Michelle Anchors' Mission to Better Fort Walton Beach

Community MainstayMichelle Anchors helms a multigenerational mission to better Fort Walton BeachBy Wendy O. Dixon

Waking up early does not come naturally to Fort Walton Beach attorney and mother Michelle Anchors. Most days, with some nudging from her husband, the 43-year-old begrudgingly gets up early to fit in her workout before getting her two children ready for school and heading to work.

"I still need a good night’s sleep, and I’m telling you I get my eight hours," Anchor admits. "I think some people think you almost need to be superhuman but I confess that I get my rest."

Anchors, an attorney at the law firm Keefe, Anchors, Gordon & Moyle, is also a sixth generation Fort Walton Beach resident who takes her civic responsibilities seriously.

Anchors learned from her father, Don Anchors, that community involvement was a responsibility of its people. She took that duty to heart as president of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce in 2005.

"I was honored to do it because my father was always involved in the chamber," she says. "I grew up knowing chamber life was a part of my family."

As president, her goal was to focus the chamber on the issues facing the community.

"Although business networking is important, it’s also important for businesses to make an impact on infrastructure, education and the environment."

In the effort to make such an impact, Anchors chaired the Committee for a Sustainable Emerald Coast in 2007, during which she and the committee developed a set of recommendations to the governor with the aim of achieving a sustainable region in 2030.

"We have a chance of maintaining a quality of life and a quality of place only if we plan, prioritize and invest in ways that reflect a commitment to sustainability," she wrote in her recommendation letter to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Anchors attended the National Security Forum at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in May. The forum is designed to bring civilian and military leaders together to exchange views, ideas and perspectives on national security issues. Anchors returned with ideas she hopes will be useful to her fellow Emerald Coast residents.

The law firm Keefe, Anchors, Gordon & Moyle, of which she is a founding partner, opened its doors on January 1, 2009, and hit the ground running. The firm established the "Just Cause" program to represent and litigate issues that are of community importance but for which attorney fees are a deterrent to litigate.

One of those cases involves a legal battle between the City of Valparaiso and the U. S. Air Force over the possibility of F-35s coming to Eglin Air Force Base. City residents are concerned about the noise the jets will bring. The firm is providing pro bono representation to Okaloosa County, which is more interested in the jobs that will come to the area and has sought an injunction that would force Valparaiso to drop the lawsuit.
"The connection between the forum and the F-35 (lawsuit) is that we need to have people in our civilian community understand the issues the military faces in our region," she says. "Regardless of the litigation, our community recognizes how important military is to us."

Founding partner Larry Keefe says Anchors is most poised to make an impact on her community in the coming years.

"Between Tallahassee and Pensacola, Michelle is one of the most highly regarded in terms of her professional and personal integrity," Keefe says. "In the next 10 to 20 years, the community is going to be the beneficiary, on an accelerated level, of her expertise."