Kisela signing off: A look back at his 47-year career

Savannah Vasquez
City Manager Greg Kisela has served Destin for a total of 10 years. He and his wife Lucy plan to live in Destin after his retirement June 16.

City Manager Greg Kisela has a lot to be proud of.

Although there has been tension in the last few months of his tenure in Destin, Kisela had nothing but kind words to say about his favorite city in Florida.

“I took a big pay cut to come here because we wanted to be here,” he said referring to he and his wife, Lucy. “We had never been to Destin before, but we stumbled across it in October of 2002 because I had a sister living in Tallahassee. We wanted to go to the beach and my sister suggested Destin and that’s when we really fell in love with it for the first time. The natural beauty here is second to none.”

During his 47-year career, Kisela said he slowly transitioned from working for water and sewer companies to his roles in city and county management.

“I went from working for a privately-owned water and sewer company to running the water and sewer for the city of Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “At Fort Lauderdale, every time someone left I got that responsibility; from parks and recreation to public works. Basically I was doing what I do here now, but at a much larger scale.”

In 1991, after 19 years in the water and sewer business, Kisela became the city manager for Fort Lauder-dale and held that title until 2004 when he made the move to Destin.

“I never set out to be a city manager, that was not part of my goal,” Kisela said of the career transi-tion. “But what I really enjoy is the operations.”

In comparing the city manager position at Fort Lauderdale to that of Destin, Kisela said it’s really the same job, just on a different scale; Fort Lauderdale being close to 10 times larger than Destin. However, Kisela said from the management viewpoint, he preferred his role in Destin.

“Destin is unique in that you can see the direct byproducts of your work,” he said. “What’s exciting about Destin is its really hands-on, and as a smaller city it can really give you better satisfaction.”

Kisela said some of the projects he is most proud of come from his first Destin tenure between 2004-2011.

“When I was here the first time, before the redevelopment of the town center, there was not even a contiguous sidewalk from (U.S. Highway) 98 to Airport Road,” he said. “We spent close to $15 million dollars revitalizing that corridor from Main Street to Legion and Airport Road.”

Other projects Kisela said he was privileged to play a hand in were the beach restoration project of the Crystal Beach area in 2007, renovations to Mountain Drive, plans for the boardwalk along the harbor in 2011 and the city’s acquisition of both the parking lot on Marler Drive and the Royal Melvin Heritage Park on U.S. 98.

When asked if he will miss working for the city of Destin, Kisela didn’t hesitate to answer.

“There’s no doubt I’m going to miss it,” he said. “To do something for this amount of time, if you don’t miss it, you didn’t really ever enjoy it. I’ve pretty much enjoyed every job I’ve ever had.”

As for his plans for retirement, Kisela said he and his wife plan to take a sailing trip in Lake Michigan.

“I’ve always wanted to sail the Great Lakes, so at the end of June we will join a flotilla of about 12-15 other sailboats.”

Kisea added that after the vacation he does plan to stay involved with the city in some form or another.

“I’m going to think about what I can do to contribute,” he said. “There are lots of needs and I want to make sure whatever I do just adds value back to the community.”