Shaping Our Community

Michelle AnchorsShaping the Emerald Coast’s Future Through Strategic Planning and Hometown Pride

As a fourth-generation resident of Okaloosa County, Fort Walton Beach attorney Michelle Anchors says she has fond memories of growing up along the Emerald Coast – and is working to help shape its future along the way.

Her involvement has been extensive: past president of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center Board of Trustees, a member of the University of West Florida Advisory Council, past chairwoman of the Okaloosa County School Readiness Coalition, past chairwoman of the Gulfview Hotel Committee of the Junior League of the Emerald Coast, and an active member of St. Simon’s on the Sound Episcopal Church.

Like the rest of us, Anchors has witnessed unprecedented growth in the area and has concerns about the future effects if it is not managed with a forward-looking perspective.

“My thoughts about the growth of this area range from grave concern about the strains placed on our natural resources to unfettered joy about the economic prosperity so many businesses have enjoyed,” Anchors said. “Without that economic prosperity, our charitable and educational institutions suffer; our children move away and do not return; and our access to cultural opportunities diminishes. Without protected natural resources, however, we suffer a slow death, both as a community and as individuals.”

With the legendary zeal inherited from her father and community icon, Don Anchors, she recently found another venue to make a difference with her appointment to the Committee for a Sustainable Emerald Coast.

Anchors spoke with Emerald Coast Magazine writer Scott Jackson about the committee.

EC: What was the rationale and genesis of the Committee for a Sustainable Emerald Coast?

MA: The first experiment with regional planning that I am aware of occurred in Southeast Florida, in the area known as the Treasure Coast. State Sen. Charlie Clary was aware of the work accomplished in that region and wanted Northwest Florida to have a similar opportunity to focus on planning for the next generation. Sen. Clary spearheaded the initiative and former Gov. Jeb Bush established the Committee for a Sustainable Emerald Coast through an executive order.

EC: How did you get involved?

MA: Sen. Clary asked me to consider applying and Gov. Bush appointed me, as well as the other members of the committee.

EC: How long have you lived in the area, and what is your impression of how it is growing?

MA: I am a fourth-generation resident of Okaloosa County. I am grateful to have been born, raised, educated and supported by this community.

EC: Describe how you most fondly remember the area growing up and which assets you feel we need to protect?

MA: I am overloaded with fond memories of growing up here! School, church, neighborhood, family, sports, the outdoors – all of these areas of life provided me with a sense of stability and fun. And I believe that all of these areas need to be protected. But the one area that is most at risk, from my viewpoint, is the natural and unique environment of the Emerald Coast, which cannot be replaced once destroyed. This environment includes the undeveloped portion of our beaches and public lands, water quality and air quality.

EC: What are the primary goals of the Committee for Sustainable Emerald Coast?

MA: The goal of the committee is to make recommendations to the governor by December 2007 in the key areas of  land use and growth management; environmental stewardship; economic diversity and prosperity; and access to health, education and culture.