SHALIMAR — Businesses associated with three of the four finalists for a seat on the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council gave money to TDC Selection Committee member and County Commissioner Trey Goodwin’s initial and/or current election campaigns.
But Goodwin says those contributions didn’t play a role in his decisions to recommend the finalists be appointed to the council.
“Absolutely not,” Goodwin said Friday.
The commission will be asked Tuesday to appoint three people to four-year, unpaid terms on the TDC. The current terms of TDC Chairman Dale Peterson, Vice-Chairman Tom Rice and member Joe Guidry expire Sept. 30.
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. in the County Administration Building in Shalimar.
Goodwin, who was elected to his first four-year term as the District 4 commissioner in August 2014, began representing the board on the TDC at the start of this year.
On Aug. 25, the TDC Selection Committee met to make recommendations on who should fill the three soon-to-be open seats on the council. In addition to Goodwin, the committee consisted of former interim Tourist Development Department Director Chris Holley and TDC member Melissa Matern, who is the director of marketing and events for the Bonezzi Development Co. in Destin.
In a 2-1 vote, the committee recommended Guidry be appointed to another term on the council. Matern cast the lone no vote.
The committee unanimously voted to recommend that the other two seats be filled by Heather Ruiz, director of marketing for Destin Commons, and either Ken Wampler, president of Newman-Dailey Resort Properties Inc. in Destin, or Nick Sarra, chief operating officer of Saltwater Restaurants Inc. of Destin.
A total of 11 applicants, including Guidry and Rice, sought one of the appointments to the TDC. The nine-member council consists of a county commissioner, two elected municipal officials and six individuals from the community who serve staggered, four-year terms.
State law requires that at least three but no more than four of the non-elected seats shall be occupied by members of the lodging industry that collects the county’s bed tax, according to information from new TDD Director Jennifer Adams.
In an agenda report to the commission, Adams wrote that the current non-elected council members include four owner/operator members and two tourism industry members.
Of those members whose terms expire Sept. 30, two are owner/operators and one is a tourism industry official: Peterson owns Dale E. Peterson Vacations in Destin, Rice owns the Magnolia Grill in Fort Walton Beach, and Guidry is the general manager of Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, Destin West Resort Management and Destin West RV Resort on Okaloosa Island.
“Therefore, at least one and no more than two of the individuals appointed to the council must be an owner/operator,” Adams wrote.
The selection committee’s recommendations of Guidry, Ruiz and either Wampler or Sarra was “based on the desired balance of lodging/non-lodging and geographic representation,” Adams said in the report.
Businesses connected with Guidry, Ruiz and Sarra contributed money to Goodwin’s campaign when he first ran for the District 4 commission seat. More recently, businesses connected with Guidry and Sarra have contributed to Goodwin’s campaign for re-election.
Goodwin will try to win a second, four-year term in the November 2018 general election.
Since June 8, he has received a total of $44,700 in contributions for his re-election campaign, according to his campaign finance reports on the county Supervisor of Elections Office website.
His war chest includes $1,000 individual contributions from four people whose last name is “Guidry.” A total of $4,000 was contributed by Chad Guidry of Harvey, Louisiana, Shawn Guidry, also of Harvey, Michelle Guidry of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Stephanie Guidry, also of Baton Rouge.
“As far as I know, they absolutely have no relation” to Joe Guidry, Goodwin said. “I met them through some other folks who have business relations in Destin.”
For his current campaign, Goodwin also has received a total of $750 from the three businesses where Joe Guidry serves as general manager: $250 apiece from Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, Destin West Vacations (Resort Management) and Destin West RV Resort.
Goodwin said he recommended Guidry be re-appointed to the TDC because, “I think he does a good job of offering a fair and balanced viewpoint, and he seems prepared for the meetings. He adds value to our council and the community.”
Goodwin also this year has received a total of $1,500 in campaign money from Saltwater Restaurants Inc. and its affiliated properties at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island. That total consists of $500 apiece from the parent company, Floyd’s Shrimp House LLC and Rockin-Tacos Inc.
During his campaign for his first term on the commission, Goodwin had also accepted contributions from Destin West Resort Management and Saltwater Restaurants and some of its affiliated properties, as well as Destin Commons.
None of those contributions influenced his recent selection committee choices, he said.
“If you look at my contributions from my first and second campaigns, you’ll see some folks who have different views than I do on different issues but chose to support me,’ he said. “On the selection committee, I evaluated those folks who were willing to serve. They serve (in unpaid positions) and give their time. I appreciate that.”
Goodwin added, “While I appreciate those folks who supported me on my first run and second run, I’m crystal clear that I will do my best and lead from a fair and objective standpoint. That’s all I can promise anybody.”