Decision Day looms for Destin voters, eight candidates (WITH ELECTION GUIDE)

Matt Algarin | The Log
There are eight candidates running for three openings on the Destin City Council. The election will be held March 11.

With just days until the City Council elections, The Log asked the eight men and women in the race for a few final thoughts.

With three seats up for grabs, the council may look a bit different after Tuesday's election. Those asking to be elected are Rodney Braden, incumbent Jim Foreman, Scott Jacobs, Larry Hines, Skip Overdier, Matthew Pace, Prebble Ramswell, and Tom Weidenhamer.

The candidates were asked to share what promise they would make to Destin's voters. Here's what they had to say.

Braden: People in politics are notorious for making empty speeches full of meaningless promises in order to get elected. I have lived in this town my entire life and many of you are not just part of my community, but are friends and my family. The only promises that I can make you are that I will do the best job I possibly can if elected. I will strive to represent the whole community of Destin, and not just a limited few. I promise that I will do all that I can to make you all proud to call Destin your home.

Foreman: My promise to the voters is that I will represent them well by paying attention to their voices and to keep the lines of communication to the city open to the public.

Jacobs: I promise to seek out, listen to and carry out the voice of the people. I am running to be a voice for Destin's residents and its local business community and am dedicated to preserving and improving our quality of life. I will cast my votes based on what is best for and most desired by you.

Hines: In my campaign flyer printed in January, I stated “You have my pledge that I will not support increasing property taxes unless there is a legitimate financial emergency.”  I stand by that promise.  Government should manage its finances just like our businesses and families do.  That means living within your budget.

Overdier: As I’ve said in many forums, “I am not the smartest person in the room.  The smartest people in the room are the citizens of Destin.” I think the greatest attribute a City Councilor can have is to be a good listener. I promise to listen to the citizens because they know what and where the issues are in Destin. I promise to pursue the opportunity to diversify our economy by bringing economic development to Destin. I would like to see us recruit some high tech engineering type manufacturing businesses to Destin.

Pace: The promise I would make to the voters in Destin would be that I promise to be true to the residents and myself. I want the voters to have a voice within our community and I want the chance to be that voice. I look forward to the possibility of being a city of Destin Councilman because I am a Destin resident first and I will remember that all throughout my term.

Ramswell: My promise to voters is that I will continue to research and analyze all issues brought forth and seek solutions based on the needs and wants of the community.  You can depend on me to think out of the box and "find a way" when others have given up. I will listen to and approach the community not just because the council has a responsibility to represent the people but because it is the right thing to do. I will do all I can to see that our community strengthens its ties to our history and moves forward without losing sight of what drew us here in the first place: a beautiful, family-oriented town quite content to be the Luckiest Fishing Village and a piece of paradise in our own backyard.

Weidenhamer: A promise that I will make to the voters is that I will fully support all legal efforts by the city to block the opening or reduce the impact of the Runway Gentlemen's Club on Airport Road. This establishment would diminish the family oriented atmosphere of Destin, would introduce negative elements into the community and would have a negative effect on nearby property values. While many organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the TDC look out for the interests of our tourists, this promise also includes my ongoing goal of making sure that the quality of life elements for the people who live in Destin year-round are not forgotten.

After the city secured $10.2 million to stabilize the continually eroding Norreigo Point, candidates were asked to describe what the point would look like if they had complete control over the stabilization efforts. Here's what they had to say in their own words.

Braden: Since the funds have been secured for the Norriego Point stabilization project, I believe that we should look into a system that uses the longest lasting materials we can afford, yet is aesthetically pleasing. The currently used sheet pilings have a lifespan of approximately 50 years. There can also be substantial erosion at the lower edges of the pilings. If we look at examples of systems that use concrete and stone, they have a much longer lifespan. A good example locally is the East Jetty, which has required no maintenance since it was constructed. The seawall at Stanley Park in Vancouver is a good example of the use of concrete and stone in an aesthetically pleasing form.

Foreman: Complete control over Norriego Point assumes nature has no role. The point has disappeared several times during hurricanes and routinely erodes from tidal action. We humans play a role when we disturb natural growth that firms up the sand.

How would I stabilize the Point? After several studies and years of trial and error, the best effort, so far, is to enclose the area with a series of bulkheads, t-groins and rock that retain the sand and divert the natural flow of water to minimize erosion. This is the current plan funded largely by the BP. As a condition of funding; the restored Point is designed much like a natural park with some amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables and area for swimming.

Hines: I support the retaining walls being made from rocks, not steel and concrete.  Rocks look more natural and do not rust. I would restrict the two southern embayments to swimmers only. I would place concrete/rock type structures in these two embayments to create a mini-reef environment where marine life would grow.  This would be an ideal place for beginner snorkelers and divers. I would reserve a portion for sea birds to nest. I support the installation of bathrooms and a gazebo.  I would create some large sand dunes planted in native grasses as a way to reduce wind erosion. I would leave one large sand dune on the harbor side unplanted so the children could play on it. There was nothing more fun than watching the children play “king of the hill” on the sand dunes after the city dredged the harbor channel last year. I want to add and emphasize that after Norriego Point is stabilized the city must take the responsibility to monitor and control any parking  or security issues that arise.

