in our community and finds the solution. The restrooms – they’re a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.

There are plenty of unmet needs in our community, and local businesses donate their time and resources every day to make Navarre a better place to live. It would have been nice for one of those businesses to be named the Spirit of Navarre.



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