Wednesday, August 24, 2011


We have done it again. Our schools continue to be another great reason for folks to move to our area. Great job by all for their efforts and the support given by the community. Without this team effort, the children would not be succeeding. BRAVO ZULU.

Okaloosa tops ACT scores
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4440   Okaloosa County students again have earned the highest scores in Florida on the ACT. Seniors from the class of 2011 earned a composite score of 22.7, which was about three points higher than the state average, according to information from the Florida Department of Education. “We’re ahead in everything,” said Superintendent of Schools Alexis Tibbetts. “It says that our students are well prepared (for college).” Students in Santa Rosa and Walton counties also earned composite scores above the state average. However, Florida was tied with Kentucky near the bottom in the nation for its overall score. Only Mississippi and Tennessee had lower composite scores, and 100 percent of students in each of those other states took the test. Only about 66 percent of Florida students took the test. Local educators said the state’s low composite score is not reflective of local education trends. “We’re the best of the best in Florida and that means our county is competitive (in the nation),” Tibbetts said. The test, which is not mandatory for Florida students, is a cumulative college entrance exam. It is divided into four sections — English, reading, math and science — that measure a students’ readiness for college, said Steve McLaughlin, who oversees the test results for Okaloosa County schools. In Okaloosa, which sees about 60 percent of each senior class go to college, 57.7 percent of seniors took the test. McLaughlin said that paints a fairly accurate snapshot of the district. “I would say it’s very reflective,” he said. “It’s a big mirror of the community.” More than 60 percent of students in both Santa Rosa and Walton counties also took the test. Santa Rosa’s composite score remained mostly unchanged, increasing by one-tenth of a point. Walton County, which is a significantly smaller school district, saw a slight dip in all areas. “We’re not super discouraged by it and we’re hoping to ramp everything up,” said David Jeselnik, coordinator of school improvement and accountability for the Walton school district. The slight drop in the score was a first in several years for the district, and officials haven’t had enough time yet to identify what happened, he said. In the meantime, to help increase not only test scores but student preparedness for college, the school district has begun bringing more Advanced Placement courses into the high schools. In the past, it has focused more on dual-enrollment courses not only because of the costs associated with AP courses, but also because it’s what students and their parents were interested in. “For a small school district we’ve really stepped up to do this in a big way,” Jeselnik said. “And we’re hoping to see the results soon.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011


As the President of the Northwest Florida Military Officers Association, I was able to attend a briefing and tour at the F-35 Training Squadron on Friday, August 19, 2011. This facility was quite impressive and movement around the installation was at a very high pace. I can tell you the two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are very impressive and are doing quite well. Also, the morale is very high from the top to the bottom of the chain of command. I have seen both the 7th Special Forces Group new installation, and I can assure you, the F-35 Training Facility does not take a back seat. Both of these installations have cost close to a 1 BILLION dollars, yes 1 BILLION. I am quite confident from our briefing, you want this plane and this country needs this plane. Just listen to the news tonight on what an air campaign can accomplish in Libya and what the Special Forces folks have recently done, as well. Both of these programs are the tip of our spear in the Defense of our Country. More importantly, they save lots of money, and more importantly, they save lots of lives. Yes, military lives. Oh yea, these two programs have been transferred here. I wish I could tell you more and I wish I could have showed you more. But all I can tell you. I am proud to be an American.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


We done it again. We have got the eyes of the world.

