Sunday, June 27, 2010


Crestview is fast becoming a center of influence for higher education. Some of the reasons are, (1) A lot of folks are moving to this location and most of them are military personnel. (2) With the military personnel, they receive a lot of money for higher education thru 100% tuition assisitance while on active duty, and the varius GI Bill education programs after they retire and separate from the service, (3) the location of the Crestview on the I-10 cooridor make it assessible to folks in surrounding cities and town. Keep you eye on this, there will be more coming and don't think the other local colleges (Troy University, NWF State University, University of West Florida) are sitting on their heals through all this. Not only will this town be a military town, it will be a college town, as well.

By MICHAEL STEWART Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW — A ceremony to turn the historic Alatex building over to officials with Florida A&M University took place Saturday, almost three years to the day after efforts first began to bring a pharmacy to downtown Crestview. Crestview Mayor David Cadle and City Clerk Janice Young signed a deed transferring title to Tallahasseebased FAMU in front of the Alatex building on Woodruff Avenue. “Today, with this ceremony, we are making one of the dreams of reaching beyond our main campus to help educate and build other communities in the Panhandle a reality,” FAMU President James Ammons said. Ammons was joined by Henry Lewis, the dean of the university’s College of Pharmacy, along with members of the school’s famed Marching 100 band, which performed at one point under the direction of Cadle, a former band director at Crestview High School. Cadle called the event a “momentous occasion.” “This building will once again regain its rightful place as the leading economic center of our downtown area, and its presence will be honored and preserved.” Opened in 1937 as a garment factory that was once the major employer in Okaloosa County, the Alatex building struggled for years to find purpose despite its placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, it will serve as the newest satellite campus for FAMU. There, FAMU will offer students a PharmD degree, which leads to a pharmacy license. Future plans call for additional courses that will lead to masters and doctorate degrees in public health and health care management, as well as health administration, occupational therapy and physical therapy. A contract to renovate the building should be let in September, with the first 40 pharmacy students arriving by August 2011, Lewis said. The program is expected to expand. “At build-out, we will have about 160 pharmacy students,” Lewis said. Donald Palm, FAMU assistant vice president of academic affairs, said preliminary plans also call for the addition of a dental school by 2014. “Our program will deal with pediatrics and general dentistry,” Palm said. “We will be taking in classes of about 75 students per year.” A school of nursing could also be opened in the 40,000-square-foot building. Lewis said a study by the Florida Workforce Development Agency estimates the school will jump about $9.2 million annually into Crestview’s economy and will lead to the creation of about 95 new jobs. Ammons credited state Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, who first approached him about a FAMU campus in Crestview, with helping push the project through the Legislature. “This is a big day for Crestview,” Peaden said. Crestview resident Claudis Dale agreed. “Crestview is stepping up,” Dale said.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Area homes going green
Daily News Contributing Writer

