A city ordinance gives candidates 21 days from election day to get their signs down. But candidates ... routinely have taken far less time to remove them.

DESTIN — Well within a single day after the March 13 city election in Destin, the vast majority of the hundreds of campaign signs placed by the two mayoral candidates and the five candidates vying for three open council seats had been removed from the city's roadsides and neighborhoods.

A city ordinance gives candidates 21 days from election day to get their signs down. But candidates, whether by force of tradition or a desire to keep streets as attractive as possible to tourists, routinely have taken far less time to remove them.

"It's really not a problem here in the city, and we don't expect it to become one," said Doug Rainer, the Destin government's public information manager. 

This year, victorious mayoral candidate Gary Jarvis, a local restaurateur and charter boat captain, took a novel approach to ensuring that his signs came down quickly.

On Facebook, Jarvis announced a contest in which he awarded one point for every yard-size sign collected, five points for retrieving his 3-by-4-foot signs, and 10 points to anyone taking down one of his large 4-by-8-foot signs. The person collecting the most points would get a dinner for two with him and his wife at Brotula's, a Destin restaurant operated by his son. 

"Everybody thought it was a great idea," he said. And as things turned out, two winners had been determined by the end of election night.

One of Jarvis' own deckhands, A.J. Nemiac, teamed up with local charter captain Scott Burke to collect most of Jarvis' campaign signs. Late on election night, Jarvis returned home from a victory party to find his driveway filled with signs, including at least one of his large 4-by-8 signs.

"It'll be a nice evening," Jarvis said of the upcoming dinner.

Jarvis is recycling his signs, a strong hint of plans — or lack thereof — for his political future.

"I have no plans to go through this again," he laughed.

Incumbent Mayor Scott Fischer, who lost his bid for re-election, was up with some supporters at 8 a.m. on the day after the election to get his signs collected. Based on some interest in his signs by people who wanted to re-use them for various purposes, including their own upcoming campaigns, Fischer left his signs on a Mountain Drive lot and gave people a deadline to come and pick them up.

It was the first time he'd had anything like that happen, Fischer said.

"This was all new," he said.

Another Destin candidate, victorious city council contender Skip Overdier, got the earliest start in taking down his campaign signs, even before voters headed to the polls last Tuesday.

"I started Monday," he said. Overdier spent part of the day before the election taking down signs on the outskirts of the city.

Overdier had only about 70 signs spread across Destin.

"I hate them," he said. "I think money could be better spent."

Prebble Ramswell, another victorious Destin council candidate, also got an early start with her team in getting her campaign signs collected.

"We started taking them down election night," she said. Within a matter of hours, most of Ramswell's signs were gone.

"The city looks great!" Ramswell said Thursday.

But Ramswell, like a couple of other Destin candidates, had some pre-election "help" in getting rid of the signs.

"A lot of them disappeared during this campaign," she said. Ramswell placed 300 signs across Destin, and estimated that by election day, half of them had disappeared.

Like Jarvis, Ramswell's plans to recycle her signs — unlike her previous campaign, when she put them in storage — hints at her political future.

"Last time, I kept everything," she said. "This time, I kept a few as souvenirs."

The other victorious city council candidate, Rodney Braden, worked through Friday to get his signs collected and put into storage. Braden had put out 200 yard signs, in addition to eight 4-by-8-foot signs.  

Teresa Hebert, who came up short in the at-large Destin council balloting, wasted little time in retrieving her 100 or so signs from Destin roadsides. With the election over, and spring vacationers already descending on the town, there's no reason not to get the signs down quickly, she said.

"It's out of respect to our citizens," Hebert said.

Elsewhere in the area, campaign signs also routinely come down soon after election day. In Valparaiso, which also held municipal elections last Tuesday, candidates are required to post a $100 deposit before placing signs. After the election, candidates have a week to collect their signs. If they don't, they forfeit their deposit, said City Manager Carl Scott.

"Most of our signs are already up and gone," Scott said Friday.