Emerald Coast makes National Geographic’s Top 10 fall travel destinations
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
Many locals believe fall is the best time of year in Northwest Florida. Now they have a little more proof that they’re right. National Geographic’s website this week listed the Emerald Coast as one of its Top 10 fall travel destinations. National Geographic singled out Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island in its description of the Emerald Coast. It highlighted the area’s more than 1,080 championship-caliber golf holes and the month-long Destin Fishing Rodeo as some of the main draws. “We’re real excited about that,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the fishing rodeo. “I don’t think we could have asked for any better publicity for our area. That’s an international publication. People from all over the world check out that website to determine where they want to come when they go on vacation, and for us to have gotten any kind of coverage in that, money can’t buy coverage like that. “You can’t ask for better weather. The water is never prettier than it is in the fall and it’s a great destination,” Donaldson added. “Our weather starts turning perfect right there about the first of October.” Other destinations that made National Geographic’s list included the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces in S w i t z e r l a n d ; t h e Cannstatter Volkfest in Stuttgart, Germany; and Zanzibar, Tanzania. Closer to home, the three other American destinations listed were Columbus, Ohio; the White Mountains of New Hampshire; and the Shoreline Highway in Marin County, Calif. Representatives from National Geographic did not respond to messages seeking comment about the list. “Really the fall, for those who live here, is an incredibly good time because the roads are not as crowded, it’s not as hot, yet the Gulf is still very swimmable and enjoyable,” said Ted Corcoran, executive director of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. “There are those who feel our area is most beautiful in the fall. What better way to showcase that to folks from around the world than to experience it at its finest time of year.
“For the first-time visitor, it might be the best time to come because they don’t experience the traffic, they don’t experience the blazing heat that we have here in the summertime, and they get off-season rates of lodging and food and retail. It’s perfect,” he added.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Home sales up, why yes. As mentioned many times before, we have a massive number of folks coming to our area because of the Army’s Special Forces, F-35 Training Program, and a number of other transfers to the area. Also, we have a large reduction of military housing because of the shift in military housing philosophy. This will continue to place a drain on our quality housing inventory. In our RE/MAX offices we are seeing a number of families coming to the area on a housing hunting visit in hopes to find a quality home to purchase or rent, only finding both are in low supply. Thus forcing them to make other choices, such as making a decision not to move the family to their new duty station locally or finding temporary housing with family or friends, until they find a place they can call home.

Single-family home sales up
Okaloosa, Walton counties see large gains in July; fewer homes sold in Santa Rosa
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
Single-family home and condominium sales in July outpaced last year’s numbers, but property values continued to fluctuate in Northwest Florida. Metro Market Trends released its July sales reports for Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties earlier this week. The number of single-family homes and condominiums sold in Okaloosa and Walton counties increased compared to July 2010, but sales of houses in Santa Rosa County lagged by about 7 percent. “I think we’re just going to build this year,” said Jean Floyd, a local Realtor and president of the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. “The confidence is up and you’re at a great bargaining position on some of these distressed properties, and interest rates are still at an all-time low. It’s the best time for a buyer to get in a market.” In Okaloosa, 305 single-family homes were sold last month. That is an increase of almost 22.5 percent compared to July 2010, when 249 homes were sold. Condominium and townhome sales saw an even larger increase, at 80 percent. Walton County saw similar increases. Single-family home sales were up 35.19 percent, and condominium/townhome sales jumped 78.18 percent. However, the number of single-family homes sold in Santa Rosa fell nearly 7 percent in July, although the condo/townhome market was up 40 percent. “People are investing in the condo and attached homes more, so the supply and demand is driving up the cost,” Floyd said. “In the single-family, there is a supply and demand (issue), but we have so much supply and so many distressed sales that it’s keeping that value down.” Real estate values continued to fluctuate in July. Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties both saw their average sale price for condominiums and townhomes increase compared to July 2010, while the average price of single-family homes dropped, according to Metro Market Trends. The average price of each condo/townhome sold in Okaloosa in July was $290,741, while the average price in Santa Rosa was $241,071. In July 2010, the average price in Okaloosa County was $224,094 and the average price in Santa Rosa County was $214,380. For single-family homes, the average price in Okaloosa dropped from $232,651 last July to $213,498 this year, In Santa Rosa, the price dropped from $182,132 in 2010 to $171,142 this year. “What that means is the people are seeing good deals,” said David Goetsch, a local economist and vice president for community relations and workforce development at Northwest Florida State College. “The foreclosures are getting cleaned out of the inventory on the basis of cash sales, and that’s very good news because until the inventory is gone, people don’t start buying the new ones. “Home values, I think, are going to continue to remain stably low for at least another period,” Goetsch added. “Sales are good. Although there’s an upswing in the selling of single-family residences, that’s still primarily cleaning out the (foreclosure) inventory. Until you really get that inventory completely cleaned out, your home prices are not going to start to go up. You almost have to be building new homes before you see home prices start to go up.” In Walton County, values shot up dramatically in both the condominium/townhome market and in single-family homes. The average price of each condo/townhome sold in July was $287,976, compared to $238,327 last July. Single-family homes had an even larger increase, from $328,640 last July to $619,942 last month. Goetsch said he recently spoke with one of the area’s condominium professionals who told him that 90 percent of the area’s condo sales were cash purchases. Goetsch said he does not expect to see the large increase in property values in Okaloosa County, and that the recent downgrade in the nation’s credit rating could hurt prices in the future.
“(July’s numbers are) positive. This is going to be the new normal I think for the next five years,” Goetsch said. “We’re going to see slight upturns, I don’t think we’re going to see any major upward swings. I think our economy’s recovery is going to be so slow that it’s going to feel like it’s in molasses.”

