District 5 County Commissioner Cindy Meadows' town hall meeting at Great Southern Cafe was such a success, she's already planning another one.
More than 50 South Walton residents came out to the Seaside restaurant to ask questions, voice concerns, and get some face time with their county representative.
Meadows welcomed those gathered and spoke briefly about what residents can look forward to in the future.
"I think you're going to see a lot of change in the county, a lot of new blood," said Meadows, specifically pointing to the county administrator position, which should be filled at the Jan. 22 BCC meeting.
After the recap and welcome, Meadows got down to business and opened the floor to those who wanted to ask questions or make comments.
The hot topics of the hour were the Tourist Development Council, modes of transportation along 30A, and recycling.
Lisa Davis with the Gulf Place Community Homeowners Association spoke out first asking for a status update on the TDC's proposed expansion of parking lots.
"We delayed it until we can do a parking needs assessment," said Meadows, which would include inventory of existing parking as well as locations that are sought-after for parking. Meadows said the BCC will come up with recommendations as far as solutions and "probably have answers by mid-summer."
Davis said part of what has made and kept 30A so desirable is "the spirit of new urbanism," which promotes travel by bike and foot rather than car.
"We'd like to keep it that way," she said.
Lyn Stafford with Eastern Lake Neighborhood Association, on the other hand, said she and her neighbors would like to see more parking available.
"It's for the residents, not the tourists," she said, adding that there is a lot nearby that could be converted into parking without impacting the Eastern Lake outfall.
The TDC was back in the spotlight when Jacquee Markel, president of the South Walton Community Council, told Meaadows the BCC needs to look at the size of the existing organization and assess its plan and vision for growth.
Meadows said that with Director Dawn Moliterno's recent resignation, the BCC will have the chance to "look at the TDC; to look at the function."
"We're looking at a way to streamline," said Meadows. She said though the TDC has "mainly focused on PR and marketing," they have a code enforcement professional on staff and recently hired a beach ambassador who would share safety regulations and beach ordinances with visitors.
Christy Scally, the director at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, came to the meeting independent of the environmental center to ask about a few issues, including recycling, and parks and recreation.
To the latter, Meadows said she is coordinating with the Boys & Girls Club to share facilities in South Walton, which would be available to the public on weekends. Much to the excitement of those gathered, Meadows said she is looking for funding to put in a community swimming pool, which may be a budget item in the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Another county funded program that excited those gathered were recycling efforts.
Meadows shared that the current recycling program consists of county prisoners picking recyclables out while they are carried by via conveyor belt.
Curbside recycling, however, is something that has been — and will again be — looked at.
"When I was on the commission before, we were advancing toward recycling," said Meadows. The county even got so far as to establish a committee and run a pilot program.
As a member of that committee, Anita Page with South Walton Community Council added that the county already has $165,000 and neighborhoods designated for the pilot program
She said that when that committee's planning was interrupted by Christmas holidays, it was just never brought back up.
"That committee is live and already established," said Page. "The money is allocated to do it."
Page said that until the program becomes reality, those who want to recycle should just use the recycling trailers.
Page then moved on to one of her main reasons for coming, NRDA funds.
"Walton County needs a point person to take on NRDA projects and pursue them," she said. Though Walton County was documented as the county with the third most oil on the beach in the state, Page said their projects were looked over because they were not aggressive enough in chasing that funding. Escambia, on the other hand, "got all of their projects funded."
Meadows said that with the changing hands and the lack of a strong economic development person, the county was not as aggressive as it should be in chasing those initial funds.
It is not too late, however.
"We need to hire the smartest person in the room and have that person go after that money," she said, adding that this may come under the purview of the future county administrator. "Let's go full speed."
Ray Zukowski with Neighborvision was on-hand to document the full meeting. For footage, visit neighborvision.com.
Meadows will continue to hold these town hall meetings, and set the next one for Jan. 29 at 8 a.m. again at Great Southern Cafe. That one will specifically address Spring Break 2013 and the commissioner hopes to bring the Sheriff and representatives from the TDC's code enforcement to hear about concerns for the upcoming season from the citizens.
Going forward, the future is bright, and Meadows believes now is the time to address issues and concerns head-on.
"We have to," she said, "especially with the type of growth that's going to happen over the next few years ... We are on the verge of exploding."