First thoughts for a second time: Destin welcomes back Greg Kisela

Savannah Chastain
Returning City Manager, Greg Kisela easily transitioned back into his position bringing with him prior knowledge and new perspective on Destin’s needs.

It’s been just over a month back in the saddle, but City Manager Greg Kisela has already hit the ground running. As the first returning city manager for Destin, Kisela replaced Maryanne Ustick who had actually replaced him for the position in 2011.

“It’s just a great community,” said Kisela when asked his reason for returning. “In my profession, we don’t usually get the chance to come back. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

As for the irony of replacing his replacement Kisela chuckled and said, “I don’t know if I’m the old new city manager or the new old city manager.”

Kisela said that one of the pros of returning to Destin is his knowledge of the city and its ongoing projects.

“A lot of the projects have either been completed or are still in the pipeline,” said Kisela.

He elaborated that the three most prominent ongoing projects in his opinion are; stabilizing Norriego Point, creating an east-west midtown connector, and improving the stretch of Kelly Street from Benning to Calhoun.

“We will hopefully have those completed in within the next two to three years,” he said.

In addition to current projects, Kisela said the city is looking to secure grants and state RESTORE Act money to address pressing issues and new ventures, including stormwater damage repairs and recreation amenities.

“We anticipate qualifying for state restore money,” he said. “If funding is forthcoming, we will begin work on new projects focusing on environmental and economic development.”

Familiarity with Destin and its economy definitely has its perks, but Kisela also told The Log that his time away has given him fresh eyes on the city and its subtle changes.

“I think the issue that has surprised me the most is how the demographics have changed since I left three years ago,” he said. “I noticed the demographics of tourists are not the individuals that traditionally came to Destin. We were traditionally marketed as a family vacation spot, but folks that came here for generations are no longer coming.”

Kisela explained that today, Destin hosts more first-time visitors who in turn bring a different perspective to the area.   

“First time visitors have different expectations, and we need to understand those expectations,” he said.

As the summer season has come to a close, Kisela said that discussions of this new demographic will defiantly be on the table in an upcoming October meeting.

“This year was record numbers for tourists so obviously we have good things going,” he said. “We will be meeting with stakeholders from all of Destin’s industries to talk about what worked, what didn’t work, and how can we do it better.”

Overall, Kisela said the transition back to Destin has been smooth.

“Coming back to me, it’s like putting on an old pair of slippers,” he said. “It just feels really good.”