Randall Wise, who had served as mayor of Niceville since 1972, died Monday evening at Twin Cities Hospital after suffering a heart attack.

NICEVILLE — Randall Wise, who died Monday at the age of 89 after nearly a half-century as Niceville’s mayor, was remembered Tuesday as a quiet and effective leader whose legacy will be felt across the city and the surrounding area for years to come


"The bigger question is probably, ’What’s not (part of his legacy)?’ Tricia Brunson, president and CEO of the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, said when asked about the extent of Wise’s influence on the city since he first assumed the mayor’s office in 1972.



"Everything that had anything to do with progress in the Niceville area, even the greater Niceville area, he was part of it," Brunson said. "Part of the planning, part of making sure it was the right fit for the town."


Under Wise’s leadership, "nothing happened too fast," Brunson said, thus helping to ensure the development of Niceville would be both intelligent and lasting.


Wise died Monday evening at Twin Cities Hospital in Niceville after suffering a heart attack, according to City Clerk Dan Doucet. Just last week, he presided over the city council’s monthly meeting, after recovering from a fall and hip surgery.


The mayor’s death came "as a real shock to everybody," Councilman Daniel Henkel said Tuesday.


As the city’s mayor pro tempore, Henkel will assume the duties of mayor until an election for the three years remaining in Wise’s term can be held.


That election will be scheduled for sometime within the next 60 to 90 days, Doucet said Tuesday.


"He’s going to be missed," Henkel said of Wise’s passing. "I’m going to personally miss him. He was a great friend."


Born in Niceville in 1930, Wise began his service to the city with one term on the city council in the 1950s.


RELATED: A 48-year Wise legacy


He was appointed as mayor in 1971 and sworn in the next year. He had served continuously as mayor since then, marking nearly a half-century, and more than half of his life, in service to his hometown.


When the city charter was changed to require a mayoral election, Wise won an unbroken string of those contests — unopposed except for one term — beginning in 1987. He was most recently re-elected to the mayor’s office, unopposed, last July.


"He was loved by everyone," Doucet said Tuesday. "He was a wonderful man, a family man. ... He will be tremendously missed."



Also remembering Wise on Tuesday was another Niceville official, City Manager Lannie Corbin. Corbin served in that role for nearly all of Wise’s tenure as mayor.


"When you think of Niceville, you think of Randall Wise. ... He was 100 percent Niceville," Corbin said, adding that he has not only lost a municipal colleague, but a friend.


"That’s the bad part of it," Corbin said. "Over that long a period of time, you really become close.


"He was a unique person," Corbin said. "He became a good friend."


The two men had their disagreements, but they were always short-lived, according to Corbin.


"Nothing ever lasted more than that day," he said.


According to Corbin, Wise did a lot of his work on behalf of the city quietly and behind the scenes, often working with military personnel and other officials. He was also never interested in political gamesmanship, Corbin said.


"He knew how to talk with a general, and he knew how to talk to John Q. Citizen, and treat them both the same," Corbin said.


Just as he was loved by the citizens he served, Wise was enamored of the residents of Niceville.


"We’ve got a bunch of good people," Wise said in an interview last year with the Daily News, shortly before his latest mayoral term began. "They’ll help each other in need."


As mayor, Wise did not have a voting role in city government, but his influence is seen in a number of city projects he shepherded, including a new senior center, the library and a community center.


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But Wise’s influence on the city he served so long isn’t only seen in bricks and mortar. The city is, in a very real sense, a part of Wise’s heart and soul.


"It came across to everybody that he loved our city. He lived and breathed our city," said Councilwoman Judy Boudreaux, who has served on the council for 25 years.


"He was a wonderful leader," Boudreaux said. "It’s just like a chapter has closed."


Even without a vote on the council, there was no doubt of Wise’s leadership, according to Boudreaux.


"He did lead the meeting," she said. "When he spoke, it was with authority and purpose."


But, Boudreaux said, another hallmark of Wise’s leadership was his willingness to listen to other viewpoints, reflected in his practice of opening the end of each council meeting to public comment.


"He was a good listener," she said. "He was a very open person."


Councilman Sal Nodjomian, who has served the city for eight years, also was impressed by Wise’s willingness to listen.



"That’s something that many of us, as elected officials, need to practice more of," Nodjomian said.


Wise’s long service as Niceville’s mayor — he was the longest-serving municipal chief executive in Florida, and one of the longest-serving mayors in the country — made him "an institution, not only within the city of Niceville ... but within the entire state of Florida," Nodjomian said.


"No one had more care or compassion for the city than Randy Wise," Nodjomian added.


Nodjomian also talked briefly Tuesday about Wise’s wife, Helen, whom he said was a much as part of the city’s heartbeat as Wise.


"There wasn’t an event he came to that she wasn’t at his side," Nodjomian said.


In addition to his service as mayor, Wise worked with a local military contractor for years, and was also an entrepreneur, according to information from the city government.


Wise was also an integral part of the Florida League of Cities, for which he served as president in 1979. Wise is also a past president of the Panhandle League of Cities and the Okaloosa County League of Cities. Additionally, he served as an honorary commander at Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field and Duke Field. The media center at Ruckel Middle School is named in his honor.


Among the condolences expressed at Wise’s passing was a note from the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce that read, in part, "He was a positive difference maker and leaves a void in many lives that will be impossible to fill. The thoughts and prayers of the Chamber family are going out to Miss Helen and the entire family during this impossibly difficult time."


Funeral services for Wise are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Niceville at 622 Bayshore Drive. Visitation prior to the funeral will begin at 10 a.m.


Also, prior to the funeral, Wise’s casket will lie in state at Niceville City Hall, 208 Partin Drive North, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday for the public to pay their respects, according to an announcement from the city.