Okaloosa County Profile
For a fascinating online “scrapbook” that brings the history of Okaloosa County to life, through words and historical photos from the 1920's and 1940's, check out this website.
The scrapbook is courtesy of the Heritage Museum Association in Valparaiso, Florida.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Okaloosa County was founded by special election on September 7, 1915. At this time, not one single mile of paved road existed in the County.
- In 1928, there were 90 residents in Niceville, 50 in Valparaiso, and 30 in Camp Walton. Gas cost 15 cents a gallon, sturgeon was 16 cents a pound, red snapper 9 cents a pound, and shrimp 13 cents a pound at the local trade store.
- Lumber and its allied industry, turpentine, were major industries in Okaloosa County well into the 1930's. The Duggan Lumber Company had 14 sawmills in the Laurel Hill area.
- Following its activation as a bus-post of Maxwell Field in 1937, Eglin Air Force Base became an independent post in 1940 and the Air Corps proving ground in 1941. In 1944, Eglin was the site of the movie, "12 O'Clock High" starring Gregory Peck. Eglin Air Force Base is now the free world's largest Air Base.
- Okaloosa County acquired 3-miles of Santa Rosa Island in 1950. The acquisition of Okaloosa Island culminated the efforts of U.S. Representative Robert F. Sikes, who introduced the bill authorizing the transfer.
- The community of Destin, the world's luckiest little fishing village, was founded by Captain Leonard Destin in 1945. It adopted the ways of its New England founder.
Fort Walton Beach Profile
In 1997, Fort Walton Beach was honored to be named by Money magazine as the #10 Best Place to Live among the 300 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.A.
Fort Walton Beach, home to approximately 22,000 people, was first created and chartered as a municipality in 1937. Though Fort Walton Beach is a relatively young city, its history actually goes back thousands of years.
There is evidence from radioactive dating of artifacts back to 10,000 B.C., and archeological evidence of five distinct Indian periods between 600 - 1650 A.D. There were pirates, the most notorious being Billy Bowlegs between 1500 - 1800, and a Civil War encampment. In the early days Fort Walton was known both as Brooks Landing when John Thomas Brooks and his family settled here in 1868 and Camp Walton for the Civil War encampment by the Walton Guards. It was renamed Fort Walton when a Civil War cannon was discovered in 1932 and excavated from an Indian mound in the present downtown area on Santa Rosa Sound.
Tourists, resort hotels, and the waterfront have been a part of Fort Walton Beach since its earliest days. Tourists came from the North, Midwest, and Southeast to spend months at a time at several of these full-service, American plan hotels on the shores of the Santa Rosa Sound. Dancing nightly in an over-the-water pavilion (where Fort Walton Landing is today), taking a water taxi from the hotel docks back and forth across the Sound to the beach, chartering fishing trips in the gulf and bay, receiving ice and mail by boat from Pensacola, and shopping in stores built over the water, visitors and locals alike enjoyed the relaxed lifestyle for which Fort Walton was famous.
Okaloosa County was formed from two counties, Santa Rosa and Walton, in 1915, and Eglin Field was created in 1937. In 1930, the population of the area was approximately 90 people; between 1940-1950, the population quadrupled. Between 1950-1970, Fort Walton Beach grew 700% and was recognized nationally as one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The existing Brooks Bridge was built in 1964, replacing the two-lane swing bridge, Eglin Parkway was widened to six lanes, and seven new traffic lights were installed. The tax base expanded, the Fort Walton Beach Civic Center complex and auditorium were built, as well as neighborhood parks and tennis courts, the Library, the Senior Center, the Tennis Center, the Municipal Golf Course (now the Fort Walton Beach Golf Club), and three neighborhood recreation centers: Docie Bass, Chester Pruitt, and Fred Hedrick.
The City of Fort Walton Beach looks for innovative and exciting ways to bring the “spirit of yesterday” into the plans of today and tomorrow. Activities continue on the banks of the Santa Rosa Sound, and every June, the notorious Billy Bowlegs returns for a fortnight of merriment and fun. The City sponsors quarterly Sunday in the Park events at the spot where there was once an over-the-water pavilion.
Okaloosa Regional Airport Profile
Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Niceville, Crestview, and the surrounding areas are served by the Okaloosa Regional Airport (*VPS), at 1701 State Road 85N, situated on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The Airport provides essential scheduled commercial air passenger service for a large portion of the Northwest Florida area.
Okaloosa Regional Airport is host to eight airlines, providing nonstop service to six cities in the Southeastern United States. Major carriers include: American Eagle (ERJ-135, ERJ-145), Continental Express (ERJ-135, ERJ-145), Continental Connection (Beech 1900), Delta Air Lines (McDonnell Douglas MD-88), Delta Connection (ATR 72,CRJ-100, CRJ-700, ERJ-145), and Northwest Airlines (Douglas DC-9).
In 2005, approximately 520,000 passengers flew out of Okaloosa Regional. And with tourism, military operations, and business expansion on the rise here, there is a demand for even more flights to and from Okaloosa Regional Airport. As a result, the airport is looking forward to expanding its terminal by adding additional gates. Airport officials hope to finalize the next expansion plan and break ground in 2008.
Recent improvements include:
- In November 2004, the Okaloosa Regional Airport celebrated a major expansion program, including additional public parking and aircraft parking apron, a second parallel taxiway, landscaping and a new 110,000 square foot passenger terminal. It is truly a stunning edifice with gleaming white wall panels and an emerald green standing seam steel roof. The roofline is punctuated by cupolas which provide interior light shafts. Passengers arriving at the landside are greeted by a fully landscaped park in front of the Terminal. This park not only provides calm to the senses, but it serves as a security buffer between parking and the Terminal. The interior also boasts high vaulted ceilings, which create a spacious atmosphere.
Passenger amenities include restroom facilities with fully automatic plumbing and paper towel dispensing. Family-friendly facilities are also available. The overall friendliness and cooperative attitude of all airport employees has been further enhanced by the new facility. The pride in such a beautiful accomplishment is obvious to everyone who visits.
- Scheduled for September 2007, the Airport will break ground on the Consolidated Rental Car Service Facility to be located on 22 acres east of the airport. This facility will have offices for all 5 rental car companies as well as rental car service facilities with lifts, automated car washes, gas pumps and vacuum islands and a consolidated fuel farm for both aviation and unleaded gasoline.
Mayor: Mike Anderson
Seat One: Bobby Griggs
Seat Two: Dr. Joyce Gillie Gossom
Seat Three: John Mead
Seat Four: Trey Goodwin
Seat Five: Amy Jamieson
Seat Six: C.H. "Bull" Rigdon
Seat Seven: Dick Rynearson
Okaloosa County Commissioners:
District One: Wayne Harris
District Two: Carolyn Ketchel
District Three: Nathan Boyles
District Four: Trey Goodwin
District Five: Kelly Windes
Supervisor of Elections: Paul Lux
Attorney General: Pam Bondi
Chief FInancial Officer: Jeff atwater
Commissioner: Adam Putnam