COMMUNITY FORUM – Where Residents & Business Work Together — Santa Rosa Beach Chairwoman Cecilia Jones welcomed approximately 45 residents and guests for the 5th consecutive Walton County Community Forum in Santa Rosa Beach at the Great Smiles & Orthodontic O’Donnell Building on October 3rd. These forums are designed to give the Walton County a voice in strategizing the projects for Restore Act and Triumph funds over the next 15 years. The Forum opened with A Real Estate Perspective by ECAR President-Elect, Liz McMaster. Mrs. McMaster introduced the ECAR Board members in attendance and went on to convey the real estate statistics for 2017. She talked about the power of partners and members and listed the 7 reasons why people are still interested in real estate today. Sheriff Mike Adkinson began next with A Law Enforcement Perspective listing the current number of inmates in the Walton County jail and the $19,000 per year cost of each inmate. He discussed the needed funding to continue to work force training to help some of these inmates when they return to the community. The WCSO provides training in programs such as Farming; Safe Food Handling; Welding; Carpentry; Heavy Equipment and much more. Sheriff Adkinson stated the need for better fiscal management and partnering with private businesses. A State Perspective followed with Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Development, Cissy Proctor. Ms. Proctor stated that Governor Scott has tasked her to push the Florida Jobs Program. She continued by saying that they have received 125 applicants and they are still accepting applications for the available $85,000,000 in Federal Grant monies. Ms. Proctor went on to quote the Governor by saying, “We are working hard to get this money on the streets to create jobs.” This particular forum was unique in that Commissioner Jones and Restore Act Coordinator Bill Williams facilitated a Stakeholder’s Panel. In addition to the guest speakers, Commissioner Tony Anderson and SBA President Bonnie McQuiston were asked questions by Chairwoman Jones and Mr. Williams that directly related to their areas of expertise. Throughout the forum, guests were encouraged to ask questions, give ideas and make comments and there was a plethora of community involvement during this forum. After the forum, guests were invited to a reception on the 4th floor hosted by ECAR. In order for Walton County to succeed in spending the BP Oil funds wisely, Chairwoman Jones needs your input as we move forward. That is why the County has created a suggestion form for you to submit your ideas online and bring to the forums as well. The form can be found on the County’s website in the form center located at: http://www.co.walton.fl.us/FormCenter (under the Commission section).