Today is the first day back to school for students Okaloosa County. Good luck to all of our teachers and students as they get back into the school routine and work to finish out a great school year.
Let’s get to the news this morning…
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office investigates death of out-of-state barrel racer
A tragedy occurred at the Baker Area Community Center on Saturday afternoon as a barrel racer from out of state was thrown from her horse, suffering fatal injuries. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is currently conducting a death investigation into the incident.
According to a report from the OCSO, the 56-year old woman had just competed at the Baker Rodeo and was leaving the area down an exit ramp when her galloping horse suddenly moved, causing the rider to strike a large wooden pole.
Despite being rushed to a local hospital, she later died from her injuries.
The fence shown in the photo was not up at the time of the tragic incident.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has extended their sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the victim.
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Here’s who qualified for the 2023 March municipal elections
The qualifying period for the upcoming 2023 Municipal elections ended on Friday at noon. The following offices are up for election on March 14, 2023:
3 seats for Niceville City Council
2 seats Shalimar Town Commissioner
4 seats Fort Walton Beach City Council
3 seats Laurel Hill City Council
Fort Walton Beach City Council:
Jared Bryce Jeter
Niceville City Council:
Shalimar City Council:
Laurel Hill City Council:
Kristine O. Gaskin
Okaloosa and Walton County Traffic Advisory
Drivers will encounter traffic disruptions on the following state roads in Okaloosa and Walton counties as crews perform construction and maintenance activities.
State Road (S.R.) 20 (John Sims Parkway) Resurfacing Project – Drivers will encounter intermittent east and westbound lane closures on S.R. 20, from Edge Avenue to west of the Rocky Bayou Bridge, Sunday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Jan. 12, between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. These closures are required for median milling, median widening, and sidewalk construction.
S.R. 85 Resurfacing from U.S. 90 to Commerce Drive – Drivers may experience intermittent north and southbound single-lane closures on S.R. 85, from U.S. 90 to Commerce Drive, Sunday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Jan. 12, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. These closures are required as crews place thermoplastic striping and complete concrete work.
S.R. 85 Resurfacing from John Sims Parkway to College Boulevard – Drivers may experience intermittent northbound outside lane closures on S.R. 85 between S.R. 20 (John Sims Parkway) and County Road (C.R.) 190 (College Boulevard), Sunday, Jan. 8 through Saturday, Jan. 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. These closures are required for sidewalk repair and construction.
Brooks Bridge Replacement Project – Drivers may experience the following traffic impacts Sunday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Jan. 12 from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. as crews perform utility work.
U.S. 98 east and westbound alternating and intermittent lane closures between Perry Avenue and Pier Road.
Santa Rosa Boulevard east and westbound alternating lane closures from east of Amberjack Drive to Ross Marler Park.
Intermittent shoulder closures on Brooks Street, between Perry Avenue and Florida Blanca Place, and on Business Access Road.
U.S. 98 Bridge Rehabilitation over East Pass Bridge – Drivers may encounter intermittent single-lane closures on the U.S. 98 over East Pass (Marler) Bridge, westbound structure (Destin to Fort Walton Beach), Sunday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Jan. 5, between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. The existing 35 mph speed limit will be maintained during construction. The closures will be in place until the project is completed fall 2023.
U.S. 98 Widening from Mack Bayou Road to C.R. 30A – Drivers may encounter intermittent east and westbound outside lane closures on U.S. 98, from Mack Bayou Road to C.R. 30A, Sunday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Jan. 12, between 7:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. The closures are required to install upright poles for the new traffic signal mast arm assemblies.
U.S. 98 Resurfacing Project from Village Road to East of U.S. 331 – Drivers will encounter the following traffic impacts Sunday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Jan. 12:
Intermittent U.S. 98 east and westbound single-lane closures, from Mack Bayou Road to Village Road, between 7:30 p.m. and 6 a.m., for milling and resurfacing activities.
Intermittent closures the U.S. 98 east and westbound outside shoulders and turn lanes may be required as crews construct new sidewalks, widen existing turn lanes between Village Road and U.S. 331, and construct a new westbound right turn lane to access Don Bishop Road.
S.R. 20 Turn Lane Construction at J. W. Hollington Road – Drivers will encounter intermittent lane closures the week of Sunday, Jan. 8 for paving operations.
