On Jan. 18, Destin Chamber members celebrated the Chamber’s most outstanding individuals and businesses, during the Awards Party & Wine Pairing Dinner Presented by Trustmark. Hosted by Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer on the beautiful Destin Harbor, the event featured a cocktail reception and awards ceremony, before guests were treated to curated dinner and wine pairing.
The 2023 Destin Chamber Chairman Jason Belcher of FNBT Bank began the awards presentation by announcing the Paul Woolman Ambassador of the Year Award winner Brenda Gray (not pictured) of Hilton Garden Inn - Destin/Miramar Beach.
“As you know, the Ambassadors play a vital role in the success of our functions and events. This year’s winner certainly earned the honor. She’s always early. She’s always organizing. She’s always making sure the Ambassadors have energy and enthusiasm. Of course, she’s full of energy and enthusiasm herself. Always smiling or laughing, and just plain having fun, she makes it easy for everyone,” explained Belcher, describing the outstanding job Gray performs not only in her role as an Ambassador, but also as the Ambassador Chairman.
He called Jenni Brunson, Public Relations Specialist for Okaloosa Gas, to the stage to present the Ann Gibson Community Service Award. Okaloosa Gas stresses the importance of community involvement and service, so it is a natural fit to sponsor this award.
“It’s always great to see someone serve the community for many, many years, doing all they can to preserve the quality of place and quality of life we enjoy. This year’s winner certainly fits that description. Our winner has done so much for so many in and around our community,” said Brunson, before listing the numerous boards and committees on which this year’s winner serves, as well as his 20 years of active duty in the US Army.
She then presented the Ann Gibson Community Service Award sponsored by Okaloosa Gas to James (Jim) T. Wood, Jr. (right), Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Ret.).
Christian Carlee, Assistant Vice President & Commercial Relationship Manager with Trustmark, came to the stage next to present the Business Person of the Year Award.
“We chose to sponsor the Business Person of the Year Award because it lines up with our core values of integrity, service, accountability, relationships and solutions,” said Carlee.
He announced Bryan Osborn (center), Gulf Coast Regional Leader for OWN, Inc., as the 2023 Business Person of the Year Sponsored by Trustmark.
After moving to the area almost 10 years ago, Osborn built the company and its reputation to one of the best in the area. In addition, he serves in many community roles, including the Destin Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Destin Rotary Club, Habitat for Humanity, and Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.
On behalf of Trustmark and the Destin Rotary Club, Carlee also presented Osborn with a certificate noting a financial donation in his honor to immunize 200 children against polio through the Rotary Foundation's PolioPlus campaign.
The final award presentation was the James D. Neilson Sr. Chairman's Award for Volunteer Service Award. The winner was determined by the Chairman of the Board and President and CEO of the Chamber, after input from chamber staff.
“This year’s winner has gone so far and above that it’s impossible to describe his value to the Destin Chamber and the community at large. He serves on several boards across the community, including the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority and Defense Support Initiative, just to name two. He represents the Destin Chamber at countless military-related events. He plays a crucial role for Destin Forward by setting up our annual base tour for the class, and he’s been the chairman of the Chamber’s Military Affairs Council for 13 years,” said Belcher. He then called Kim Wintner (left), Colonel, USAF (Ret.), to the stage to receive the award.
Before closing the event, Belcher recognized the Chamber’s outgoing board member Jerry Sullivan of Century 21 Blue Marlin Pelican, for his outstanding leadership on the board from 2017 to 2023 and as Chairman in 2021. He then called all past Chairman to the front and led them in a toast to the Chamber and the year ahead.
Thank you to all event sponsors who contributed greatly to the event’s success, including presenting sponsor Trustmark, awards sponsors Okaloosa Gas and Trustmark, bar sponsor Warren Averett, and centerpiece sponsor Five Channels.