By all outward appearances, Todd Stephens’ new home in Crestview looks like an ordinary house that could be found anywhere in Northwest Florida. Beneath the bricks and siding, however, is an ecologically green house, perhaps the first National Association of Home Builders gold-level certified green home in Okaloosa County. “You don’t go down the road and say ‘Oh, that’s a green house because look how odd it is,’” said Stephens, who is president of the Destin-based Southern American Homes. Stephens also serves as a member of the Building Industry Association of Okaloosa and Walton Counties green committee. The BIA’s green committee is dedicated to educating members and consumers about green and sustainable products in the building industry, and about how those products can be used in new and existing structures. “I’m not a tree hugger. I’m not an environmentalist, but some of this makes sense,” Stephens said about the green practices implemented into the construction of his home, which is near completion in Camellia Cove off Airport Road in the northeastern section of Crestview. To obtain gold level status for the home, Stephens had to incorporate green and sustainable factors into the entire construction process, beginning with the home concept and concluding with the actual home performance. “Technically it’s all about points,” he said. The point system developed by the NAHB requires builders seeking level certification of structures to follow an accumulation of green factors. These range from leaving indigenous vegetation on the lot to installing efficient appliances. It’s more than just choosing an eco-friendly floor product such as bamboo or cork. “They give you all different avenues to get the points,” Stephens said. “Which do you prefer?” For a gold scoring status, the NAHB requires an accumulation of 395 points, and with this house, Stephens has reached 460 points. Many of the practices that he used are commonly used by builders and developers who aren’t necessarily going for green but are going for sensible products and procedures. But some of the more unusual, although easily accomplished, steps have included separating recyclable materials. Stephens placed two waste dumpsters on the property and marked them for specific items. Workers also placed plastic water and soda bottles in boxes, separating them from other trash items. A walkway was designated for the workers, as well, so that they would inflect the least amount of damage to any vegetation on the property, thus cutting erosion and runoff of topsoil. “Everybody knows this is green, and they’re all excited about it,” Stephens said of the crews doing the work on the house. “So everybody is good about staying on the path or putting paper in the right bin.” As construction began, Stephens chose Bora-Care as a termite pretreatment method as opposed to a soil-saturation method. He also grouped utility lines together, having them run along the worker path, so fewer trees were removed from the property. Low-E windows have been installed, providing a high-performance in sunlight entering the home. High efficiency lighting and appliances will be installed, and the exterior siding contains some recycled materials. The insulation of the house, however, will give Stephens a return on his investment within a few years. “Batt insulation is the status quo for building,” he said of the pre-cut panels that are usually pink in color. Stephens opted to use a hybrid form of insulation, applying open-cell foam in some sections such as the ceiling and rafter areas. The foam is made of castor beans, a fast-growing crop. Batt insulation filled in other areas of the house. The up-front cost of the hybrid system is more, but Stephens expects the savings to come later through lower heating and cooling costs. For his 2,995 square-foot home, a batts-only system would cost about $3,500. The hybrid system costs about $8,000. “In less than five years, you’ve paid for that. Probably four years,” he said. The insulation alone won’t give Stephens the savings. He and his crew sealed the house. “We caulked every crack in this house before drywall,” he said, noting that it took 16 cases of caulk to accomplish the job. Other measures to accomplish the gold status include installation of an efficient on-demand hot water heating system, a cistern to collect rainwater for irrigation, use of indigenous and drought-resistant plants in the landscaping, and much more. So far, this particular house in Camellia Cove is the only with the gold rating, but Stephens has incorporated green practices in the other houses he has built in the 48-lot development. Selective clearing has been used on lots that have undergone development, and of the completed homes by Southern American Homes, paints low in volatile organic compounds and green-friendly termite treatments have been incorporated. One home in the development that is complete is a Southern American Homes entry in the 2010 Parade of Homes. The 1,820 square-feet home is listed at $189,900. The Parade home demonstrates something that Stephens says is easily achievable. It might not be a completely green house, but it features some green elements. “Green is feasible for anything you build,” Stephens said. “The big secret is you don’t have to go totally green to do some green. It’s not all or nothing. “The key is helping the customer understand which are the high-value green practices that they can incorporate in their home that’s going to pay them back over time,” he continued, but he also applied a bit of philosophy to the green idea. “There’re two types of people that green building appeals to: The people that want a payback. They want to know if they’re going to invest in green, then what’s the payback?” he said. “And then you’ve got the people that have a conviction. The cost is secondary to the purpose of going green.”

Friday, June 18, 2010


The area schools of Okaloosa County make the grade once again. This, along with many other factors, makes this one of the best areas to live and encourages both the military and private sector to move there businesses to our area.

Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4440   ]

Four Okaloosa County schools made Newsweek’s list of America’s Best High Schools. N i c e v i l l e , C h o c tawhatchee, Crestview and Fort Walton Beach high schools were all named in the annual ranking. Only the top 6 percent of all public high schools in the country made the list, which ranks schools based on the prevalence of college preparatory courses — Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge AICE. “This particular study, it is saying that we have opened up access; that more courses at higher levels are being offered,” said Niceville High School Principal Linda Smith. “And more students are taking advantage of the higherlevel courses.” Niceville was listed highest in the list at number 131. Choctaw came next at 268, then Crestview at 315, and Fort Walton Beach rounded out the group at 401. No school in Walton or Santa Rosa counties made the list. “I am very proud of them,” said Okaloosa Superintendent Alexis Tibbetts. “I know they work very hard … . We are making big inroads in closing the gap and getting even more kids in those programs.” Niceville High School has moved rapidly up in the rankings in the past couple of years to land in their current position. Just two years ago, the high school was ranked at 764, Smith said. But by the next school year, they had added a number of AP and AICE courses and jumped to 332 in the list. The school does not have an IB program. Choctaw is the only high school in the district with the IB program. Smith said Niceville might not make as big a leap in the rankings next year but said they are adding several new courses, including an AP psychology course. The best part of the college preparatory courses as a whole, she said, is how helpful they are for students once they reach college. “What I hear when they come back from the universities is, ‘I was so prepared … because I was accustomed to having to work hard for all seven periods,’ ” she said. This particular ranking, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. Smith said the most important element in all of this is how many of the students successfully pass the advanced courses. “It’s not just putting them in the course, it’s that they’re successful in the course,” she said. For the last two years, the school has held a 60 percent pass rate, and she has hopes they will meet or surpass that level when the information is available later this summer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010



