WCEDA discuss contracts, executive director review, and the trustee ballots:

THE WCEDA met at the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood.

By RUBY KEARCE 

The Walton County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) held its regular meeting on Thursday, April 4, at the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood in DeFuniak Springs. The meeting began with Attorney Clay Adkinson giving an update regarding an easement through WCEDA’s Woodlawn property that is needed by one of the neighboring property owners. This easement currently runs through two portions of the Woodlawn property, one portion having already been sold, and the other still owned by WCEDA, and it connects the neighboring property to U.S. 331. A few years prior the owners of that property approached the previous WCEDA executive director and informed him that they are willing to relinquish the easement if they are given the assurance that the road being placed through the Woodlawn property would be one that the owners could use. Adkinson concluded the update by saying that he should have more information regarding this matter for the alliance at the regularly scheduled meeting in May. 

WCEDA Executive Director Uriah Matthews informed the board that there have been two recent investors, one from Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, and the other an in-kind contribution, meaning that the payment exchange gives access to each other’s organizations, from the Freeport Merchants Association (FMA), making the WCEDA a member of the FMA as well. Matthews also updated the alliance regarding an offer made on the 16 acres that front the Woodlawn property, where the company would build a 100,000 square foot building for their currently undisclosed business. Matthews said that the Realtor Shelton Stone, who approached the alliance at a recent meeting regarding this offer was set to meet with the “opportunity” in order to gain clarity on what they would like to do moving forward. Matthews will have more information regarding this offer at the regularly scheduled May meeting. 

Matthews also said that both Walton County and Okaloosa County Health Departments have been requested by the state to aid in solving the housing crisis. The housing crisis and cost of living have made it more and more difficult for people to seek healthcare, so the health departments would benefit from finding a solution to this problem. Matthews also announced a Housing Summit in Niceville on Monday, May 13, and encouraged all of the alliance members to go. 

Conversation then moved to the recently conducted Executive Director review, which was conducted by all members of the alliance; Adkinson reported the results. He explained that there were 14 total categories that Matthews was rated. The ratings are: E, meaning exceeds expectations; M, for meets expectations; and N needs improvements. Matthews did not receive any “N’s,” but he did receive two “exceeding expectations” for creativity and process improvement, and strategic thinking. Of the remaining 12 categories, six were a split between exceeding expectations and meeting expectations, with the other six falling under meets expectations. 

Alliance member Matthew Avery of CHELCO, which provided the template for the review, said that he felt that given the fact that Matthews has not received a pay increase yet in his year and four months on the job, that a raise is in order. Avery continued that after doing some research, the average pay for someone in Matthews’ positions is around the $132,000, with Matthews currently making less than that. Avery suggested between a 5% and 10% raise, stating that a 10-percent raise would bring him up to the average salary of someone in his position. Avery said that he has spoken with Matthews and Adkinson regarding budgetary concerns, and given the fact that extra money has been budgeted for hiring purposes, the money should be available for the raise. 

After further discussion regarding tying goals to pay incentives, Alliance board member Todd Bierbaum suggested creating an incentive structure as well as providing Matthews with goals to meet. Alliance board member William “Boots” McCormick, said that Matthews deserves at least the average pay saying, “at the minimum with what he has accomplished so far, he deserves at least that average pay.” A  motion was passed to give Matthews a 10-percent raise to bring him to the average pay of someone in his position.  

The next item was a Trustee Ballot confirmation, with Matthews announcing the four recipients that received the highest number of votes. The winners are: Todd Jackson, Ashley Rogers, A.J. Brown, Stacey McGilvray, and following the motion of approval these four members will take their seats on the alliance at the next scheduled WCEDA meeting in May. A motion was passed to approve the four new members.