Monday, August 15, 2011


Daily Real Estate News Monday, August 15, 2011

With fewer rentals available across the country but strong demand, rents are expected to rise rapidly, experts say. Rents are expected to rise faster than the 2 percent to 3 percent average annual increase that was predicted earlier this year, RISMedia reports.

Vacancies for rental housing was 9.2 percent for the second quarter — 1.4 percent lower than a year ago — and a level that hasn’t been reached since 2003, according to the Census Bureau

Saturday, August 13, 2011


As the Base Commander of Edwards AFB noted in a late Press Release on Friday, August 12, 2011, the Privatization Program, which includes Eglin AFB is put on hold. What does this mean? The private sector will continue to be asked to shoulder the burden of finding ways to house their servicemen and women during this uncertainity. Again, as a former Military Housing Director, I can assure you the cost of housing the military by giving them their housing entitlement, is far more cost efficient than building housing on base, and is the first choice when providing housing in a specific area. I expect Eglin will be announcing this very shortly, as well. Give me a call, if you have any questions.

Commander's Message: AF puts hold on housing privatization
by Col. Gregory Schwab
95th Air Base Wing commander
8/12/2011 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Edwards AFB Military Family Housing Community,This is to inform you that the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations has directed actions related to the upcoming Continental Group Housing Privatization project be put on hold. The Continental Group Housing Privatization project includes Edwards AFB, Calif.; Eglin AFB, Fla.; Eielson AFB, Alaska; McConnell AFB, Kan.; Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.; and Hurlburt Field, Fla. According to Housing Privatization Program Management officials, the project was placed on hold due to Air Force issues unrelated to housing privatization, the Continental Group Housing Privatization project or Picerne Military Housing. What this means to you, the Edwards AFB residents, is that the 95th Air Base Wing will take no further action towards privatization at this time. Issues dealing with signing leases, starting allotments for rent, transferring yard care responsibilities to Picerne will not proceed any further. We will provide you an update when any further information becomes available. For now, all Edwards residents should continue to use the military family housing office as the source for all their housing needs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


What does this mean. This is what I have been describing to many of you for years. As noted, Eglin AFB is the sister base of Edwards AFB, which was largely responsible for the silicone valley of the west coast. With one of the missions of Eglin AFB being testing (weapons and planes), and now with the Training of the F-35 pilots, you can see how this is playing out. Weapons may be expensive, however personnel are much more expensive. Morale of this story. With these factors in our area, more and more defense contractors are finding their way to our area, not only for military application of this technology, but commercial application of this technology, as well.

