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Destin Chamber Awards Outstanding Members of 2022

On Dec. 13, Destin Chamber members celebrated the holidays and the Chamber’s most outstanding individuals and businesses, during the Annual Holiday & Awards Party Presented by Trustmark. Amid poinsettias, twinkling lights and Christmas trees at the Destin – Fort Walton Beach Convention Center, 2022 Destin Chamber Chairman Jennifer Gutai Comella of Hand Arendall Harrison Sale and Destin Chamber President & CEO Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP led the awards presentation.

Alan Gieseman, CEO of White-Wilson Medical Center, was named the 2022 Business Person of the Year Sponsored by Trustmark. 

“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 Christian Carlee, Assistant Vice President & Commercial Relationship Manager with Trustmark, while presenting the award.

Gieseman, who has worked at White-Wilson Medical Center for 20 of the company’s 76-year history, plays a vital role in its success.

“His steadfast selflessness and forward-looking mindset have resulted in the strengthening of an essential healthcare organization. Each year, one in four Okaloosa County residents walk through our doors as a patient and many more as employees. All benefit from his leadership and commitment,” according to his nomination form.

Okaloosa Gas stresses the importance of community involvement and service, so it was a natural fit to sponsor the Ann Gibson Community Service Award. Jenni Brunson, Public Relations Specialist for Okaloosa Gas, made the presentation.

Before announcing Terry Watkins as this year’s winner, she shared that he has been doing great things for the community since 1963. Some of the accolades mentioned included Destin Volunteer Fire Fighter from 1973 – 1996, serving as Fire Chief for 14 of those years; recipient of the Ross Marler Destin Citizenship Award in 1987; promoted to Captain of the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Posse in 1989; Destin Chamber Board of Directors from 1992-1998; President of the Destin Chamber in 1995; Presidential Volunteer Service Award for more than 15,000 hours of volunteer service to the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Posse and Okaloosa County; Okaloosa Sheriff’s Posse member of the year in 2009; and National Sheriff’s Association Reserve Deputy of the Year in 2019.

Bernard Johnson, FPL's regional external affairs manager serving Okaloosa and Walton counties, received the Business Person of the Month Award for October. Business Person of the Month is usually presented during the Chamber’s Business Before Hours event. Johnson was unable to attend the October breakfast, as he and his company were in Southwest Florida assisting in hurricane recovery. 

“His name is synonymous with community service. He has served on probably every board for every community service organization in our area. He and his company are involved at all levels of education and business development, and he’s a great friend to Destin and to the Destin Chamber,” explained Comella, as she presented the award.

Winners of the James D. Neilson Sr. Chairman's Award for Volunteer Service Award and Paul Woolman Ambassador of the Year Award were not able to attend the event. These awards will be presented during the Chamber's Jan. 13 Business Before Hours & Annual Membership Meeting at LuLu’s Destin.

Before closing the event, Comella recognized the Chamber’s outgoing board member Dion Moniz of Hand Arendall Harrison Sale, who served from 2017 to 2022 and was Chairman in 2020.

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 HCA Florida Fort Walton – Destin Hospital, and food station sponsors Eglin Federal Credit Union and Okaloosa Gas. 

Photo Caption: 2022 Destin Chamber Chairman Jennifer Gutai Comella (center) of Hand Arendall Harrison Sale congratulates the award winners, including the Ann Gibson Community Service Award Sponsored by Okaloosa Gas winner Terry Watkins (left) and the Business Person of the Year Award Sponsored by Trustmark winner Alan Gieseman of White-Wilson Medical Center.

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