Meet the eight women to be inducted into Okaloosa County Women’s Hall of Fame
OKALOOSA ISLAND — Eight local women will be recognized for their contributions to Okaloosa County ranging from arts to education to criminal justice to mental health.
The 2021 Okaloosa County Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center. The Hall of Fame was created to honor women of Okaloosa County — past and present — whose contributions have been of great value to the community’s development.
The women inducted into the Hall of Fame are honored in permanent displays at the Okaloosa County Administration Annex, the Crestview Courthouse and the Niceville City Council Chambers.
Since the Hall of Fame was created in 1995, 117 women have been inducted.
This year's inductees are Carole Byrd, Charlotte Eschmann, Kathy Houchins, Diane Kelley, Ginger Bowden Madden, Dr. Venita Morell, Terri Harbeson Roberts and Vicki Tarro.
Here are just some of their contributions to the community:
Carole Byrd — Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Inductee
Byrd owned “Carole‘s Piano Studio” and taught piano for 20 years in Niceville, maintaining more than 80 students. Her love of the arts activated roles in the Children’s Theater Board, Piano Instructors Guild, Talent Search Board and directing children's show choirs.
Byrd established the Distinguished Young Women program in Fort Walton Beach, and she and her daughter Betsy co-directed the Okaloosa DYW program until becoming DYW directors for the state of Florida.
Charlotte Eschmann — Military Inductee
Eschmann’s duties in the U.S. Air Force spanned from aircraft maintenance technician to administrative specialist, and she has since been licensed in mental health, post traumatic stress disorder treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Eschmann has dedicated herself to traumatic injury support groups, veteran bereavement workshops, women veterans, homeless veterans and Wreaths Across America.
Kathy Houchins — Community Service Inductee
Houchins helped organize the Mardi Gras Parade and Ball, and helped found One Hopeful Place, a shelter for the homeless. She chaired the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce board in 2008, led the Tourist Development Council from 2010-2012, chaired the White-Wilson Community Foundation, and currently sits on the board of United for a Good Cause, a initiative that brings the Hope Squad peer-to-peer suicide prevention program to local schools.
Diane Davidson Kelley — Education Inductee
Davidson Kelley served in almost every capacity possible in the Okaloosa County School District. She’s held administrative positions as district coordinator of technology and media services, principal of three schools and director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.
Kelley also served as director of principal evaluation, training and support where she developed the program to train teacher leaders to become school principals.
Ginger Bowden Madden — Pioneer Inductee
Bowden Madden blazed a trail when she became the first woman and the first Okaloosa County resident to serve as State Attorney for Florida’s First Judicial Circuit. For more than 27 years, Bowden Madden has prosecuted criminal cases in every division of criminal court and was instrumental in establishing several innovative programs, to include Florida’s first Veteran’s Treatment Court and Mental Health Court.
Dr. Venita Morell — Carolyn Spencer Humanitarian Inductee
Morell has served Okaloosa County at the Crossroads Medical Clinic for 14 years. Most recently she has helped battle COVID-19 in the region and for 11 years served as an American Academy of HIV Medicine specialist.
She has made a lasting impact on the women of our community as a physician in family planning and her special certifications treating critical diseases.
Terri Harbeson Roberts — Business Leader Inductee
Harbeson Roberts brought her decades of financial management leadership to bear in 2000 to open a premier charter school, Liza Jackson Preparatory School. The school has consistently been rated an A+ school, and when it ran out of space she worked tirelessly to build the new, expanded facility that launched July 31.
Vicki Tarro - Contemporary Inductee
Tarro has worked 38 years at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, is active in many chambers of commerce and serves the community through work with the United Way and the Day of Giving.
Tarro has been director for volunteers for over 20 years and volunteers about 15,000 service hours per year. She also worked to ensure the safety of residents at One Hopeful Place (OHP) during cold night shelter season and the recent opening of the Women's Shelter.
For more information about the Okaloosa County Women’s Hall of Fame, and to see the past winners, visit occsw.com.