Engineers, scientists, techies boost Okaloosa to Forbes Top 20
Florida Freedom Newspapers
If Okaloosa County had a closet, tucked beneath the stacks of flip-flops and swimsuits would be a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, a TI-89 graphing calculator and some freshly pressed khakis. The Crestview, Fort Walton Beach and Destin metro area recently was ranked No. 20 on Forbes list of America’s Geekiest Cities. The report defined geeks as “any workers with a bachelor’s level of knowledge and education in science or engineering-related fields or workers in occupations that require some degree of technical knowledge or training.” Larry Sassano, president of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, said it was interesting to see the small Metropolitan Statistical Area among large cities such as Seattle and San Jose, Calif. “The STEMs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are strengths in our area because of our excellent universities and colleges and our top-ranked schools,” said Sassano, who added that the area’s 250-plus contractors and Eglin Air Force Base’s research and development and test and evaluation missions attract many engineers, scientists and technical men and women. “Given all the expansion in the area, I could see there being a lot of attraction for those skill sets,” said Matthew Myers, a Destin resident and IT manager with Niceville’s Data Software Services. Still, he said he was stunned to see the area on the list of hot spots such as Framingham, Mass., home of Bose, Staples and a sizable Genzyme research center. After serving in the Air Force, Myers worked in the tech industry in Dallas for a Fortune 1000 company. But all projects were cut after 9/11, and he decided to move to the beach town he had vacationed at for years. After starting his computer service and repair business 10 years ago, “the hardest obstacle for me was finding employees with that fine, basic skill set I needed,” he said. Myers said he believes Eglin and Hurlburt Field help to enhance those numbers by attracting several defense contractors for big projects. “I think this is more of attraction. There is not much homegrown so to speak,” he said. Of the workforce in the Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin area, 8.8 percent, about 7,200 workers, are employed in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics field. John Elamad, a civil and structural engineer, also was surprised to see the area on the list of high tech venues. Despite the lack of workers in the private sector, “Eglin Air Force Base is a prime location for defense contractors. Not only is it one of the largest, but several missions are carried out from there,” said Elamad, the owner of EMC in Destin. It takes geeks to “service military equipment and conduct research and development on new projects.” Shane Moody, president and CEO of the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce, hopes the chamber can use the ranking to help bring more small, techoriented companies to the area. “Even though the list is titled ‘geekiest,’ I think it’s a great compliment,” he said.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Okay my fellow natives, it is not like we didn’t know this already. I guess the 4.5 million viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America will find out now.

"Good Morning America," Emeril Lagasse to profile Destin on Thursday in bid for No. 1 spot
William Hatfield
2011-08-08 15:33:57

