Shadow government: City leaders swap roles, ideas

Matt Algarin
City of Destin Information Systems and Technology Director Webb Warren reviews the city’s new website with Fort Walton Beach Councilwoman Joyce Gillie Gossom and Destin Mayor Sam Seevers as part of Municipal Shadowing Week in Okaloosa County.

As part of Municipal Shadowing Week, officials from around Okaloosa County were given the opportunity to switch offices, and cities, as they swapped ideas with their government counterparts.

“It’s a way to foster cooperation between our cities and their staffs, but it’s also an opportunity to share suggestions and see how our practices could be improved,” said Mayor Sam Seevers.

Municipal Shadowing Week was an effort through the Okaloosa County League of Cities and was designed to encourage the facilitation of communication among municipalities and their elected leadership as part of City Government Week.

Twenty-three officials from around the county participated in this inaugural program, including Seevers, Crestview Mayor David Cadle, Fort Walton Beach Councilwoman Joyce Gossom, Destin Fire Chief Kevin Sasser and Niceville Assistant Fire Chief Tony Lohrman.

“For me, I really appreciated the opportunity to get a greater awareness of the complexity that’s in Destin,” said Gossom, who shadowed Seevers. “It’s definitely a great program that I would like to see continue. I would go as far as saying that this should be a requirement for newly-elected officials.”

As part of the experience, Seevers traveled to Crestview and was able to sit in on the city’s department head meeting, where she said she soon realized that there were a lot of similarities between the two cities.

Speaking to The Log, Cadle said the best part of the day was the exchange of ideas.

“As we would discuss things, I would ask her (Seevers) for her thoughts and suggestions,” he said. “It was great being able to pass ideas back and forth.”

Looking at his experience, Lohrman said his time in Destin was well spent. Paired up with the Destin Fire Control District’s chief, Niceville’s second in command told The Log that he and Sasser spent a lot of time talking about the fireboat they would be receiving.

Since the two fire departments work jointly in some instances, Lohrman said the shadowing helped “build camaraderie” between the departments.

“Not only did it help to reinforce what we are doing, but it gave us some ideas on things we could look at,” he said. “It’s definitely beneficial to give someone the opportunity to see what happens at other departments.”

“To see how they handle all of their day-to-day routine tasks and how they manage their personnel was good,” Sasser told The Log. “It’s stuff that we all do, but we don’t really think about ways we might be able to do it differently, we just do it.”

City Government Week was Oct. 22-26 in Okaloosa County.

With the participants touting the success of Municipal Shadowing Week, Seevers said she would like to see this event become an annual tradition.

“You should never stop learning and by shadowing and partnering with others in the county, we can all learn a lot from them and the way they work,” she said.