DESTIN — With a new department name and a new manager, the city hopes to improve the relationship between code compliance and the public this year.
Even though this is his first time working as the code compliance manager, Joey Forgione is no stranger to the department. Having previously worked as a Destin code enforcement officer for five years and with a background in law enforcement and the military, he knows a thing or two about how to work with the public and enforce rules in a fair way.
“We are changing it from more of a reactive approach to a proactive approach,” Forgione said. “We’re going to be out there in the field, visible to the public and addressing any concerns.”
Since accepting the position in November, Forgione already has worked hard to make some positive changes to the department. Light bars were installed on the code compliance vehicles to ensure the safety of the officers at night and to make them more visible to the public.
An after-hours number was also established, enabling an officer to be contacted 24/7. The number, as well as the department’s email, has been plastered onto all of the department’s vehicles.
“If someone has concerns, they can send an email or call that number, which will send a voicemail or that email to my phone and it will be answered in a timely manner,” Forgione said. “If I see that I need to come out, I’ll come out and address it.”
While the idea of a code compliance officer may seem intimidating to the public, Forgione said he wants to gain compliance through educating the public on the city’s rules and regulations.
“We’re here for the public and our visitors,” he said. “We want them to come here and have a good time, but know the rules.
“Our goal is to not write tickets,” Forgione added. “If we have to, if we issue notice of violations and citations and they won’t take the education part, then we’ll have to take that step.”
One of the biggest issues the department has faced in the past has involved beach vendors. Last year, the relationship between the beach vendors and the public was volatile at best. Forgione said this year will be different.
“We need to work together,” he said of the beach vendors. “We want them to be as successful as possible and make money, but they have to do it with class. They know what they need to do and we’ll get there. It’s just how we approach it.”
The department also will working closer with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office this year to have eyes everywhere.
“They’re going to enforce their laws; we’re going to enforce our codes,” Forgione said.
"We just want to ensure everybody has a quality experience in Destin,” Deputy City Manager Webb Warren said. “If everyone is playing nice with each other and following the rules, everybody is going to have a much better experience ... and our residents are going to enjoy their quality of life, too.”