By DOTTY NIST
Due to compliance issues recently identified with the membership of the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC), applications are now being taken to fill vacancies on the council.
On Jan. 14, Jim Bagby, Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) executive director, appeared before the Walton County Board of County Commissioners ( BCC) at their regular meeting with items and updates regarding the TDC. Bagby told the commissioners that the TDC membership was out of compliance due to more bed tax collectors being on the council than allowed by state statutes.
Florida Statute 125.014, which governs tourist development tax collection and tourist development councils, states, in part “Two members of the council shall be elected municipal officials…Six members of the council shall be persons who are involved in the tourist industry and who have demonstrated an interest in tourist development, of which members, not less than three nor more than four shall be owners or operators of motels, hotels, recreational vehicle parks, or other tourist accommodations in the county and subject to the (tourist development ) tax…” All members serving on the council are required to be registered voters in the county. The statute also provides for a council chair to either be designated by the local government or elected by the council.
Bagby asked the commissioners for guidance in resolving the compliance issue. Walton County Administrator Larry Jones observed that there had been recommendations contained in the recent Institute of Senior Professionals (ISP) management study on the TDC about the composition and selection of the council. Jones suggested that the commissioners might want to take a more comprehensive approach to the membership matter which could possibly encompass the selection process for members as well.
Recommendations of the ISP had been that the selection process be made more transparent and more inclusive of major bed tax collectors. According to Bagby, none of the major bed tax collectors is currently represented on the council.
Additional ISP recommendations had been for one council member to be experienced in analysis of financial reports.
Jones offered to have county staff work with Bagby to develop a plan for selecting council members and for achieving compliance with membership. This was agreed to, with the plan to be provided at the Jan. 28 BCC meeting.
At that meeting, Bagby presented the commissioners with a draft selection process for TDC council members.
The process calls for a notice to be posted on the county web site seeking qualified individual to serve in seats 4 through 9 of the council. These are the seats designated for members of the tourism industry, three to four of whom are to be bed tax collectors.
Criteria established in the selection process include that the person may not have previously served two full terms (eight years) on the council and that a resume and application must be submitted.
The process provides for the BCC to appoint a selection committee to review application packages. The committee is to consist of a county commissioner, the TDC executive director, and either the county administrator or deputy administrator. Selection committee meetings are to be advertised and open to the public.
The process draft also states, “The selection committee shall attempt to balance the geographic dispersion on its recommended slate of council members to ensure that both the Sandestin/Miramar Beach and 30A communities are sufficiently represented on the Council.”
The selection committee’s recommendations are to be presented to the BCC for final approval.
The process document also sets terms for council members serving in various categories.
Bagby noted that the plan would provide for the current occupants of the seats for which applications would be taken to serve through March 11. On that date, the selection committee would bring a recommendation for members to serve in those seats before that BCC.
Bagby said current TDC members would be able to turn in applications for the seats to be filled.
The selection process draft was unanimously approved by the BCC.
Bagby said the deadline for applications for the seats would be Feb. 28, and the selection committee is to meet on March 6. Details on that meeting will be forthcoming.
By DOTTY NIST