FORT WALTON BEACH – City voters will select a new mayor and choose who will fill three open City Council seats Tuesday.
Fort Walton Beach is one of five municipalities in Okaloosa County having an election. The others include Cinco Bayou, Crestview, Laurel Hill and Shalimar.
Fort Walton Beach restaurateur Tom Rice and two-term Councilman Dick Rynearson are competing for the mayoral seat in the city’s nonpartisan at-large election. Three-term Mayor Mike Anderson decided not to seek re-election.
“I just thought it was time to step down and give someone else a chance to enjoy this wonderful job” Anderson said in a recent Daily News article. “I’ve really enjoyed it, and watching the city grow over the last 12 years.”
The six candidates for the other three FWB council seats are incumbents Amy Jamieson and M.G. Moran, former candidates Nathan Kelley and Nic Allegretto, political newcomer David Schmidt and former council member David deVaux.
The mayor and seven other members of the council are elected to four-year, staggered terms. The mayor’s annual salary is $5,546 and each of the other council members receive $4,957 per year, according to the city spokeswoman Jo Soria.
Paul Lux, supervisor of elections, said with local college students back in town for Spring Break and no bad weather in sight, citizens have no excuse not to vote.
"It's definitely an election that Fort Walton Beach voters are paying attention to," Lux said. "It stands to reason because of not only the mayoral race, but also because it's filling three of the four city council seats."
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and wait times, according to Lux, will likely be nonexistent. Lux said voters who still have a vote-by-mail ballot must hand deliver it to 302 Wilson St N., Suite 102 in Crestview or 1250 Eglin Parkway, Suite 103 in Shalimar no later than 7 p.m.
Cinco Bayou’s election will feature four candidates competing to fill three Town Council seats. They are incumbent Paula Andrews and incumbent Laura Driver, along with Tatiana Abernathy and Danny Dillard.
In Crestview, City Clerk Elizabeth Roy is unopposed on the ballot and will serve another term. Likewise, Doug Faircloth and Shannon Hayes will return to the City Council unopposed, while Councilman Joe Blocker will square off versus Landrum “Lanny” Edwards for the Precinct 1 seat.
Voters in Laurel Hill will decide whether to return Robby Adams to the mayoral seat or fill it with current Councilman Travis A. Dewrell. Three candidates will compete for two council seats. They are former mayor Mike Blizzard, former council member Johnny James and David Saldana.
Facing no competition in Shalimar, Gary Combs will retain his mayoral seat and Ricardo Dias Garcia, Jerry McCallister and Jim Wilton will fill the three open seats on the Town Commission.
"The most important elections are your local municipal and local county elections," Lux said. "Everyone likes to vote for president of the United States, but the people who have a hand on your wallet are your local city council and your local county officials, school board and county commissioners."