Dear editor, 

What was once a peaceful, quaint, historic, little riverfront town nestled in the beautiful setting of mid-Santa Rosa has now become a breeding ground for political differences and strife.  Sadly, it is tearing Milton apart and needs to stop. 

First off, I will say that I love Milton. No, it is not perfect. No town is. But it is unique and filled with some of the best people around, people who care about and love their town. 

I have owned residential and commercial property as well as been in business in Milton. I was proud to serve as Main Street Milton’s second manager back in 2001-2003. We had a vibrant group of volunteers who worked diligently to implement the Main Street Approach to revitalize the historic downtown area. People were excited and things were happening!

Back then, Main Street generated oodles of publicity, with well-attended events and festivals and many fundraising successes. One was the MSM Patriotic Pageant that had contestants lining up out the doors to participate. That raised well over $5,000.00. The other was a crazy fun event held at the Texas Roadhouse called "Main Street Milton…a Lot at Steak!" Local citizens, business owners, city and county officials, and many others worked closely together waiting tables for tips. Not only did it raise money, but also awareness for the organization. 

Christmas on the Town packed the downtown area with visitors of all ages. They enjoyed a snow machine, Santa’s Secret Shop, petting zoo and a chili cook-off. Mardi Gras brought even more family-friendly excitement to the area. In 2003, Main Street did its best to purchase the Old Post Office but it went to a higher bidder. 

Additionally, a Teen Board formed, which offered local youth the opportunity to get involved in the community effort. It was during that time that Main Street took home a large number of state awards and received national recognition. Times were good. People got along, and alcohol wasn’t a thought much less a requirement. 

The organization is still in existence, now headed up by new manager Ed Spears, who parted ways with Pensacola’s Community Maritime Park several years ago.

The MSM website states that the organization depends solely on donations and fundraising for support. Despite multiple concerns voiced by an area authority on nonprofits recently, the Milton City Council awarded the group $125,000. Florida Main Street states that funding is 1/3 municipality, 1/3 private sector and 1/3 grants/donations. 

Although a focus on revitalization is still much needed here, local citizens are concerned that MSM should not be used as a political machine. 

Not only have its leaders pushed for the recent passage of the unpopular alcohol overlay ordinance, some have also lobbied for setting term limits for elected officials at City Hall. If this is to be the case, then let them "lead" by example.

Several members have been on the MSM board since its earliest days. It is never good to have board members who refuse to relinquish control. Community organizations should always be open to accepting new leadership, energetic volunteers, fresh ideas, financial support, etc.  If the "12 is Enough" push is on for city hall, then why not for other community organizations? 

United we stand, divided we fall? Another common sense concept would be that community groups and citizens with opposing ideas actually come together to work for the better good of the entire community.

Stop the online divisive posts, mockery and propaganda. It is old. It poorly represents organizations with which the poster is associated, and is detrimental in attracting people to a good cause. Not everyone sees things the same way and the attitude shouldn’t be "it’s our way or we slam you on social media." 

Again, I believe in the Florida Main Street approach but would like to see long-term board members step aside and give other citizens a chance to serve and lead. In closing, consider this. "True leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders." 

We value your feedback.  For more info or to share your thoughts and ideas in a civil fashion, please visit:

www.miltonsconcernedcitizens.com. Thank you.

CLAIREN REESE

Navarre

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