Flagler County recently met at the beach with Florida’s Chief Resilience Officer Wesley Brooks – as well as many other department heads from the state – and members of the Water Management District to discuss how to best rebuild from the devastation caused by hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

“The state has been very responsive to our needs here,” said County Administrator Heidi Petito. “We appreciate all the effort on our behalf. Bringing everyone together will help us maximize grant opportunities and financial resources.”

In addition to Brooks, participants from the state and Water Management District included: Division of Emergency Management Chief of Mitigation Laura Dhuwe, Department of Economic Opportunity Community Resilience Planner Melissa Corbett, Department of Environmental Protection Officer of Resilience and Coastal Protection Alex Reed, Department of Transportation State Pavement Engineer Mary Jane Hayden, Department of Transportation District 5 Drainage Engineer Ferrell Hickson, Department of Transportation District 5 Environmental Permits Supervisor Casey Lyon, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Assistant Executive Director Thomas Eason, South Florida Water Management District Resiliency Officer Carolina Maran, St. Johns Water Management District Chief Resiliency Officer Tom Frick, and St. Johns Water Management District Assistant Executive Director Mary Ellen Winkler.

“The purpose was to bring together all state agencies so we can work together on a long-term permanent solution that addresses resilience and recovery into the future,” Brooks said by phone on Friday (December 16). “The beaches are important to Flagler County. We need to combat erosion, and (have) better stormwater management. And, we have to take into account how the community views recovery in the years to come.”

Brooks brought a team of officials so they could see with their own eyes the impacts to the area and hear with their own ears the concerns associated with the damages.

“I could report back to them, but the impressions of one person don’t have the same effect,” Brooks said, noting that he does report back to Gov. Ron DeSantis. “It’s the way we need to do business. It’s not a novel approach – it’s what we do in emergency response – but that approach tends to dither in the long term.”

The Department of Environmental Protection has coordinated extensively with Flagler County after recent storms going back to Hurricane Matthew when the county performed its first in-house restoration effort along the coast.

“Beach management is an important component for storm protection and resilience planning,” Reed said. “It addresses erosion problems along the beach while providing protection to vulnerable infrastructure.”

In addition to Petito, Flagler County was represented by Deputy County Administrator Jorge Salinas, Chief of Special Projects and Library Director Holly Albanese, General Services Director Mike Dickson, County Engineer Faith Alkhatib, Deputy County Engineer Hamid Tabassian, and from Flagler Beach, City Manager William Whitson.

“This is a wonderful, creative approach, to bring everyone all together so we can work together on this very important issue,” Alkhatib said. “When it comes to these storms, there are no boundaries. Roads, parks, infrastructure, drainage, buildings – public and private – are really all one. It’s about all of us providing for our community.”