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Okaloosa Women's Hall of Fame's 2020 inductees announced

Special to Gannett

FORT WALTON BEACH — The 2020 Okaloosa County Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled.

This year's event will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Hsu Innovation Institute, courtesy of the HSU Educational Foundation, which is donating the use of the space for the event.

Attendance at the event is limited to invitation only due to public health concerns.

Ted Corcoran from the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce will emcee the event, and Ken Nielsen from Crestview Community TV will be there to film the event and livestream it on the Okaloosa County Commission on the Status of Women Facebook page.

THE INDUCTEES

Those women being inducted are Julie Cotton, Vickie Edge, Teresa Halverson, Bobbie Ponder, and Vickie Warner.

Julie Cotton

Julie Cotton is the OCCSW 2020 Contemporary Inductee. She has been a resident of Okaloosa County for over 20 years, making an everlasting mark of dedication to improve the life of women and leadership training in our community.

Julie began her love for community upon graduation from college and has given countless hours of her professional skills serving in positions including past-chairman of the Destin Chamber, currently serving on the boards for the Destin Chamber, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and the Okaloosa County Public Schools Foundation Inc.

She has served as past president of the Junior League of the Emerald Coast, Board of Directors for the Walton Area Chamber, the YMCA Emerald Coast and Kiwanis Club of Destin. She volunteered with the American Heart Association, United Way and as marketing chair for the Destin Harbor Association.

She is a graduate of Leadership Okaloosa and served as Honorary Commander, 1st Special Operations Wing, at Hurlburt Field in 2012-2013.

Julie received the Destin Chamber Chairman's Volunteer Service Award for 2015 and was awarded Member of the Year by the Junior League of the Emerald Coast in 2007. She was selected as an Emerald Lady by Emerald Ladies Journal in 2006 and was named an Emerging Leader “Next Generation” to Watch in 2005 by Emerald Coast Magazine.

Cotton has led over 290 young professionals in Leadership Okaloosa and is active with the Krewe of Bowlegs.

Vickie Edge

Vickie Edge was a lifelong resident of Okaloosa County and 1979 Choctaw graduate, Vickie Mae Edge was the ultimate “giver.” If you needed help, she would give you her last penny, then as owner of the Edge of Paradise Day Spa, would reach out to friends or clients to do the same.

She supported many organizations in the community, but her favorites included Shelter House, United for a Good Cause’s Hope Squad Suicide Prevention program, feeding the homeless and so many more.

She was planning to give her biggest gift yet this coming January when she was scheduled to donate a kidney to fellow community leader Kathy Houchins. Unfortunately, her life was tragically cut short on Aug. 6, 2020.

As the community still mourns her loss, her hard work and tremendous heart earned her a spot as the Community Service Inductee in the HOF, which she will be awarded posthumously.

Teresa Halverson

Teresa Halverson has more than 28 years of professional service in the healthcare industry as a case manager, licensed social worker and currently the director of marketing/development and admissions for a skilled nursing/rehabilitation facility in Bluewater Bay.

She's a leader 24/7, always “stepping up” to volunteer, someone who doesn't take “no” for an answer, always pro-active in the community and is a jewelry artist to express her creativity in her spare time!

She's a military spouse to her husband, Bob, whose Air Force career brought them to the Emerald Coast in 2000, and her son is soon to be an F-18 pilot in the U.S. Marines.

 Teresa serves on the boards of both the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, where she served three years and is the current chairman elect, and Fisher House of the Emerald Coast, where she served an unprecedented four-year term as chairman of the board. She was the keynote speaker for the past three years as part of the Niceville Exchange Club's Field of Valor by sharing her personal testimony of the struggle with a newborn's health challenges while her husband was deployed before Fisher Houses began.

Teresa is heavily involved in the Niceville Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, serving on their military affairs councils, as well as the healthcare committees. She is also a member of the Emerald Coast Military Affairs.

As a military spouse, Teresa continues to serve through honorary commander roles with the 53rd at Eglin Air Force Base, the 505th at Hurlburt Field, and now as an honorary battalion commander with the 7th Special Fighter Group in Crestview.

[CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Bobbie Ponder's nearly seven decades of devoted service to our community makes her the 2020 Pioneer inductee. She served in many Beulah First Baptist Church ministries and leadership positions, and now serves as Church School Superintendent, President of General Mission and member of the Deaconess community outreach ministry, which founded the Helping Hand House.

She is president of the Progressive Missionary Baptist Association of West Florida and vice president of the Progressive Missionary and Educational Baptist State Convention of Florida.

Professionally, Ponder served as a financial counselor on Eglin AFB for 20-plus years, making a difference in personal financial management for all base newcomers.

When the NAACP filed a successful class action lawsuit against Eglin for racial discrimination, Ponder served as office administrator for the base’s Plaintiff Monitoring Office to oversee complaints and resulting compliance activities.

 Her lengthy community service includes: being a volunteer poll worker since 1972, with 15-plus years as precinct clerk and now as assistant clerk for training; coordinator of the Okaloosa County School Board’s “Follow-Thru Program”; activities supervisor for the Community Action Program.

It also includes being office administrator for the Public Housing Authority’s Ed Brown low-income housing project; organizer of the area’s first Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration; and grand marshall for the 2020 MLK Day parade.

Her efforts were instrumental in starting local programs such as Head Start, Food Commodities, Council on Aging Program, Supervised Senior Citizen Group activities and 4-H club for youth.

Vickie Warner

Vickie Warner is the 2020 Carolyn Spencer Humanitarian inductee. Where there’s a leadership need in our community, Vickie has been a volunteer since 1976. She has served many civic organizations, including the United Way, the Salvation Army, Horizon (now ARC), and the Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce — where she was the first woman to chair the Billy Bowlegs Festival committee.

Other Okaloosa County “firsts” that Vickie created include the Chili Festival, the Snowbird Expo, the first judged Fine Arts show, and the Exotic Seafood Festival — now known as the Destin Seafood Festival.

She was one of the founders of the local Cancer Society’s popular “Bid for Bachelors” fundraiser. She created and implemented Okaloosa County’s first Angel Tree for the Salvation Army.

She has served as honorary commander at both Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. She’s a past president and former chair of special events for the Center for Lifelong Learning, and is currently chair of registration.

Vickie became a Red Cross volunteer after Hurricane Katrina, and currently works on Eglin AFB assisting families in crisis transition. She is also is a docent at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, and has been a board member and past president of the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society.

Vickie was the American Business Women's Association's 2009 Business Associate of the Year, and was named 2019 Volunteer of the Year by the American Red Cross. Vickie’s many professional and humanitarian contributions have greatly enhanced our community. 

More about the HOF

Since it was created in 1995, 113 women have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. It honors women of Okaloosa County — past and present — whose contributions have been of great value to our community’s development. Induction into the HOF is the commission’s oldest and most prestigious award.

The Okaloosa County Women's Hall of Fame is sponsored by the OCCSW and the annual induction ceremony is held in conjunction with Women’s Equality Day.

Inductees are honored in permanent displays at the Okaloosa County Commission offices and the Niceville City Council Chambers. The HOF displays are a monument to some of the exceptional women in Okaloosa County’s history, as well as a tribute that grows annually with each induction ceremony where we learn to appreciate more about the wonderful contributions that women make to our community.

For more information, and to see the past winners, visit www.occsw.org.