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Graham Fountain says he won’t seek re-election

Tony Judnich
tjudnich@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

SHALIMAR — Okaloosa County District 1 Commissioner Graham Fountain told his fellow commissioners Tuesday morning that he will not seek re-election this year.

Fountain was elected to his first/current four-year term in November 2016. District 1 includes most of Crestview.

Because of health concerns, Fountain began attending the commission’s regular and special meetings via a video feed from his home several weeks ago.

At Tuesday’s board session, Fountain said he was honored to serve on the commission, including during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, but that he and his wife, Felicia, have decided it’s time for him to take another route.

“During the past week, Felicia and I have decided I am not going to seek re-election in August,” Fountain said. “It‘s tough. I didn’t make the decision lightly.”

He added that he didn’t know if he could continue on the job for another four years.

“This is a young man’s game,” said Fountain, who added, “Fresh faces are not a bad thing.”

An Okaloosa County native, he said he was not going to shy away from public service but wants to travel, stay active in community matters and get back to some writing that he hasn’t been able to enjoy in recent years.

Fountain’s announcement about his departure from the commission was made on his birthday.

He was elected as the commission’s vice-chair in his first year in office and chairman for the board’s 2018 session. A retired state and local law-enforcement executive, Fountain serves as the board’s liaison to the county public safety agencies, Duke Field and the 7th Special Forces Command.

“It’s been my honor to serve with you on this board,” Commission Chairman Trey Goodwin told Fountain.

Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel told Fountain that his decision to leave the commission comes from the right place and that God has a plan for him.

“I’ll miss all of your stories,” Ketchel said.

Commissioner Kelly Windes said Fountain has always been well-informed and that it has been a privilege to serve with him.

Immediately after Fountain’s announcement, James Walker remained the only official candidate for the District 1 commissioner seat.

But Wayne Harris, who served two terms as District 1 commissioner prior to Fountain being elected, said Tuesday he has decided to run again for the seat.

Harris said he would file to run for the seat Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

He was the executive director for the Crestview Chamber of Commerce when he won the seat for the first time in 2008. He was re-elected to the commission in 2012.

During Harris’s tenure on the commission, the county weathered the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and suffered through the scandal created by then-Tourist Development Department head Mark Bellinger.

Harris stepped down from the commission after his second term and Fountain won the election to succeed him. Harris went on to run for the state representative’s seat that opened up when now U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz stepped down.

Harris was defeated in that effort by state Rep. Mel Ponder, who this year could wind up joining Harris on the County Commission.