The time has come and the Petty Officer Jones Memorial is becoming a reality. This journey has been long and hard, but a journey I would make over and over again, for a fellow Coast Guard Shipmate, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of his duties. The monument is being planned to placed on the grounds of Coast Guard Station Destin. A place he left one morning, but did not return. Gulf Coast Monuments of Fort Walton Beach has ordered the monument and the expected arrival is September 20, 2010. As we get closer to the completion of this monument, final arrangements will be made to unveil this monument to the public and pay respect and tribute to Petty Officer Lonnie Jones and his family.

As I have mentioned in the past, a couple of years ago, a group of Coast Guard supporters came together to have a memorial constructed for the late Petty Officer Jones, who gave his life in a Search and Rescue Mission in the early 1980’s in the Destin Pass. The initial desire was to have this memorial constructed on the West Jetties of the Destin Pass. However, because of the logistics of placing this memorial at this location and the sensitive environmental area surrounding it, a decision was made to place the Petty Officer Lonnie Jones Memorial at Coast Guard Station Destin.

When we formed this committee, we had three goals in mind, (1) Recognize the ultimate sacrifice that Petty Officer Lonnie Jones gave at the Destin Pass during a Search and Rescue Mission, (2) Recognize the Coast Guard for their service locally and around the world, (3) Recognizing how dangerous the Destin Pass is and hope the awareness of all of this might save future lives. With the movement of this memorial to this location, I believe we will be able to honor Petty Officer Jones and his family appropriately; and the thousands, who visit Coast Guard Station Destin, will understand the Coast Guard more and the sacrifices they make every day.

The memorial will be constructed of Black Granite and will sit on a 20” X 20” base and stand approximately 6’ high, with 34” of it being a Coast Guard Lighthouse. The cost of this endeavor will be approximately $4,500.00, which will pay for the monument, maintenance, and travel funds for his family to attend the unveiling of the monument. A capital campaign has been started and over a 1/3 amount has been collected as of this date. It is anticipated the monument will be unveiled to the public in late August/early September 2010. The local community has been very supportive of this initiative and I feel we will be able to reach our goal very quickly. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. Also, please don’t hesitate to forward this information to supporters wishing to donate to the worthwhile cause.

Monetary support for this cause can be done by mailing a check payable to H&S Title and Escrow, Attn: Petty Officer Lonnie Jones Memorial, at 151 Regions Way, Suite 1-A
Destin, FL 32541. They also can be contacted 850-650-6621 with any questions.

Ken Wright, USCG, Retired
Vice President of Northwest Florida
Military Officer's Association

Monday, June 14, 2010


As the report will indicate, we are going to need a lot of essential services, as well as, other items today's family needs, such as, things for entertainment, restaurants, retail shops, and much more. This report comes on the heals of the community crying out to the private sector to build baby build. The private sector crying to the banks, lend baby lend. Hopefully, the lending institutions will be able to see the light. These people are coming soon, and some have decided to come know. If you want to ready the entire report visit

Preparing for BRAC: Report details ways area must grow
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4443  

