It used to be called Heiser Time—the segment of the monthly Flagler County Tourist Development Council meeting devoted to Peggy Heiser, the local chamber of commerce’s vice president for tourism. She executed the county’s tourism marketing strategy. Heiser left last November and was quickly replaced by Georgia Turner, formerly of the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. This morning Turner made her first formal appearance before the council.
Maybe they’ll call it Classic Turner Time, though Turner herself prefers “Turner Talk.” Unlike Heiser’s, Turner’s appearance before the council was brief: a quick thank you and equally quick recap of the many getting-to-know meetings Turner has been holding since her arrival, then a look forward, though she’s also been busy laying the groundwork for a series of grants various organizations are seeking from the council.
Several grant-seekers appeared before the council, including the county government itself, which was requesting $150,000 to refurbish the stables at Princess Place Preserve (“restoration of the deteriorated concrete entrance ramp,”the grant application notes, “roof and external frame repairs, siding replacement, and repair to a major fracture in the building’s replacement.”) Princess Place attracts some 40,000 visitors a year. The council voted unanimously to approve the grant, which will fund the majority of the $204,000 project. The rest will be paid for out of the county’s general fund. “Excellent use of the money. Well done,” Bob DeVore, one of the council members, said.
Princess Place Preserve last made news before the council in September 2010 when the county had to explain why it had not yet spent the majority of a $35,000 grant, awarded in 2006, to make museum-quality exhibits possible. The council gave the county a one-year extension. The year has come and gone. The money has still not been spent, according to documents provided to the council. But council members raised no issue.
Next before the council came Matrix George, who was seeking $10,000—a third of his budgeted $30,000 event, not yet scheduled, ostensibly at Hammock Dunes—a combination golf tournament and educational experience, where golfers meet and network with business people and others, and where the keynote speakers are well-known celebrities such as Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary, and Michelle Obama, the first lady. The problem is that George was projecting wishes to the council without having made good on so much as securing his scheduling from Hammock Beach Resort, let alone landed a big name to his speakers’ list. His application was unanimously rejected.
Next came the Continuing Education Company and its 6th annual “Primary Spring Conference” for primary care physicians, at Hammock Beach Resort April 2-6. “This is kind of a role model for the type of event we wish we could have every week,” DeVore said. The conference has been growing almost every year, from 100 physicians in 2008 to 360 last year, and a total of 1,250 people when doctors’ entourages are included. The actual number of hotel-room nights the organization recorded last year (hotel room nights are the barometer of a conference’s success), was 1,139, down from 1,361 the year before. Organizers are again projecting 360 physicians this year, and “a minimum of 1,476 individuals visiting Flagler County.” The council also learned that the conference organizer, Walter Ejnes, is planning to move to Flagler County.
The spring conference organizers’ request for $10,000 was approved unanimously.
Finally, Matt Saunders walked up to the podium with his $10,000 request. “Another long-time favorite of ours, Mr. Saunders, welcome back.” Saunders heads the annual Maya at the Playa Conference, a five-day event at the Government Services Building that gathers some of the world’s premier Maya scholars and archeologists in what’s become a signature conference on the subject. The 6th such conference is scheduled for Oct. 3 through the 7th. Saunders was fiddling with a laptop computer to make a presentation, as grant applicants are required to do, but he didn’t have time to finish before the council moved and unanimously granted the request. Saunders, a former teacher in Flagler County schools now teaching in North Carolina, went ahead with the presentation anyway, if only to remind council members what sort of impact the conference has locally—and its continuing impact it has had on students who’ve been through Flagler schools. The conference is open to local students, at no charge.
All the grants have to be ratified by the Flagler County Commission.