By REID TUCKER
Note: This story is the fourth of a multi-part series derived from interviews with the members of the DeFuniak Springs City Council. This week’s article comes from an interview with Councilman Henry Ennis, while a piece in an upcoming edition will profile the remaining city councilman, Wayne Graham.
City Councilman Henry Ennis is no stranger to involvement in and service in the sake of the DeFuniak Springs community. He’s done both ever since moving to the area 55 years ago.
Ennis, who as a young man of 25 moved to the area from Opp, Ala., said it was the friendly atmosphere of DeFuniak Springs and its people that made him and his wife immediately feel at home in their new surroundings. It’s that same welcoming feeling that, five decades later, makes him glad he raised a family that calls the city home.
“I loved DeFuniak Springs from the first time I came here,” Ennis said. “I liked the people here and my family enjoyed being here. If we didn’t like the city we would have eventually moved on. I’ve got five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren and this is home for all of them.”
Originally an employee and later part-owner of Moore Furniture Company (a job he held for 26 years) and later the district sales manager of Liberty National Life Insurance Co., Ennis quickly joined or helped found many civic organizations that still exist today. He served concurrently on the Walton County Fair Board and the DeFuniak Springs Housing Authority Board, and he was a 38-year member of the Kiwanis Club of DeFuniak Springs and a 19-year member of the DeFuniak Springs Planning Board. He is also a founding member of the Council of 36 industrial group (later known as the Walton County Economic Development Alliance), the Tri-County Private Industry Council and the Downtown Merchants Association.
Ennis, an active duty veteran of both the U.S. Army and Air Force, also served with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office as the chief courthouse security officer for 13 years.
Despite his lengthy history of community service, Ennis said he had no desire to run for public office until well after his retirement toward the end of the last decade. He has been elected to consecutive terms on the City Council ever since.
“I figured that I was tied up in enough things during my working years that I should stay away from [running for public office] until I retired so that, if I got elected, I could devote more time to it,” Ennis said. “I wanted to be freed up to give it all the time and energy a Council position deserves.”
After taking office in 2007, just before the beginning of the national economic recession, Ennis worked to help DeFuniak Springs’ residents and businesses, a goal most fully realized in the past few years. His proposed moratoriums on impact fees and tap fees, both of which met with unanimous approval from the other board members, were designed from the start to strengthen the local economy and to help people moving to or building in the city. Ennis said those and other changes, including an exemption on survey requirements for out-buildings and a heavily revised (and less restrictive) sign ordinance, were the right moves given the tough times.
“I think we did the right thing,” Ennis said. “I felt like small businesses could have been hurt if times got hard, which they did, so I think it was a good idea (to institute these changes).
“I try to always remember small businesses and the ‘little man’ when I vote because I was there myself. Everybody needs to have a chance to make it….”
Read the full story in the Sept. 20, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.