By DOTTY NIST
A popular incumbent commissioner altered the dynamics of the 2008 Walton County District 5 commission race with a surprise announcement last week. On May 8, Cindy Meadows, Walton County District 5 commissioner since 2004, told the media that she had decided not to seek re-election.
Meadows had previously filed to seek election for a second term, but said she had made a final decision several days earlier to drop out of the election.
“It’s one word, burnout,” Meadows said regarding the reason for her decision.
A strong candidate, in 2004 Meadows won the Walton County Republican primary with approximately 38 percent of the vote and went on to defeat her Democratic opponent Charlie Burke with about 68 percent of the vote. Meadows was the first woman to be elected to the Walton County Board of County Commissioners.
“It’s been a great experience,” she said of her term as commissioner.
Extending from CR-395 north and south of U.S. 98 to the Walton-Okaloosa County line, District 5 is the county’s most populous district.
Meadows noted that her district is constantly facing issues related to tourism, beach safety, storm impacts, and use of the beach. “It’s been a very active four years,” she said.
She said one of her priorities over the next six months will be to prepare her office for the person who will succeed her by getting everything in order for a smooth transition. At this point she is not saying which of the candidates for District 5 commissioner she will support in the 2008 election.
During her term Meadows has served as chair and vice chair of the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization, advisory board member for the Children’s Volunteer Health Network, advisory committee member for the Northwest Florida Regional Planning Council. She also served as a representative of the county commission with the Council on Aging.
Meadows said the best part of her job has been the ability to “make things happen” for the benefit of the community.
She spoke with pride of a number of county accomplishments during her term, including the expansion of Helen B. McCall Park, the acquisition of property for Padgett Park at the South Walton Town Center, the road improvement project on Scenic Gulf Drive, obtaining a state scenic designation for CR-30A, the purchase of the Huettel property on Hogtown Bayou for use as a community gathering place and cultural activities center, along with the accelerated paving program to be put in place by the county.
Meadows said she is sure she will look back fondly on “being able to work with the board of county commissioners on getting these projects accomplished for this area.”
After turning over the reins to another District 5 Commissioner about six months from now, Meadows said she plans on some vacation time. She definitely plans to stay in the area and “stay involved in the community.” She said she is not sure what direction her efforts will take once her “battery is recharged.”
Meadows holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in planning. In 1997 she founded a local planning consulting company, Community Planning Associates.
Meadows said she is not ruling out either running for county office again in the future or running for state office.
Contacted on May 9, Walton County Supervisor of Elections Bobby Beasley said that Meadows had not yet officially withdrawn as a candidate for the District 5 seat.
He said that, along with Meadows, the current list of District 5 candidates consists of Robert “Bob” Hudson, George Wallace Smith, and Gregory Charles “Charlie” Burke, all registered as Republicans and all listing Santa Rosa Beach addresses.
This will be Hudson’s and Smith’s first run for county commission, while Burke previously ran for the District 5 seat in 2004 as a Democrat. In 2006 Burke was elected as a commissioner for the South Walton Mosquito Control District.
Burke is currently under suspension from that position by order of Gov. Charlie Crist following charges by the state of alleged false swearing in connection with information Burke provided regarding his legal residence.
Beasley said that qualifying dates for county commission candidates are June 16-20, with the deadline for petition candidates being noon on June 19. He said he would not be surprised to see additional candidates enter the Walton County District 5 commission race, particularly in view of the reports that Meadows is withdrawing.
DISTRICT 5 COMMISSIONER Cindy Meadows, the first woman elected as county commissioner in Walton County, has announced she will not seek re-election.