South Walton TDC Presents Annual Awards

October 19, 2011 by SoWal Staff

The South Walton Tourist Development Council honored Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. with the Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award during its annual meeting held at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa.

Sheriff Adkinson was noted for promoting South Walton as a secure, family-friendly paradise for citizens and visitors.

In recent months, he took the lead in planning and executing strategies to mitigate the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.  His professionalism and dynamic communication skills during national media interviews and local town hall meetings contributed to the protection of South Walton’s pristine coastline and generated visitor interest in returning to the area.

The Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award, now entering its ninth year, recognizes an outstanding individual who has made significant contributions to tourism in Walton County while working with other community businesses or organizations to enhance South Walton’s standing as an upscale travel destination. Sheriff Adkinson is the first Walton County Sheriff to receive this award.


Ken and Lorraine Sloan, of Getaway Assist, and Murray Balkcom, of Walco Eco Tours, were honored by the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) as the 2011 Above and Beyond Hospitality Award winners.

The Above and Beyond Hospitality Award, now in its fourth year, recognizes individuals whose hard work and dedication to exceptional customer service contribute to the growth of the region’s tourism industry.

The Sloans earned the Lodging Category award as owners of Getaway Assist, a vacation rental service company that has operated in South Walton for the past 11 years. Several visitors nominated the Sloans for the award, citing their superb hospitality, attention to detail and knowledge of the area.

“The fact that so many who have rented through Getaway Assist would take the time to nominate them for this award speaks to the relationships they build with their guests,” said TDC Executive Director Dawn Moliterno. “It’s that kind of commitment that leads our visitors to return year after year.”

In the Non-Lodging Category, Balkcom was honored for his contributions to educating visitors about South Walton’s rich environmental treasures.  As owner of Walco Eco Tours for the past five years, Balkcom provides guided hands-on eco tours for South Walton visitors.

“Murray’s tours on Western Lake showcase the rare coastal dune lakes that are unique to South Walton and provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the many activities we offer beyond the beach,” said Moliterno. “The efforts our award winners, not to mention the countless others who provide excellent customer service every day, helped to drive the most successful year in our history.”

The award winners will now have an opportunity to experience South Walton as visitors do, with a variety of services provided by local partners including: Residence Inn by Marriot Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, Cantina Laredo Gourmet Mexican Food, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Fusion Spa Salon AVEDA, YOLO, Fish Out of Water at WaterColor Inn & Resort, Serenity by the Sea Spa at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa and Silver Sands Factory Stores.


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