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New Walton commissioners McCormick and Barker take their seats

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — The two incoming Walton County commissioners got some straightforward advice from Commissioner Tony Anderson as they took their seats for the first time this week.

“I think you’ll find it both exciting and fun at times," Anderson told new commissioners William "Boots" McCormick and Mike Barker at a special meeting Monday. "My one suggestion to you would be to stay off social media unless you like getting beat up quite a bit.”

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Anderson then punctuated that advice by telling McCormick and Barker, "But always remember that they can kill you, but they can't eat you."

Anderson also offered the new commissioners a more traditional welcome, noting their previous records of community involvement and his longtime acquaintance with them.

"I know y'all have been through plenty of meetings," Anderson said. "You’ve been on other boards or councils. We’re very fortunate to have your experience." 

McCormick, a Freeport native and former Walton County sheriff's deputy who won the Republican primary election and was unchallenged in the Nov. 3 general election, is replacing District 1 Commissioner Bill Chapman, who opted not to seek re-election.

Barker, a former sheriff's deputy who became the county's first emergency management director, also won his seat in this year's Republican primary and faced no opposition in the Nov. 3 general election. He replaces District 3 Commissioner Melanie Nipper, who did not seek re-election.

Mike Barker, a former sheriff's deputy who became Walton County's first emergency management director, officially took his seat as one of the county's two new commissioners in a special Monday meeting.

Anderson, the District 5 commissioner, was the only incumbent to face a general election challenge. He handily defeated his Democratic opponent, emergency physician and local activist Dr. Carolynn Zonia, earning nearly 74 percent of the ballots cast in the contest.

Walton County commissioners serve on a countywide basis but must live in the district from which they are elected.

McCormick and Barker got a more traditional welcome from commission Chairman Trey Nick. Nick, the District 4 commissioner, had served as vice chairman of the board during Chapman's service as chairman. He has been appointed as chairman by his colleagues for the new commission year that began Monday.

“I’d like to welcome all the new commissioners here on the board," Nick told McCormick and Barker. "It will be my honor and privilege to work with you."

The official group photograph of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners, now posted on the county's website, includes newly elected commissioner Mike Barker, second from left, and William "Boots" McCormick, second from right. Also pictured, left to right, are commissioners Tony Anderson, Danny Glidewell and Trey Nick.

But Nick also couldn't resist offering a bit of tongue-in-cheek insight, telling them, "I think you’ll find that the county moves very rapidly — at a snail’s pace.”

McCormick and Barker were gracious in taking their commission seats.

“I feel it is an honor and a privilege to be here," McCormick said, "and I hope that, with us working together, we can do some good things.”

“I appreciate already the camaraderie with the sitting commissioners who’ve helped us and talked to us," Barker said, "and the things the (county government) staff has done to help us in our transition and getting everything done and prepared. I’m looking forward to working with all of you and making the right decisions for the county.”

William "Boots" McCormick, a Freeport native and former Walton County sheriff's deputy, officially took his seat as one of two new Walton County commissioners at a special Monday meeting.

Walton County Administrator Larry Jones welcomed the new commissioners on behalf of the county government staff, telling them, "We are pleased to have you here as part of the board. We look forward to serving you in whatever means you need. ... We look at ourselves as a big family.”

In addition to appointing Nick as chairman, the new commissioners joined Nick, Anderson and District 2 Commissioner Danny Glidewell in appointing a new vice chairman. Glidewell declined a nomination to serve as vice chairman, instead nominating Barker for the post in a move approved by the other commissioners.

In other business, commissioners appointed Anderson to the county's Tourist Development Council board to replace Nick. Commissioners also made two other appointments to the TDC, selecting DeFuniak Springs City Councilman Todd Bierbaum and Freeport City Councilman Eddie Farris to serve.

Also Tuesday, Nick declined an appointment as chairman of the Walton County Economic Development Alliance, an economic development organization comprising representation from the commission, the county's mayors, educational administrators, utility providers and local business owners. Nick will, however, make a recommendation from among the other commissioners to serve as EDA chairman.

In other business Monday, commissioners appointed McCormick to the Florida Green Finance Authority, which offers communities, property owners and investors an array of options for funding energy-saving community improvements.

In addition, Barker was appointed to the Florida Association of Counties Trust, a nonprofit liability insurance risk pool for public entities such as local governments.