Jacobs: In a perfect world I would have the point restored to it's original natural and pristine state as it was when I was a kid. However, we don't have complete control. Aside from the entities that dictate who receives restoration funds and how they are spent we also have to contend with mother nature. It is important to me that as much of the point remain soft and approachable as possible while implementing reasonable, effective and lasting stabilization measures. Aesthetically, I am in favor of using the rock that we are already familiar with in the pass to border the seawalls that will protect the end of the point. Also, I would like to see little to no permanent structures and improvements on the beach itself while complying with the creation of required public benefits that qualified the project for NRDA funding.

Overdier: Since I was not involved in the selection of the engineering firm that did the evaluation and recommendation for fixing Norriego Point I have to assume they were the best firm and gave us the best solution to our problem. Based on that assumption I think we need to proceed with the stabilization effort. Looking to the future we need to decide how we will fund future efforts because Mother Nature will not leave Norriego Point the way we want it. Taxes are not favored by anybody but some type may need to be assessed to have the money in 5 or 10 years to do more restoration and stabilization. Additional use fees could be implemented to add money to a fund for maintenance and restoration of our beaches. The beaches are one of the main reasons we have our tourists and also one of the reason we have our residents. One of the major reasons my family moved to Destin was for the beaches. Additionally we need to look for interim solutions that will minimize any deterioration to the beaches including Norriego Point. We have an incredible natural asset available to us and we need to use it wisely.

Pace: We have an opportunity to restore a major part of Destin’s history and help shape it’s future. I would like to see it kept as natural as possible. Replacing upwards of 8-acres of sand is a large task and using sand from the pass will help to use the money wisely. Norriego Point plays a pivotal role for the harbor and shouldn’t necessarily be used as a recreation area or park. We don’t want to be faced with this dilemma in the future so ensuring proper stabilization and responsible use after the completion is key to its success.

Ramswell: Norriego Point has always been, and will continue to be, the centerpiece of Destin's harbor.  It is essential that we do all we can to ensure its stability, both to protect our harbor and fleet and to preserve a fundamental and iconic piece of Destin.

After speaking with people out on the point today, it was clear that they felt the same way I do: this beautiful, natural piece of Destin, representing true Old Destin, would be best left undeveloped and remaining a true example of how Destin used to be.

However, we all know of the issues with shoaling that have necessitated regular dredging and stabilization. Without the $10.2 million NRDA grant, the city would have had no choice but to continue the fight for funds to wage a losing battle against erosion. The NRDA grant is a godsend, but with it came a human use requirement. As such, the city incorporated plans to develop a park area to meet the requirement. Though this isn't leaving the point undeveloped, the alternative would be no NRDA grant, a continually disappearing point, and a clogged channel that affects our fleet.

The stabilization of the point is best left to the engineers skilled in such decisions. However, in researching the most effective methods of stabilization, groins are readily accepted as the most common and effective means of coastal erosion prevention. Breakwaters or an artificial reef would be more natural and appealing to the eye but do not seem to be able to provide the protection necessary for Norriego.  A rock and stone seawall could be a possibility, but would eliminate the water recreation on that side of the point.

It is my goal to see the point stabilized with the smallest possible footprint and incorporating as many natural elements and plantings as possible in order to preserve its beauty.

Weidenhamer: If I had complete control over Norriego Point I would stabilize it according to the current plan of installing four t-head groins reinforced by perpendicular sand covered sheet pile walls along with a final spur groin.

I would also be sure that the sheet piles used were made of a non-corrosive material to prevent future expensive maintenance and that the harbor side armoring would consist of natural materials such as large stones and dune vegetation in order to present a pleasing appearance from the board walk which was constructed to bring the community and visitors back to the harbor front to enjoy charter fishing, restaurants, shopping and entertainment. Other design elements should discourage shoaling at the harbor entrance and take into account the most recent water current flow studies for the placement of the new point termination.

For your complete election guide, CLICK HERE

Early voting will continue Saturday until 5 p.m., and votes can be placed at the Destin Community Center. On Election Day, polls will be open Tuesday, March 11 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the city of Destin municipal election and the Destin Fire Control District special referendum.

Precinct 20: (West Destin) Destin Community Center, 101 Stahlman Ave

Precinct 35: (North Destin) Destin United Methodist Church, 200 Beach Dr

Precinct 44: (Central Destin) Destin United Methodist Church, 200 Beach Dr

Precinct 49: (East Destin) Destin City Hall Annex, 4100 Indian Bayou Trail

Precinct 50: (South Destin) Destin City Hall Annex, 4100 Indian Bayou Trail

Early Voting:

Early Voting will be held thru Saturday, March 8th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Destin Community Center and Supervisor of Elections office on Lewis Turner Boulevard in Ft. Walton Beach Office.

Destin Fire Control District