Bay Buzz February 2024


FGNW’s Conoley Selected for SelectFlorida Board

Local Jennifer Conoley, President & CEO of Florida’s Great Northwest, the regional economic development organization in our area serving 13 counties, was appointed by Florida’s Secretary of Commerce to serve on the inaugural board for SelectFlorida, a newly formed organization focused on the state’s international commerce functions under FloridaCommerce. She is one of only seven members of this important statewide board.

Jennifer is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) with the International Economic Development Council and a Master Economic Development Practitioner with the Advanced Economic Development Leadership program. She has been promoting Northwest Florida for growth and diversification, attracting quality companies and fostering new job creation since 2009. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from Florida State University.

“To be chosen as an inaugural board member of this important organization is an honor,” said Jennifer. “Promoting Florida as a business destination is crucial in creating more high-skill, high-wage job opportunities in the private sector, and I’m excited to join my other colleagues on the SelectFlorida board and contribute to this goal.”

Florida Secretary of Commerce J. Alex Kelly announced the first SelectFlorida Board of Directors, appointing Greg Britton as chair and Jennifer Conoley, Beth Kigel, Nick Primrose, Michael Simas, Kelly Smallridge and Mark Wilson to the board.

SelectFlorida was formed and founded in 2023 to lead the state’s international commerce functions under FloridaCommerce following the signing of House Bill 5 and serves as a catalyst for economic development by promoting Florida as a premier business destination and expanding the state’s economic power through private-sector job creation.

FloridaCommerce combines the state’s economic, workforce and community development efforts, expediting economic development projects to fuel job creation in competitive communities and promote economic resiliency. For more information, including valuable resources for employers and job seekers, please

BCC Recognizes Superintendent Hughes

The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) recognized Walton County School Superintendent Russell Hughes at a meeting in December. Superintendent Hughes was just named Superintendent of the Year by the Florida Department of Education.

Board Chairman William ‘Boots’ McCormick introduced Superintendent Hughes, saying “It’s the recognition of a good friend and a public servant of the county. Some of you may not know it, but Mr. Hughes was recently designated as the 2024 Florida Superintendent of the Year. Out of 67 counties, we have the best superintendent – I have said that all along, but finally, the state recognized it. So, as a token of our appreciation from the BCC, we’d like to present this (plaque) to you in recognition of that honor… Thank you for what you do for our children.”

Superintendent Hughes said, “We’re glad to bring this kind of result to Walton County. When I became superintendent, we were ranked No. 36 and are ranked now No. 3. We have no ‘C’ schools in Walton County. There are only four other districts in the state of Florida that can say that. So, we thank you for your support, we thank the citizens for allowing us to educate their children” he said. “We love children. That’s why we’re here.” Hughes also recognized his wife, Lori Hughes, and Curriculum Instruction Director Crystal Appel.

Walton County Hosts Job Fair Feb. 9

The Walton County Tourism Department is pleased to help support local businesses and the
community by hosting the third Hospitality & Service Industry Job Fair on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club, located at 427 Greenway Trail in Santa Rosa Beach. Representatives from more than 30 local companies will be present. Each business will be actively recruiting to fill positions. Job seekers are encouraged to attend this free event and network with business professionals who represent some of Walton County’s largest employers. Attendees should bring copies of their resume. Walton County businesses interested in participating can register at

For more information, contact Dana McDowell at at the Walton County Tourism Department at (850) 267-1216. Walton County businesses interested in participating can register at

Dr. Marie Hallion presented Dr. Barbara Palmgren the museum’s annual award for outstanding service to the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida.Dr. Marie Hallion presented Dr. Barbara Palmgren the museum’s annual award for outstanding service to the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida.