Bay County Chamber Holds 111th Annual Dinner

Chamber Events


Panama City Beach, FLA – The Bay County Chamber of Commerce held its 111th Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony on January 19th at Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort. Bay County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Carol Roberts said, “This event is one of the most important events of the year for the Chamber.”

The event began with a social and silent auction benefiting Junior Leadership Bay (JLB), a program of the Bay County Chamber Foundation. JLB prepares Bay County’s youth and future business leaders to meet the challenges facing our area through hands-on activities and exciting discussions involving community leaders and motivational speakers. Learn more about the Junior Leadership Bay Program here.

During the main event, community leaders and numerous elected officials gathered to celebrate the Chamber’s successes of 2023 and to honor the outgoing Chair of the Board, Kyle Shoots, System Service and Engineering. Will Cramer, Bill Cramer Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC served as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

Garrett Anderson
Garrett Anderson, MAC Chair, Anderson Construction Company

The evening started with honoring the outgoing Military Affairs Committee (MAC) Chair, Garrett Anderson. Anderson was the 2022 Chairman of the Board of Directors before becoming the 2023 MAC Chair. At the event, Anderson spoke on the growth and generosity of the MAC and exciting events throughout the year.

“The MAC had an incredible year. We welcomed the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to Bay County, hailed and farewelled our local installation commands, and celebrated Bay County’s designation as the 31 st Official Coast Guard Community. MAC members were also incredibly generous, supporting the residents at Sims Veterans Nursing Home at Christmas this year.”

Mike Smith
Mike Smith, Member of the Year Award Recipient, Owner – Jimmy Johns

Each year the Chamber recognizes an outstanding member with its Member of the Year award. Mike Smith was announced as the 2024 recipient. Kyle Shoots, 2023 Chairman of the Bay County Board of Directors, introduced Smith as the recipient stating he was top of mind from the very beginning.

“From our first conversation, Smith really stood out,” said Shoots. “He has served the
Chamber in many different capacities, but most recently he served as our Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman. He helped spearhead the Chamber’s outreach to show appreciation to local lifeguards during an incredibly challenging summer season.”

Will Cramer, Lauren Merriam Memorial Award Recipient, Bill Cramer Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC

The final award of the night was the Lauren Merriam Memorial Award, the Chamber’s highest honor. Bill Cramer (who was the 2003 recipient of the award), presented the 2024 award to Will Cramer, who was chosen for his devotion to the betterment of his community. His leadership spans roles as EDA Chair, key member of the Bay Defense Alliance, United Way Chair, Holy Nativity Board Chair, Military Affairs Committee Chair, and Tyndall AFB Community Partnership Chair, just to name a few.

Shoots passed the gavel to 2024 Chair, Joe Holt, Trustmark Bank. In his closing remarks, Shoots stated that his time serving on the Chamber Board of Directors has been the experience of a lifetime.

“Thank you for allowing me to serve,” said Shoots. “I’ve been fortunate to build relationships with all of you, our members. To say I’ve made lots of memories this year is an understatement. It’s been an amazing roller coaster ride.” Shoots then went on to commend the board of directors, investors, and the many others who have continued to support the organization. “I’ve been fortunate to contribute to the remarkable legacy that Carol Roberts is leaving upon her retirement. During her leadership, the Chamber achieved various milestones, including the approval of the Infrastructure Surtax, the establishment of the Panama City Bed Tax, and the successful attraction of businesses such as Oceaneering, Berg Pipe, The Natural Light and Trane Technologies. Her impact on the progression of projects in Bay County is truly extensive.”

2024 Chairman, Joe Holt then took the podium, laying out his vision for the organization which includes aggressive priorities and key objectives for the year that include: affordable access to childcare; the infrastructure surtax renewal; workforce development; and support of the Panama City events center redevelopment.

The evening came to a close with unexpected entertainment as Holt wrapped up the program. Aerial dance artists and stilt walkers graced the stage, delivering a spectacle of Big Fun under the Big Top for the audience to enjoy!

The award-winning Bay County Chamber continues to support and provide services to the community and its investors.

Lauren Merriam Award explanation

The Lauren Merriam Memorial Award is presented annually by the Bay County Chamber of Commerce to a member of the Bay County business community who best exemplifies the characteristics embodied by Lauren Merriam, a Past President of the Chamber in 1959 and the original Chairman of the Chamber’s First Friday Club. Most importantly among those characteristics are commitment to the community’s well-being, as exemplified by involvement in civic, charitable and/or endeavors contributing to the betterment of Bay County and the benefit of its citizens — and the ability not to take oneself, or one’s peers, too seriously. Merriam did a lot for our community and in the process, he enjoyed himself.