As the calendar prepares to roll over to 2013, The Log asked city leaders in Destin to reflect on the year that was 2012. With everything from beach restoration, debates over tourism helicopters and the completion of the harbor boardwalk defining the year, here's what Mayor Sam Seevers, and Councilmen Jim Foreman, Cyron Marler and Jim Wood had to say.
In your opinion, what was the city’s biggest accomplishment in 2012, and why?
Seevers: The city’s biggest accomplishment was the completion of the Harbor Boardwalk. This took more than 10 years to come to fruition and a multitude of people to help make it happen. It was truly a public/private partnership and one I am very proud of. I am also very proud of our city’s new website. It is multi-functional and really improves our customer service and communication to our residents, businesses and visitors.
Foreman: I believe the city's top accomplishment in 2012 was completing the boardwalk on the harbor because it achieved a long-term goal of the Harbor CRA to make the harbor a single entity and destination.
Marler: I would say the harbor Boardwalk, the reason why is simple, it has opened up the harbor to not being a one destination stop for our visitors. They can now stop & shop or enjoy our recreational amenities by parking at one business and traversing through all the various businesses and spend their time enjoying everything the harbor has to offer.
Wood: The completion of Phase 1 of the Boardwalk is clearly the biggest accomplishment of 2012 if for no other reason because of the length of the process as well the movement of commerce further down towards the east end of the project where it lacked before.
What were the major challenges the city faced in 2012, and how do you think they were handled?
Seevers: The major challenges we faced in 2012 were our limitations in the budget.
Foreman: Major challenges were maintaining quality services on a tight budget; continuing to plan for future development of Destin and promoting Destin as a place to live and visit. These challenges were met with limited staff and resources.
Marler: One is a hold-over from 2011 and that was the Waste Management contract. I think in the long run the final solution was the right choice by the seated council at that time. Since I took office after the decision was made, I believe our City Manager’s first trial-by-fire showed she had the right stuff. Second, would be Norriego Point although we still have a long road to get it done. We met the first challenge in starting the planning and the funding process.
Wood: Economic Development - not handled well, but the jury is still out.
Civil Citation Authority - handled well; will be completed after the first of the year. Norriego Point - completing the plan and submitting for NRDA funding. Not bad now that we have modified the Long Range Norriego Point Management Plan. We have done our job, now we wait on decisions outside our direct control.
Kelly Street Improvements - luckily it is moving and in the end will be a good addition to the city. Kind of like making sausage (make the order and enjoy the taste when completed, just do not watch what goes on in between).
With the completion of the harbor boardwalk proving to be a tremendous success, what project do you view as 2013’s “boardwalk”?
Seevers: In 2013, I would like to see the stabilization of Norriego Point. This is going to be a big challenge, especially because we do not have the funds to support it so we have to look for other sources. It is achievable and needs to be done before any further erosion of the point occurs.
Foreman: That the harbor boardwalk was a success was no surprise. Now, the task in 2013 is to provide sufficient parking and pedestrian friendly access.
Marler: I would have to say two instead of one. First; Norriego Point getting funding finalizing plans and getting started. Second; getting the phase two property owners on board for the completion of our harbor boardwalk and possibly beginning the planning stages.
Wood: The combination of the Marler Parking Lot, Highway 98 Pedestrian Crossing and the interim improvements to Royal Melvin Heritage Park.
Building off of 2012’s momentum, how does the city best position itself for success in 2013?
Seevers: I think our city can further its success by having the city council set achievable goals and policies. We must continue to tap into our community resources of public/private partnerships and involve our citizens as much as possible.
Foreman: Success in 2013 will be defined by the economy. Destin has all the attractions in place.
Marler: By continuing to have and use citizen input and City/Public/Business partnerships and the council to continue acting as a whole for the entire city. Also, by not having their own agendas and staying focused on the main goals we have set for our city's future.
Wood: Continue to work as a team on all issues, working with stakeholders and citizens to provide a world class community that all can enjoy. We have a number of issues carrying over to the new year, such as completion of critical projects: Marler Parking Lot, pedestrian crossing and interim improvements to Royal Melvin Heritage Park, as well as continuing to refine our city economic development plan and identification better returns from local lending institutions to ensure the safest and highest return on our invested funds. As long as we continue to put the right tools in our tool box, we should be well positioned for success in 2013.