Destin mayor candidate Gary Jarvis: "If anybody knows Destin and the harbor and what it means to the community, it’s me."
Gary Jarvis, president of the Destin Charter Boat Association, aims to become Destin’s next mayor.
Jarvis recently pre-filed as a candidate for the mayor’s seat that will be open in the March 13 city election. He and current Mayor Scott Fischer thus far are the only two candidates for the position.
Jarvis said while he has not run for political office before, he has lived in Destin for 40 years and has the leadership skills required for the job.
"If anybody knows Destin and the harbor and what it means to the community, it’s me," he said Friday.
For the past four years, Jarvis has served as president of the Destin Charter Boat Association, which represents more than 80 professional fishing companies that make up Destin’s fishing fleet. He is also the founder of the Galveston, Texas-based Charter Fisherman’s Association, which represents more than 500 professional fishing business owners/operators in all five states on the Gulf of Mexico.
Jarvis said he has several concerns about Destin’s government.
"I think maybe the city government has lost its ability to serve its constituents, and there may be a vacuum of leadership on the City Council," he said. Some city officials seem to want to "limit people’s attempts to make a living here in the city limits. As a businessman, I’ve run into issues with permitting. It seems like the city staff is running around on pins and needles and are not sure of what’s going to come down from above."
Jarvis also said that he doesn’t like how some council meetings last for more than four or five hours.
"It’s difficult for citizens to sit through an agonizing, slow meeting when they have families and jobs," he said. "I run a very efficient meeting, and I think I can make more people feel like they can participate in the city government."
Fischer is seeking his first four-year mayoral term. He is serving the remaining two years of the term of former mayor and current state Rep. Mel Ponder, who left office when he decided to run for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2016.
Destin City Council
Frost Jones, who has been a resident of Destin since 1998, recently became the sixth candidate to pre-file in order to run for one of three open council seats in the March election.
"I feel there is a good possibility that I could provide a unique perspective to the City Council and add some diversity, since there’s presently only one woman on the council," she said.
Jones, a professional photographer and an ordained minister who conducts wedding ceremonies, said she is very active in the community and does a lot of charity work. For example, she works with several churches to provide food for the less fortunate, has helped with hurricane relief efforts and is involved with Destin Harvest and the local Homelessness and Housing Alliance.
"I feel like I can offer a voice that has not been heard or considered in awhile on the council," Jones said. "I’m 60 years old now, and I observe things (that need improvement) like parking issues, traffic problems and density issues. And I think we should treat each other well and lead with kindness, and not judge each other harshly when we’re working on things for the community."
The other candidates seeking one of the three council seats are Mark Robertson, Skip Overdier, former Councilman Jim Wood and incumbent council members Prebble Ramswell and Rodney Braden.
Other municipal elections
On March 13, municipal elections will also take place in Cinco Bayou, Mary Esther and Valparaiso.
The mayor’s seat and two Town Council seats will be up for election in Cinco Bayou, the mayor’s seat and two City Council seats will be open in Mary Esther, and the mayor’s seat and two City Commission seats will be open in Valparaiso.
No one has pre-filed yet for the Cinco Bayou or Valparaiso seats.
In Mary Esther, King Molder and Susan Coxwell recently pre-filed to join incumbent Bernie Oder as council candidates. Oder was appointed to the council last May.
Molder previously ran for a council seat during a special city election last August. He works as a mechanical engineer for the Air Force at Eglin AFB and has lived in Mary Esther for more than eight years after having lived in the Ocean City-Wright area for about four years.
"As a civil servant, I serve the community at large," he said. As a potential councilman, "I believe that I can give back to my neighbors and have a positive impact on the community."
Molder said improving the city’s infrastructure is one of his top concerns.
"It’s not necessarily an exciting issue, but for at least the last few years, due to budget constraints, we have had to defer maintenance," he said. "We have had quite a few waterline breaks and boil-water notices, and have had to replace fire hydrants on (U.S. Highway) 98. We’re realizing we need to do a better job with that, and as an engineer I think I can contribute to that."
Molder said he also wants to make sure the library is funded and stays in operation for many years to come. During the city’s budget talks earlier this year, the library was at risk of closing or having its services reduced.
"I’m very interested in keeping it open because those folks are very involved in the community," Molder said.
This past spring, Coxwell was one of nine applicants who sought to be appointed to an open council seat. The council appointed Oder to the seat last May.
Coxwell, who is a teacher at Trinity United Methodist Preschool in Fort Walton Beach, has lived in Mary Esther for 12 years. She has lived in Okaloosa County since 1973.
Earlier this year, Coxwell was instrumental in getting the council to approve an ordinance to allow backyard chickens in Mary Esther’s R1 zoning district, which encompasses typical single-family home neighborhoods.
As a council candidate, "I think there are some things that need to be thought of in a different manner, like encouraging small businesses," Coxwell said.
She said the city’s wastewater treatment system needs a lot of work, and that she also is concerned about the decision, made by a majority of the council earlier this year, to decrease the amount of law-enforcement services provided by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
"Now, we have to wait for state troopers to respond to accidents on 98," Coxwell said. "And many citizens are concerned about the longer wait for help, and about people not following the school zone speed limit at Mary Esther Elementary."
Having a deputy close at hand at all times in Mary Esther "helps our citizens feel secure" and the city’s overall, enhanced level of law-enforcement services "can be budgeted back in if things are done properly," she said.
The official qualifying period for candidates in next March’s elections is from noon Jan. 1 through noon Jan. 5. Because of the holiday, the period will go into effect when the county Supervisor of Elections Office opens at 8 a.m. Jan. 2.
Candidates can pre-file at any time before the qualifying period so they can start collecting and spending campaign money.