Craig Coffey comes to Okaloosa County from Flagler County, where he was the administrator.

SHALIMAR — A total of 142 applicants applied to fill Okaloosa County’s deputy county administrator of operations position, which Greg Kisela will vacate when he retires in December.


Eighty of the applicants met the minimum requirements for the job, according to county spokesman Christopher Saul.


The County Commission last week unanimously confirmed County Administrator John Hofstad’s recommendation to give the job to Craig Coffey. Coffey served as the administrator of Flagler County from 2007 until his resignation last January.


Coffey’s first day on the job was Tuesday. Kisela will remain working for the county for a few more weeks to ensure a smooth transition.


"Our team is unsure of his official last day," Saul said Wednesday about Kisela.


Hofstad told commissioners at their Nov. 5 meeting that Coffey has been an administrator on both the municipal and county level for almost 20 years.


He said Flagler County, just north of Daytona Beach, is a coastal county that has various similarities with Okaloosa County. Coffey has "a wealth of knowledge" in beach renourishment issues, has expertise in short-term rental matters and oversaw a jail expansion in Flagler County, Hofstad said.


Okaloosa County officials continue planning for an expansion of the county jail in Crestview.


Last January, a majority of the Flagler County Commission accepted Coffey’s resignation as county administrator and approved the terms of his severance.


Before resigning, Coffey had been facing possible termination, according to a Jan. 9 story in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a sister publication of the Daily News.


According to the story, "Coffey has been sharply criticized over several issues during the past year but perhaps none more explosive than the uncertain status of the Sheriff’s Operations Center, which has been vacant since Sheriff’s Office employees were evacuated in June over health concerns related to possible toxins in the building."


It went on to say that "The situation at the Operations Center has been a point of contention between Coffey and Sheriff Rick Staly, who said he has been asking for months that the county open up the building’s drywall to look behind the surface. Coffey has said he’s held off on that procedure to comply with a court order to preserve the premises until an inspector hired by the employees can assess the situation.


"Relations between Coffey and Staley have since soured on this and other issues" and "At some point, the sheriff cut off all direct contact with the administrator," according to the story.


On Thursday, Coffey said a big factor in his resignation was his unwillingness to battle with the sheriff every day.


"It’s not fun fighting with the sheriff," he said. "Sometimes it gets to be political stuff."


Coffey, 53, said some of his major accomplishments during his time in Flagler County was a $20 million beach renourisment project and helping the county recover from a major wildfire and two hurricanes.


Coffey was one of four candidates who were invited to the last round of interviews for the Okaloosa County job.


The others were Okaloosa County Public Works Director Jason Autrey, Leon County Parks and Recreation Director Leigh Davis and Pat Omar, county administrator for Millie Lacs County, Minnesota.


Omar withdrew from the process prior to participating in the final round of interviews, Saul said.


Coffey’s starting salary in Okaloosa County is $136,000. His salary with Flagler County was $163,550.


Kisela, 65, began working for Okaloosa County in December 2016. In the spring of 2018, he was promoted from his job as purchasing director to the deputy county administrator of operations position. Kisela’s current salary is $142,480.