From emergency services to education, the population growth that will accompany the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter and the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) will affect many aspects of life on the Emerald Coast. The tri-county region is expected to gain an estimated 11,000 people by 2015. According to a recently released Tri-County Growth Management report, that population boom translates into a need for more law enforcement officers, teachers and public facilities, such as parks and libraries. The study was produced in order to ensure that communities are prepared for the impact to the population. Community leaders will be able to cite the federally funded report when requesting federal funds. It also serves as a gauge, identifying areas that might present future business opportunities, said Elliot Kampert, Okaloosa County’s director of growth management. For example, areas that will have additional families will need more child care businesses. “This study is a tool. It’s a community plan,” Kampert said. The report said the tricounty area will need 66 to 79 new teachers by 2015. Okaloosa County schools will see the greatest influx of students. Of the estimated 2,166 school-aged students, about 1,900 students will attend an Okaloosa County school, according to the report. To prepare for the additional students, the report suggested the district hire eight additional elementary school instructors — three new instructors for middle school and four for high school by 2015. Kay McKinley, Okaloosa’s deputy superintendent, said the district will not hire additional teachers based solely on the report. “We don’t have any concrete numbers,” she said. The report used a formula to predict the number of students, but the district will hire instructors according to the class-size guidelines of the state’s constitution. McKinley met with parents at Fort Bragg. Many of the families will start moving into the area this summer. The district has prepared “not necessarily for the number of students, but the type of students,” she said. Schools are preparing guidance counselors and principals for students who will deal with fathers on longer, more dangerous deployments than most of the current students. The district also has applied for a Department of Defense grant that will fund “military life education counselors.” The report said the Okaloosa County library system is operating below the state’s level of service standards. The standards are based on the number of square feet per population size. The county has about 90,000 square feet for a 2009 population of about 183,000 people and will need an additional 5,900 square feet because of BRAC. Most of the additional library space (4,900 square feet) will be needed in Crestview. Bob Gorin, Okaloosa County library co-op administrator, agreed with the report. “I think they (Crestview) need to expand the current library and build a branch library, be it a storefront or new building, in south Crestview,” he said. The report also suggested that Fort Walton Beach continue with plans to build a branch in Kenwood. According to the report, Walton, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties will need 21 additional law enforcement officers, the majority of them (17) in Crestview. The report also suggested the area hire an additional 17 firefighters. Crestview likely will need an additional fire station and 13 of the 17 firefighters by 2015. More important than the additional personnel will be the additional training, the report states. Public safety and emergency services will see an increase in cases involving people with post traumatic stress disorders and traumatic brain injuries.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I hope I have been able to illustrate the growth this area is going through now. With the movement of the 7th Special Forces Group, the F-35 Training Program, the growth of the Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, and much more, we will be needing the home/commercial building industry along with the banking industry to free up capital, so they may provide the housing and commercial needs of these folks. Take a look at the previous stories in my Blog, which has outlined just some of the positive economic news these iniatiatives are making in our area. OH YEA. The OIL SPILL does not affect this type of growth. These folks are ORDERED here because of military relignment.


A recently released University of West Florida Haas Center study has determined that the arrival of the 59 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and the development of the JSF Training Center, a new high-tech training center at Eglin Air Force Base will provide a cumulative impact of over
$1.5 billion in gross regional product to the Fort Walton Beach area of Northwest Florida, with nearly $345 million sustained annually through 2017 and beyond. During the next five years, the Joint Strike Fighter program is forecast to generate 3,500 jobs and positively impact the
region’s population by an increase of 4,000 individuals. The University of West Florida Haas Center study is available at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Local Builder's Industry Association Visits Fort BRAC (Present Home of 7th Special Forces)

The local BIA visited Fort Bragg and participated in a local forum to assist families of the Army's 7th Special Forces Group in moving to our area. Of this attending, a number of folks participated in an informal survey to discuss their housing needs. The results of this survey by the BIA is noted below. As a former Military Housing Director, I would be more than happy to share some thoughts on this matter. You must understand, this move of this type of military personnel is much different than what this area is accustomed. Many different needs.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


If you have any property in the State of Florida and desire to sell or develop, you must learn about Amendment 4, which is being placed on the November 2010 Ballot. Basically, Amendment 4 will allow the general population to vote on Comprehensive Landuse Changes in their area. Have you heard, NIMBY (Not in My Backyard). If this gets voted in, property with the entitlement you need would be worth more. If it does not have the entitlement you desire, it could be worth much less. My opinion, VOTE NO!!!! If you need further clarification, visit