William Salter - US Army - Milton, FL

Education and Training Accomplishments:

  • Graduated Jim Allen Elementary School, Cantonment, FL (1960);
  • James M. Tate High School, Pensacola, FL (1965);
  • Pensacola Junior College (Associate Degree), Pensacola, FL (1980);
  • Troy State University (Masters of Science in Management), Pensacola, FL (1988).
  • Completed U.S. Army Paratrooper School, Fort Benning, GA (1966);
  • U.S. Army Recondo School, Fort Benning, GA (1966).

Professional or Employment History:

  • U.S. Army (1965-1968), discharged as E-5 with Combat Infantry Badge, Parachute Badge and Bronze Star Award.
  • Gulf Power Company (1968-2000) retiring as Santa Rosa County District Manager and receiving the Southern Company Chairman’s Excellence Award (1993).
  • Santa Rosa County District 3 Commissioner and Board Chairman (2000-2020)

Awards or Honors:

  • Santa Rosa County Community Leader of the Year (1997), 
  • Sam Walton Business Leader Award (1996), 
  • Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Award (1995), 
  • Florida Economic Development Council District 1 Volunteer of the Year (1995), 
  • Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year (1993), 
  • ESCAROSA Regional Workforce Development Board Chairman (1997-1999), 
  • United Way of Santa Rosa County Board President (1996), 
  • Santa Rosa County Military Affairs Committee Chairman (2000-2021); 
  • Santa Rosa County Veterans Memorial Foundation Founder and President (2003-2021),
  • Association of Defense Communities Community Leader of the Year Award (2010) and too many others to mention.

Written Narrative:
I hereby nominate William Donald “Don” Salter for the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame – 2021. Don Salter was bom and raised in Santa Rosa County, Florida. He is a decorated combat veteran who served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam receiving the Bronze Star for combat action at the Battle of Hill 875, the largest loss of American lives of the war. He is a retired Gulf Power executive and for the past 20 years served as District 3 Commissioner and three time Chairman on the Santa Rosa County (FL) Board of County Commissioners. Don has served as a guiding force in Northwest Florida for more than 30 years supporting the military presence. His many notable achievements include serving in a leadership role on all community Base Realignment and Closure committees (BRAC) dating back to the first BRAC in 1991. Don served as Chairman of the two county Military Regional Oversight Committee (MROC) and currently serves as the Chairman of the Santa Rosa County Military Affairs Committee and the Santa Rosa County Veterans Memorial Plaza Foundation. For the past 20 years, Don has planned, organized and served as the Master of Ceremonies for every annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremony and parade in Milton. He is past Chairman of the Emerald Coast Honor Flight Committee that organized sending 960 WW 2veterans from the First Congressional District to Washington DC to see their Memorial at no cost. He was recipient of the 2012 Association of Defense Communities – Community Leader of the Year Award.

Following BRAC 1995 after Florida lost a number of key military missions, installations and jobs to other states, Don Salter along with other like- minded community leaders met with Governor Lawton Chiles to establish the Florida Defense Alliance (FDA). One of FDA’s purposes is to assist local community efforts to enhance the military value of bases in their respective communities should there be another BRAC.

Don spearheaded the first Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) in 2003 between the County and the Navy to buffer NAS Whiting Field and six Navy Outlying Landing Fields (NOLF) in Santa Rosa County from encroachment. Under his leadership, the County in partnership with the Navy has acquired land and conservation easements for more than 5,000 acres around NAS Whiting Field to buffer the base from encroachment. The Partnership forged between the County and the Navy is known as “The Santa Rosa Model”. Don has served as a guest speaker at meetings around the country to present the Santa Rosa Model.

In 2004, Don had the vision to initiate the effort to develop the Whiting Aviation Park on 269 acres the county acquired next to NAS Whiting Field to prevent encroachment. In 2009 the County and the Navy executed a 30 year Limited Access Use Agreement (first ever for the Navy) to allow tenants of the Aviation Park access to the 6,000 foot runway and taxiways on the base. In 2020 under Don Salter’s leadership as Chairman of the County Board, the county recruited Leonardo Helicopters Inc. to the Aviation Park. Leonardo Helicopters had just been selected by the Navy to be the vendor to replace some 125 legacy helicopters used to train all Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard pilots. Site preparation is well underway to construct a 100,000 square foot hangar to provide maintenance support for the new helicopters which will arrive in 2021. The project will initially create 60 new high paying jobs for the Air Park.

In 2003, Don Salter led a community-wide effort to raise funds to build a handicap compatible home for a wounded Florida Army National Guard veteran who lost both legs in Iraq. A $300,000 smart home was built and delivered to the Florida veteran mortgage free. Some reporter asked Don how many homes for wounded veterans he was willing to support and Don answered “ As many wounded who come home after making the sacrifice”. Don also led the effort to deliver a home free of any mortgage to a Marine veteran who lost his foot in Afghanistan. That home was delivered in 2016.

Don spearheaded the development of the Santa Rosa County Veterans Memorial Plaza in Milton, Florida in 2004 to recognize the veterans of every war from the Revolution to today. The Memorial is a focal point for the County Seat and recognizes all military branches and more than $1,000,000 was raised to make the Memorial a reality. Additionally, Don created a book “ Freedom” which describes every war Americans have fought in over the years and it has been adopted for use in all Santa Rosa County public schools.

At the same time Don established and serves as the President of the Santa Rosa County Veterans Memorial Foundation, a 501(c3) not for profit, for the purpose of supporting the Veterans Memorial Plaza and to raise funds to provide no cost assistance to Santa Rosa County veterans. One of the first initiatives was to provide a no cost transportation service to needy veterans requiring transport to the VA Clinic in Pensacola and return home. The Foundation also provides wheel chair ramps and home improvements for disabled veterans at no charge.

Don served on the tri county Defense Support Initiatives (DSI) committee whose purpose is to advocate for the military presence in Northwest Florida. Following the BRAC 2005 decision, DSI assisted in the move of more than 8,000 personnel and dependents to Eglin AFB to support the incoming 7th Special Forces Group and the Joint Strike Fighter stand up.

In 2008, Salter was personally asked by Congressman Jeff Miller to serve as the Chairman of the Santa Rosa Initiative as part of the 1st Congressional District Emerald Coast Honor Flight. The purpose was to provide an all expenses paid trip to Washington DC and return for all WW 2 veterans from the 1st District to see their WW 2 Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Iwo Jima Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and to honor them for their service. As a result of Don’s leadership some 960 WW 2 veterans were able to see their memorial.

Don Salter also served in a leadership role along with Escambia County and the Navy in a first of a kind land swap with the Navy and the two counties to relocate Outlying Field 8 in Escambia County to a new site free of encroachment in Santa Rosa County. The move was a benefit to the Navy and at no cost and afforded an economic benefit for a new industrial park in Escambia County.

In summary, Don Salter has distinguished himself as a Floridian, a patriot in combat, a dedicated public servant and a leader at every level in support of Florida military veterans. Don Salter exhibits all of the criteria for induction into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame and it is my honor and privilege to submit his nomination for 2021.