Update: Destin city manager announces retirement amidst reported 'tension'

Savannah Vasquez

Destin City Manager Greg Kisela announced plans to retire Thursday morning via email to city council members.

“I appreciate the opportunity of having served the citizens and community of Destin,” the letter reads. “The city has a tremendously talented and dedicated staff working tirelessly to make Destin a better place to live, work, and play. I have been honored to have served with you and them during my tenure as your City Manager.”

But at least one councilmember said Kisela “retired” as members were discussing whether they had confidence in the job he was doing.

“I know there’s been a lot of issues pop up in the last week or two that has put a lot of pressure on the city manager and staff and there has been discussion of a vote of no confidence that would have been brought up at council, but obviously now it’s moot,” said City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell, who for several months has been feuding publicly with Kisela. “We are just facing a whole bunch of controversial issues, and he’s definitely been feeling the heat.”

Kisela rejected the idea that stress from city issues led to his decision to retire.

“If you are a city manager working in the public sector, that’s just the normal stuff,” Kisela said. “These positions are stressful. Nothing that we’ve been through these last couple years has been any different from what I’ve gone through in 25 years in city government.”

Kisela added that this spring makes 47 years in his working career and he will celebrate his 62nd birthday in June.

“I think it’s time for me to take it a little bit easier,” he said.

This will be Kisela’s fourth career change in five years as he moved from Destin city manager to WaltonCounty administrator to city manager of Port Orange, Florida, before returning to Destin in August of 2014.

Kisela’s announcement comes just four months after he received a 1-percent pay increase, boosting his annual salary from $119,704 to $120,901.74. Many council members said that they were surprised by Kisela’s retirement, but could feel the tension rising.

“We go through city managers pretty fast in Destin and I don’t know why,” said Councilman Cyron Marler. “Kisela has been the best city manager I’ve ever worked for. I’m sad that he’s going to leave us, but you know life goes on. I texted (Kisela) back and forth and he said, ‘It’s all good. There’s no major problems,’ so I just figure he’s had enough and I don’t blame him.”

Councilman Jim Foreman said he remembers Kisela’s first time serving as Destin’s city manager from 2003 to 2011.

“We go back a long ways. I was on the selection committee on the council the time he was first hired,” Foreman said. “The fact is I think he is a great city manager and has done a lot for the city of Destin.”

However, Foreman said even with all Kisela has done for the city, he believes some issues on the comprehensive plan are what ultimately persuaded Kisela to retire.

“He’s been caught up in some of the controversial things,” Foreman said. “We have really struggled over the last years with our comprehensive plan, particularly in land use, and I think this current bunch of new council members largely came in trying to force those issues. I hate to see him go, but I could almost see it happening.”

According to the city’s employment agreement, Kisela will remain in office for 60 days until June 16. Moving forward, the council will now look toward finding a new city manager.

New councilman Chatham Morgan said he wants to invest extra energy into this selection process.

“Typically, the council will launch a head hunting search but I don’t know if that’s our best approach,” Morgan said. “What I would like to see is for us to look at cities that have parallel challenges to Destin and see how they have reached success and try to learn from them.”

Kisela said he plans to stay in Destin after his retirement.

“In June, I actually have a sail boat cruise on the Great Lakes scheduled, and I’m looking forward to that trip,” Kisela said.