Over the past 20 years, Don Salter, a commissioner for Santa Rosa County, has been a guiding force in Northwest Florida’s support of the military, helping to protect Naval Air Station Whiting Field from encroachment while strengthening ties among the region’s installations, local leaders and businesses. In recognition of his long-standing efforts, ADC has selected Salter to receive its Active Base Community Leadership Award.
He currently serves on the Defense Support Initiative committee — made up of representatives from Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties — which is supporting the move of the 7th Special Forces Group to Eglin Air Force Base and the standup of the Joint Strike Fighter training mission there. He also has served on every BRAC committee of Santa Rosa County since 1991.
Following the 1995 round of base closures, Salter, along with community officials across the state, convinced then-Gov. Lawton Chiles to form a precursor to the Florida Defense Alliance. The alliance plays a significant role in preventing encroachment and today it provides millions of dollars in grants to assist communities addressing that challenge.
Salter spearheaded the 2003 joint land use study between Santa Rosa County and the Navy to protect Naval Air Station Whiting Field and the county’s six outlying landing fields from encroachment. Under his leadership, the county — in partnership with the Navy — has acquired land or conservation easements on 2,000 acres surrounding the air station. The initiative is recognized throughout the Navy as “The Santa Rosa Model.”
Slater also led efforts to develop Whiting Aviation Park, in part to limit encroachment from threatening Whiting. Most significantly, he reached terms with the Navy on a limited access use agreement allowing tenants of the aviation park to use the 6,000-foot runway and taxiways at Whiting Field. It was the first agreement of its kind with the Navy.
In addition, Salter has supported his community’s military veterans. He spearheaded the establishment of the Santa Rosa County Veterans Memorial Plaza, and established the Santa Rosa County Veterans Memorial Foundation assisting needy veterans.
“I accept this prestigious recognition on behalf of all who have fought so hard over the years to support the continued military presence in our community,” Salter said.
The winners will be recognized during the Defense Community Awards lunch at the ADC 2011 Annual Conference in Norfolk on Tuesday, July 19.