CRESTVIEW — Peter Mayer Advertising of New Orleans will take over promoting Okaloosa County as a top tourist destination.
County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a three-year contract with the company.
“This is a great day for Okaloosa County tourism,” said Dan O’Byrne, director of the tourism development department. “The (selection) process, although slow at some times, provided absolutely the right outcome.”
The county began negotiating a contract with Peter Mayer in October.
The 45-year-old firm has 200 employees and offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Under the contract terms, the company will charge $115 an hour for new product development services and no more than $36,465 in base services each month.
Peter Mayer will handle a variety of promotional needs for the county, including account management, public relations, website management and social media content.
“Tourism and hospitality is a very significant part of our business,” Mark Mayer, the company's president, told the commissioners.
Mayer said the firm has extensive experience working for cruise lines, various states, destinations, hotel chains and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
He said he is excited about promoting Okaloosa County.
“We think there’s tremendous potential, particularly in your shoulder season, to improve occupancy and revenue,” Mayer said.
Commissioner Wayne Harris, who sat on the seven-member committee that evaluated the original pool of 17 companies, praised Peter Mayer for its presentation.
“If you do half of what you say you’re going to do … we’ll be in good shape,” he said during the meeting.
The county’s contract with Peter Mayer reflects the increased oversight of tourism spending the county put into place in the wake of the Mark Bellinger fraud scheme.
Bellinger, the former director of the Tourist Development Council, killed himself May 4 after it was revealed he had purchased a $710,000 yacht with county bed tax money.
Since then, the list of items he bought illegally or without county approval grew to include a $740,000 home in Destin, a $48,000 Porsche, RVs, customized motorcycles and a building lease.
Under Bellinger, the county’s two main advertising firms were given a high degree of freedom in how they spent money on behalf of the county and how they were reimbursed.
Under the current contract, Peter Mayer will not be allowed to spend county money without written authorization.
All purchases and expenses up to $25,000 must be approved by a department head and the purchasing director. All purchases and expenses between $25,000 and $50,000 must be approved by a department head, the county administrator and the purchasing director.
Purchases and expenses greater than $50,000 must be approved by the county commissioners.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Kari Barlow at 850-315-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KariBnwfdn.