It’s a good day for Destin on Good Morning America — but it could be even better with your vote.
The ABC morning show put our city among its “10 Most Beautiful Places in America” list along with Asheville, N.C., Aspen, Colo., Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii and others. Now it wants America to determine which is the "awe-inspiring winner."
It’s all thanks to Terri Rose of Niceville, who nominated “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”
“Dramatic sunsets, miles and miles of seashore and sugar-white sand all make Destin, Fla., the "Most Beautiful Place in America" for 'GMA' viewer Terri Rose of Niceville,” the television show’s web site states. “When Rose submitted her description of the seaside town, nestled in Florida's northern panhandle, we knew we had to find that spot.”
GMA, which attracts an average audience of about 4.5 million people, is profiling all ten locations. Sandestin resident, Food Network superstar chef and GMA contributor Emeril Lagasse will be the tour guide during the segment, which will air on Thursday morning, according to an on-air plug. The morning show’s web site is also inviting viewers to vote online for the top spot.
To vote for Destin as the top spot in the “10 Most Beautiful Places” list, click here.
“Destin, Fla., a seaside town in Florida's northern Panhandle earned a spot on "Good Morning America's" 10 Most Beautiful Places list for it's gorgeous beaches, ripe for boating, sailing and fishing,” the Web site states. “Just ask Emeril Lagasse who went out on a boat and explored the treasure trove of ocean life, from snapper to mackerel to grouper and more.”
Here's the city of Destin's take on the news.
The City of Destin, along with the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council (TDC), encourages everyone to tune in this week to ABC’s Good Morning America as it names Destin as one of the 10 Most Beautiful Places in America.
GMA will likely air the Destin segment during tomorrow morning’s show. However, it could be Thursday or Friday as the countdown continues throughout the week.
Destin Mayor Sam Seevers says, “This is incredible news and now the rest of the country will see just how beautiful our city is. And, it doesn’t stop with aesthetics. The most wonderful people in the country live right here. I am so proud to call Destin my home.”
The contest began with GMA’s request for anyone to submit a picture of their most beautiful place in America. Producers sifted through thousands and concluded with Destin in the top ten. The winning photo was of a signature sunset over the Destin Bridge at Harry T’s.
GMA came to Destin to film the special segment last week with correspondent and world-renowned chef Emeril Lagasse. The show interviewed the TDC’s public relations associate, Nicole Scott, to speak on what makes Destin so special.
“Destin is a very unique place in that it is still a secret place to some. It still has that casual small-town feel with southern charm and hospitality. It’s no surprise that it is ranked within GMA’s Top Ten, but it is still extremely flattering to have such recognition,” says Scott.
GMA has requested everyone to cast their vote within the Top Ten. Please take a few moments to cast your vote for Destin! Please click on the following link to view and vote!

Monday, August 8, 2011


Eglin AFB receive an accolade for being the Department of Defense (DOD) Installation of the Year. This is one of the highest praises for a military installation and is just another reason why future growth is probable here in the Panhandle of Florida. With over a BILLION dollars of construction completed or in the works at this time, it shows the commitment the DOD has in streamlining processes and maximizing the talents and resources at Eglin AFB and the surrounding areas. With this said, you will find them looking to consolidate these resources and personnel in our area. Our area is not only a cost benefit to the military, it is a strategic location in our defense of our country.

EDC DSI Member and Eglin AFB Receive Accolades at National Defense Conference
Kay Rasmussen, Vice President Community & Economic Development
July 30, 2011, Economic Development Council serving Okaloosa County

Two local military proponents were honored recently at the annual national Association of Defense Communities conference in Norfolk, Virginia. The ADC Awards Program is a unique national program which recognizes outstanding quality projects and initiatives in communities with active and realigning or closing installations, the individuals that lead them and members from the military supporting them recognizing them for their outstanding achievements. The program recognizes innovative plans and projects and is the centerpiece of ADC’s efforts to identify and promote best practices. Santa Rosa Commissioner Don Salter and Col Sal Nodjomian, 96ABW/CC Commander received two of the eight honors extended at the conference.

Don Salter has participated on the DSI for a number of years representing Santa Rosa County and was recently honored at the National Association of Defense Communities’ annual conference in Norfolk, VA. Over the past 20 years, Don Salter, a commissioner for Santa Rosa County, has been a guiding force in Northwest Florida’s support of the military, helping to protect Naval Air Station Whiting Field from encroachment while strengthening ties among the region’s installations, local leaders and businesses. In addition, Salter has also provided unwavering support in honor of and in assistance toward military veterans. In recognition of his long-standing efforts, the national Association of Defense Communities selected Salter to receive its Active Base Community Leadership Award at its July conference.

The Defense Support Initiative is sponsored by the Economic Development Council serving Okaloosa County and focuses its efforts on supporting local military installations and their missions, the communities that house them and local jobs resulting from the military’s presence. The DSI is a tri-county committee comprised of approximately 25 members of retired military officers, Military Affairs Committees, and community and business leaders.

