BREAKING: Mel Ponder Announces He Won’t Run for Re-Election as Okaloosa Commissioner

County Commissioner Mel Ponder, a long-time public servant in Okaloosa County, has announced that he will not run for re-election, marking a significant shift in local leadership. This decision opens up the field for new candidates and raises questions about the future direction of the county's governance.

Update: Gaetz Endorses Destin Man for County Commissioner

US Congressperson Matt Gaetz announced his support for Destin Resident Drew Palmer in the race to replace Mel Ponder on the Okaloosa County Commission. 

Palmer serves on the board of Destin High School and is a Air Force Veteran. Palmer worked at BAE and now works at Lockheed Martin as a Site Manager at Eglin Air Force Base. 

Original Story

County Commissioner Mel Ponder (R-Destin) announced at the end of Okaloosa County’s Commission Meeting Tuesday that he will not seek re-election for his Board of County Commissioners seat. 

Ponder, the former Mayor of Destin and Representative for South Okaloosa County to the State Legislature, has spent over 14 years as an elected official. 

The Ocala, Florida native and Florida State University graduate told his fellow members on the commission he was thankful for his time on the board with them. “Every year has been a tremendous honor for me and my wife and my family. I hope that in that time, I’ve been able to serve the community honorably and effectively and preserving our culture and values,” Ponder said, “My wife and i have spent a lot of time in prayer, processing through this next season and I wanted to let this commission know that I’ve made a decision not to run for re-election.”

Ponder added that seven months is more than enough time for another candidate to enter the race and present themselves to Okaloosa County voters as the best possible option. 

He also noted that he planned to run for another term but ultimately decided against it in the last couple of weeks. 

RELATED: You Can Learn More About What A County Commissioner Does Here.

Any resident of Niceville who lives to the East of Partin Drive or in Destin and is registered to vote in the county can run for Okaloosa County Commissioner for District 5. 

This Coming Election Season

This announcement likely means there will be a third major local race in Okaloosa County this summer.

Already, there is an active race for Okaloosa County District 3 Commissioner after Nathan Boyles announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. Currently, there are three candidates in that race: Sherri Cox, Wade Merritt, and Andrew Rencich. All three are Republicans, which means that, unless another person decides as a Democrat, third party, or independent, the next commissioner will be chosen in the August 20 primary. 

The other race that will take place is the Okaloosa County School Board District 2 race. That race features Destin-area businessman Parker Destin and Fort Walton Beach educator David Schmidt. 

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