Shining a spotlight on the past year’s accomplishments, the Bay County Chamber of Commerce celebrated its Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Friday, January 22, 2016, at the Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort.
Chairman of the Board for 2015, Michael Sears with Merrill Lynch passed the gavel to 2016 Chairman, Robert Carroll of McNeil Carroll Engineering. Sears term as chairman included many successes for the Chamber such as: growing the membership to over 950 members; supporting the Local Preference Ordinance; the implementation of the Panama City Bed Tax; the Junior Leadership Bay class bringing back drivers education to schools; leadership roles in Alignment Bay County and many successful events including hosting Governor Rick Scott as the keynote speaker at the Industry Appreciation Awards Breakfast.
The awards portion of the program began with Sears, who presented a beautiful bronze eagle to 2015 Military Affairs Committee Chairman, Larry Carroll of Coldwell Banker/Carroll Realty. Mr. Carroll was extremely involved with both Tyndall AFB and Naval Support Activity serving as a liaison between the military and civilian community.
Each year the Chamber recognizes an outstanding member with its Member of the Year award. Derwin White, Vice President/Partner of GAC Contractors, was announced as the 2015 recipient. Being involved in the Chamber since the early 90s, Mr. White is truly committed to the Chamber and the growth and development of Bay County and our region. He and his company (a member of the Bay County Chamber since 1959) are excellent corporate citizens that know it is their responsibility to support the community which has allowed them to grow.
The last award of the night and the Chamber’s most prestigious is the Lauren Merriam Memorial Award, the Chamber’s highest honor. Elizabeth Walters (who was the 2009 recipient of the award), presented the 2015 award to her father, Leon Walters, who was chosen for his commitment to the community’s wellbeing, as exemplified by involvement in civic and charitable endeavors contributing to the betterment of Bay County and the benefit of its citizens. Recipients of the award are selected by the previous award winners.
Wrapping up the evening, 2016 Chairman, Robert Carroll gave his vision for the organization over the next year. Carroll touched on the aggressive priorities for 2016 including: the continued efforts to monitor issues affecting the Gulf Training Range; the involvement in the implementation of Alignment Bay County; pursuing infrastructure funding sources; supporting concept of an indoor events facility; continuing the support of widening Hwy 390 with elected officials, and identifying opportunities to support local existing industry. Carroll ended the evening inviting attendees to come and grow with the Chamber as signified in its 2016 theme, “Come grow with us”. The campaign is being utilized not only to grow the organization but to also invite businesses to our great community.