After Eva Connors McMullin was installed as the new chair for the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Jan. 25, she showed a photo from 1984 on the screens of the ballroom.
The photo showed her mother, Michelle Connors, being installed as president of the chamber, almost 40 years to the day McMullin accepted the gavel herself.
"I'm thrilled to follow in her footsteps," said McMullin, assistant general manager of S.R. Perrott, a beverage distributing company based in Ormond Beach. "I look forward to collaborating with all of you to promote the growth and success of our local businesses and I believe that by working together, we can achieve great things for our community."
McMullin was passed the gavel by the chamber's 2022 chair Don Grindle. She was elected as the incoming chair last year, but stepped up to the position early due to the departure of the board's 2023 chair last fall. Her work with the chamber — engagement with its finance, government affairs and workforce committees — as well as her community involvement led to the chamber presenting her with the 2023 leadership award at the chamber's annual installation banquet, held at the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach.
"Eva exemplifies all the qualities of an excellent leader," said Erick Palacios, the chamber's 2025 chair elect. "Strategic vision, collaboration, relationship building, governance, decision-making, and conflict resolution and adaptability."
Honing in on the strategic plan
Chamber CEO and President Debbie Cotton said 2023 was an interesting year.
The chamber focused on its four priorities of its 2022-2025 strategic plan: membership development and engagement, advocacy development, event development and workforce education development.
Chamber ambassadors visited an average of 600 new and existing businesses throughout the year and the chamber gained 102 members, with a retention rate of 80%.
But, the chamber also saw some businesses close, sell or merge this year.
"It's not just Ormond Beach — it's really countywide," Cotton said. "... More than actually any of us have seen in our tenure in the industry."
So better communication, Cotton said, was a focus.
The chamber launched its new website this month after spending much of 2023 working on it. The chamber also created a workforce committee and started the conversation on how the chamber can work with community partners to develop local talent.
At the banquet, the chamber raised $5,000 for its scholarships program.
"We remain focused on mission-driven events for the chamber and continue to audit each one of them to make sure we are meeting those goals," Cotton said. "We want to give quality, not quantity."
Additionally, the chamber's government affairs committee took positions on two key issues: supporting the dog-friendly beach pilot program in Ormond Beach and voicing "a strong opposition" to Belvedere Terminals' proposed fuel farm project at 874 Hull Road.
Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington presented McMullin with her leadership award, saying her contributions to the community have been "both profound and inspiring."
"As an Ormond Beach native, her dedication to this city is woven into the very fabric of her being," Partington said. "Through her involvement in numerous community and charity events, Eva has truly demonstrated an unwavering commitment to enhancing the lives of those around her. But perhaps what stands out most is Eva's role in the fight against the Belvedere fuel farm proposal."
S.R. Perrott, located at 1280 U.S. 1, abuts the property at 874 Hull Road in unincorporated Volusia County where Belvedere Terminals seeks to construct a fuel terminal. The proposal has been met with opposition from the community, city and county officials, and has led to a lawsuit between the company and Volusia County. Meanwhile, S.R. Perrott is challenging the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's issuance of an air construction permit to the company, citing insufficient public notice. A judge is expected to rule in S.R. Perrott's petition in February.
"This action highlighted the company's commitment to our community welfare, and positioned it at the forefront of the opposition, with Eva leading the charge to do anything she could to protect the children, families and local businesses of our city from this impending danger," Partington said. "... Your efforts will be felt for generations to come."