The race is on for Destin's mayor seat

Tony Judnich

Gary Jarvis, president of the Destin Charter Boat Association and captain of the charter boat Backdown 2, aims to become the city's next mayor.

Jarvis recently pre-filed as a candidate for the mayor’s seat that will be open in the March 13 city election. He and current Mayor Scott Fischer thus far are the only two candidates for the position.

Jarvis said while he has not run for political office before, he has lived in Destin for 40 years and has the leadership skills required for the job.

"If anybody knows Destin and the harbor and what it means to the community, it’s me," he said last Friday.

For the past four years, Jarvis has served as president of the Destin Charter Boat Association, which represents more than 80 professional fishing companies that make up Destin’s fishing fleet. He is also the founder of the Galveston, Texas-based Charter Fisherman’s Association, which represents more than 500 professional fishing business owners/operators in all five states on the Gulf of Mexico.

Jarvis said he has several concerns about Destin’s government.

"I think maybe the city government has lost its ability to serve its constituents, and there may be a vacuum of leadership on the City Council," he said. Some city officials seem to want "to limit people’s attempts to make a living here in the city limits. As a businessman, I’ve run into issues with permitting. It seems like the city staff is running around on pins and needles and are not sure of what’s going to come down from above."

Jarvis also said that he also doesn’t like how some council meetings last for more than four or five hours.

"It’s difficult for citizens to sit through an agonizing, slow meeting when they have families and jobs," he said. "I run a very efficient meeting, and I think I can make more people feel like they can participate in the city government."

Fischer is seeking his first four-year mayoral term. He is serving the remaining two years of the term of former mayor and current state Rep. Mel Ponder, who left office when he decided to run for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2016.

Frost Jones, who has been a resident of Destin since 1998, recently became the sixth candidate to pre-file in order to run for one of three open council seats in the March election.

"I feel there is a good possibility that I could provide a unique perspective to the City Council and add some diversity, since there’s presently only one woman on the council," she said.

Jones, who is a professional photographer and an ordained minister who conducts wedding ceremonies, said she is very active in the community and does a lot of charity work. For example, she works with several churches to provide food for the less fortunate, has helped with hurricane relief efforts and is involved with Destin Harvest and the local Homelessness and Housing Alliance.

"I feel like I can offer a voice that has not been heard or considered in awhile on the council," Jones said. "I’m 60 years old now, and I observe things (that need improvement) like parking issues, traffic problems and density issues. And I think we should treat each other well and lead with kindness, and not judge each other harshly when we’re working on things for the community."

The other candidates seeking one of the three council seats are Mark Robertson, Skip Overdier, former Councilman Jim Wood and incumbent council members Prebble Ramswell and Rodney Braden.

The official qualifying period for candidates is from noon Jan. 1 through noon Jan. 5. Because of the holiday, the period will go into effect when the Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Office opens at 8 a.m. Jan. 2.

Candidates can pre-file at any time before the qualifying period so they can start collecting and spending campaign money.