Economic Development Council rejects Wakulla Springs Alliance as member

Editor, The Sun:

Anthony Gaudio, chair of the Wakulla Springs Alliance, shared this correspondence with the Wakulla Economic Development Council:

Letter to the Wakulla County Economic Development Council

The Wakulla Springs Alliance (WSA), recognizing substantial overlap in interests with the Wakulla County Economic Development Council’s (EDC) Vision Statement and Mission Statement, respectfully requests membership in the Wakulla EDC. Our organization finds common cause with each of the goals and strategies listed in the Wakulla County EDC’s Strategic Plan and believes that membership in the Wakulla County EDC would mutually serve to strengthen and benefit both of our organizations. A vibrant, sustainable economy with high paying jobs and clean industry is the best bulwark against any short-term decisions that could unwittingly damage the precious natural heritage of Wakulla County and its number one tourist destination, Wakulla Springs. WSA’s membership is committed to protecting the economic and social lifeblood of Wakulla County – Wakulla Springs. We look forward to partnering with the Wakulla County EDC to share this special place with the wider world and working together to foster responsible economic development that sustains the county’s unique natural resources and way of life.

Anthony Gaudio
Wakulla Springs Alliance Chair

In response:

Anthony, thanks for your groups interest in EDC. Our executive board has decided pass on your organizations request to join our group.

John Shuff

In response:


Thank you for letting WSA know of your Executive Committee’s decision. Our board will be disappointed in the outcome since they regard WEDC membership as a way to begin working with the development community on projects of mutual interest.

The fact that one of your Platinum Level investors is the WCBOCC, using community generated funds, coupled with the fact that the majority of WSA members are residents of Wakulla County, makes this decision on your part not only shortsighted but has the effect of excluding an important segment of the community.

A thriving natural infrastructure, including a healthy Wakulla Spring, is necessary to support the county’s economic welfare into the future. Protecting it and other natural places should be an important factor in any economic development initiative taken by the WEDC, since businesses and people are attracted to Wakulla County because of its pristine natural resources, including Wakulla Springs.

Anthony Gaudio
Wakulla Springs Alliance

Question about whether commissioner’s job presents a conflict

Editor, The Sun:

As a relatively new resident of Wakulla County, I felt it was my duty to review the backgrounds of candidates who have filed to run for elected offices. Most seem qualified and well-intentioned.
However, one item on Ralph Thomas’s bio caught my attention: Mr. Thomas and his wife are in the mortgage loan business. During several of the Commission Meetings I have attended, Mr. Thomas has voted to change zoning designations from agricultural to residential. This seems like an obvious conflict of interest because approval will increase the number of residential properties available for construction and the number of potential mortgage loan customers.
Hopefully Mr. Thomas does not sell mortgage loans to buyers of new homes resulting from zoning changes. However, a simple way to avoid this appearance of impropriety would have been to recuse himself from voting on these types of items.
Commissioner Thomas should explain to voters his reasoning for not recusing himself and provide proof that he and his wife have not benefited from his previous votes.

John Parks

Ralph Thomas responds: I decided it wouldn’t be productive to simply respond with my opinion, so I requested a formal opinion from the Florida Ethics Commission. I am happy to provide that as my response upon receipt. I spoke to Mr. Parks last week and had what I thought was a very productive conversation.