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Sheriff Adkinson and Superintendent Hughes Address Walton County Commissioners on Unprecedented Growth

Walton County, January 25, 2024 - This week, Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson and Walton School Superintendent Russell Hughes collaborated in a joint discussion with the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC), focusing on the significant growth witnessed throughout the county in recent years and the imperative to collaborate in meeting the demands arising from such rapid expansion.

Sheriff Adkinson highlighted a notable 6.6 percent increase in growth from 2010 to 2020, with an additional 2.3 percent increase observed last year.

Emphasizing the need for collaborative planning, Sheriff Adkinson stressed that the Sheriff's Office, the School District, and the BCC all have master building plans or strategic plans.

However, a lack of awareness regarding the plans of other entities hinders cohesive infrastructure development.

Expressing the urgency for strategic planning, Sheriff Adkinson stated, "I think when you experience the rate of growth that we have, it would behoove us to get together, to be together, and to discuss what we foresee as being the strategic infrastructure needs over the next 10 to 20 years, understanding the growth we're dealing with."

According to Adkinson, the county's average daily population during the peak season nears 300,000 people, dropping to just under 200,000 during the winter season.

He revealed that last year, Walton County hosted approximately 5.3 million visitors and had 85,000 permanent residents, not counting part-time residents.

As of 2020, out of 4,000+ counties in the United States, Walton County ranked No. 7 for growth during the 10-year consecutive period.

Superintendent Hughes echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the need for coordination to address issues such as school safety and transportation amid surging growth.

Superintendent Hughes shared specific increases in student populations across different regions of the county, highlighting challenges and emphasizing the importance of proactive preparation.

Sheriff Adkinson proposed a joint meeting between the Walton County Commission, the School Board, and the Sheriff's Office, with public engagement.

Commission Chairman William McCormick suggested forming an executive board or committee, including elected officials and top executive staff, to lead the county-wide planning effort.

Both Sheriff Adkinson and Superintendent Hughes agreed, underscoring the necessity for a comprehensive plan of action to address the evolving needs of the community.

The first step will involve selecting a professional moderator to lead the meetings, paving the way for planned sessions to commence once the essential arrangements are in place.

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