All activities are weather-dependent and may be delayed or rescheduled in the event of inclement weather. Drivers are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling through a work zone and to watch for construction workers and equipment entering and exiting the roadway.
State Attorney’s Office to consider death penalty for Williams in shooting of Deputy Hamilton
On Friday, January 6, State Attorney Ginger Madden held a press conference to update the public on the shooting that occurred on December 24 in Fort Walton Beach, in which Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Hamilton was killed.
During the press conference, Madden announced that a grand jury had indicted Timothy Paul Price Williams with first degree murder and three counts of attempted first degree murder of a law enforcement officer in connection with the shooting.
Williams has been served with the indictment and will be held on no bond in the Okaloosa County Jail until his arraignment on February 16.
According to Madden, if convicted, the only two options are a life sentence or the death penalty. Madden indicated that a death penalty review committee will convene in the coming weeks to determine whether the death penalty is an appropriate sentence for Williams if he is convicted.
While she was unable to provide further details on the case due to legal and ethical restrictions, she assured reporters that the State Attorney’s Office will make information available as it becomes permitted.
Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden also spoke at the press conference, thanking Madden and her staff for their diligent efforts in preparing the case for presentation to the grand jury. Aden extended his condolences to Hamilton’s family and praised the bravery of the deputies who responded to the incident.
“The only comment I’d like to make is I want to thank Ms. Madden and her staff, all of them, for the diligent effort they’ve put into this case,” Aden said. “I also want to extend my condolences to the family of Corporal Hamilton and to his brothers and sisters in the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. The deputies that responded to this incident displayed tremendous bravery and courage in the face of a very dangerous situation.”
New Chair of the Board takes the reins, launches “I Love FWB” campaign
On Friday, January 6, 2022, the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Installation and Awards Breakfast to induct new leadership, honor outgoing members, and recognize the achievements of local businesses and individuals.
Chamber President Ted Corcoran highlighted the organization’s efforts to honor military members in the community and invited General Jeffrey Geraghty, Commander of the 96th Test Wing, to speak about the importance of a strong partnership between the military and business sectors.
Sponsor Step One Automotive Group used the event to announce the launch of “Forever Warriors,” a program aimed at supporting military service members, veterans, and their families by connecting them with resources for mental health, transition and sustainment, and community immersion.
The program will receive an initial endowment of $500,000 from Step One.
JC Correa, Step One’s Chief Operating Officer, emphasized the company’s commitment to supporting organizations that are already working to help military personnel. “Our role will be to support the many dedicated organizations that are already on the ground doing the work to help veterans and active duty military,” he added.
Outgoing Chairman of the Board, Daniel “Gus” Gusoff, recognized the Chamber staff, board members, and community partners for their support over the past year.
The awards portion of the event saw several businesses and individuals recognized for their contributions to the community, including:
Beast Code’s Holly Karr, who was given the Jim Glenn Ambassador of the Year award
Northwest Florida State College, which received the Community Leadership award.
Emerald Coast Vibe was named Small Business of the Year
Okaloosa Gas was named Corporate Business of the Year
Several Chamber members were also honored with Teddy Awards, including Bill Walter, Donna Morgan, Rachelle Graves, Chris Torres, Neil Tabot, Lori Leath Smith and Scott Miller, Barbara Britt, Nathan Sparks, Sarah Peavy, and Dionna Haygood.
I ❤️ FWB launches
Incoming Chairman of the Board Maureen Bierman, also of Step One Automotive Group, took the reins from Gusoff and emphasized the role of Chamber members in revitalizing downtown Fort Walton Beach.
“I cannot think of a better time to be involved with the Chamber,” stated Bierman. “This is what Chambers are made for. It is up to all business owners to renovate, refresh, and advocate.”
She pledged to make “I ❤️ FWB” the focus of her tenure and unveiled a new website, www.ilovefwb.com, built and designed by Get The Coast.
The site will house all things related to the major projects happening in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island. These include:
Brooks Bridge Replacement Project
The Landing Renovations
Around The Mound
Santa Rosa Boulevard improvements
Bridge-to-Bridge bike path
As updates become available and new stories are published, they can be easily found via ilovefwb.com. We will also be highlighting more stories specifically related to downtown Fort Walton Beach.
The event concluded with performances by the Choctaw High School and Fort Walton Beach High School drumlines.
OK, that’s all I have for you this morning! I hope you have a great Monday!
p.s. What did you think of this morning’s newsletter? Hit the reply button and let me know!