Salter comments on the award, “I am honored to have been nominated and to receive the ADC 2011 Defense Community Award – and I accept this prestigious recognition on behalf of all who have fought so hard over the years to support the continued military presence in our community.” He continues, “I am especially appreciative of Kay Rasmussen, Jim Breitenfeld and the members of the three-county Defense Support Initiative who supported my nomination for the award and for all that they do to support our warriors and their families in Northwest Florida.”

Eglin Air Force Base was honored with the distinguished DOD Installation of the Year award for their support and partnership of the Northwest Florida Greenway Initiative. The Greenway Initiative was created in 2000 by the EDC and its DSI with support from the first of four state Defense Infrastructure Grants. The Greenway project was initiated to protect and sustain existing military lands and airspace, preserve the environmental quality and biodiversity of the region, maintain the economic viability of the timber lands, and create additional recreational activities by protecting a corridor of undeveloped land between the Eglin Air Force Base Range and the Apalachicola National Forest. Col. Sal Nodjomian, Commander 96 ABW/CC was present at the conference to receive the recognition.

Monday, August 1, 2011


As mentioned before, if you thought the 7th Special Forces Group was going to make an impact in the area, you haven’t seen anything. Having attended a number of briefings, both public and private on the F-35 Training Squadron, I am quite confident this program is going to provide a number of opportunities throughout the area for many years to come. As you read below, Eglin is gearing up for this growth, which will include temporary and permanent lodging for a number of folks.

Eglin gearing up for F-35 training
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4443   EGLIN AFB — The 33rd Fighter Wing might have received its first two F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but it is in no hurry to take them for a spin. Eglin’s F-35 Academic Training Center is the first Department of Defense-integrated program for the F-35. Base officials said the ATC will spend the next few months “building a template for how training will be conducted worldwide.” The wing’s mission is to train Air Force, Marine, Navy and international ally pilots and maintainers of the F-35 Lightning II. Each service is reviewing and approving the course syllabi. The wing has started putting the tentative syllabi to use, testing the program that has been under development since last year. According to Eglin officials, the school is slated to start pilot training later this year. “A student pilot at Eglin will receive about 200 hours of academics, 14 simulators, a ground procedures familiarization and six flights in the airplane before deemed qualified,” said Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing. Once in full swing, the school will train 100 pilots and 2,200 maintainers annually. Maintenance training will begin in August. Students will use simulators at the beginning. “Technological advances in computer-based training is just one of the many improvements students will experience with the military’s latest weapons system,” Toth said. In addition to the Full Mission Simulator system and maintenance trainers, Lockheed Martin will deliver the weapons loader trainer in August. Once the training is complete, the maintainers and pilots are certified ready to fly and maintain the aircraft. The first class of certified operators and maintainers will be the school’s instructors. “The operational utility evaluation for training will begin in October and last approximately 12 weeks. Four pilots, two from operational test and two from the 58th Fighter Squadron, will participate. When completed, they will be fully qualified for early flight training,” Toth said. The training and certification of instructors is expected to continue into next year. So far, two of the wing’s pilots are certified to fly the Joint Strike Fighters. They trained for a month at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before flying in the first two F-35s this month. Lt. Col. Eric Smith delivered Eglin’s first aircraft, AF-9, on July 14. “Taking off in the F-35 for the first time, I experienced an adrenaline rush like I hadn’t felt since I flew an A-10 for the first time,” Smith said. “The difference this time is the fact that the F-35 is such a new airplane. If something goes wrong you may be the first pilot to deal with the problem, with only your previous fighter experience to rely on. Fortunately, my first flight went off without a hitch.” Smith moved to the 33rd Fighter Wing in 2009 after spending two years as a developmental test pilot with the 46th Test Wing. As the director of operations for the 58th Fighter Squadron, Smith will oversee flight operations of the initial group of F-35 pilots. Maj. Joseph Bachmann of the 33rd Operations Group is the first Marine to be certified to fly the Joint Strike Fighter. He flew in the second plane, AF-8, on July 20.