By ALICIA LEONARD
Walton Deputy County Administrator Dede Hinote appeared before the DeFuniak Springs City Council the evening of Nov. 13, 2017 under an agenda request, but it quickly became clear that Hinote was not here for herself. She and Walton County District Three Commissioner Melanie Nipper were there for those that serve.
Hinote told the council and staff that it was a privilege to come before them before she yielded the floor to Nipper for an issue that was “near and dear” to Nipper’s heart.
Nipper thanked the council and staff and gave thanks to fellow veterans as well as noting the significance of the recently celebrated Veterans Day two days earlier.
“I’d like to say thank you to our fellow veterans.” Nipper said recognizing some served such as Councilman Henry Ennis and some in the audience, adding “I’d like to thank the spouses and children because trust me you served too….”
Nipper told the council that a resolution was before the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for the entire month of November to be Veterans Awareness month due to Hinote’s efforts in her duties over veterans affairs for the county.
“Her and I collaborated on this because once again this is my passion and I’m very fortunate I’m able to make a change, and I’m a veteran myself and I see we don’t get what we deserve as we get older,” Nipper told the council.
Nipper thanked the 7,200 veterans that have come to reside in Walton County for not only their service but the many positive things they bring with them.
“The sad part out of that is only 700 take advantage of our veteran services.” She noted that reasons for the low number might be location, since it is at the Emergency Operations Center, which might be hard for some to find. Or, some could just be unaware the service was there.
To help get the word out Nipper said Hinote had made information sheets for local vets showing the location of the service office as well as noting that veterans can receive primary care locally at the Walton County Health Department.
To try to make more veterans aware of what was locally offered in appreciation for their service Nipper made the request to include the information sheet in the utility bills the city mails out, stating that Hinote had offered to fold them or present them in the easiest form possible to be included.
“I think this is one way to let veterans know how much we appreciate them for their service,” Nipper said.
She reasoned that If veterans were made aware they could stay here for their primary care and not have to drive to Eglin or Biloxi, or if they had transportation problems, it would help them even more by making them aware of the other services the county could offer them.
The council quickly and unanimously approved Nipper’s request to include the information in a utility bill as well as permission to share the information in public spaces around town.