Okaloosa CountyLocated in the Northwestzone of Florida, in the panhandle, Okaloosa county lies between the twocounties it was made from: Santa Rosa and Walton.
Just over one hundred yearsago, in 1915, State Representative William Mapoles decided that a new countyshould be formed from parts of Santa Rosa and Walton counties, so he presenteda bill stating such to Florida’s house of representatives. The county wasestablished on September 7th that year, becoming Florida’s 52ndcounty. He decided to call this new county Okaloosa – which means black waterin Choctaw – after a steamboat of the same name.
Waterways, like theBlackwater River that “The Okaloosa” steamboat traveled on, are what Okaloosacounty used to distribute its livelihood – mainly lumber, turpentine, and fish –until the Pensacola & Atlantic Railroad was established in the late 1800’s,making citizens’ lives easier. Residents of Okaloosa and surrounding areas werenow able to transport their resources across Florida, all the way to the eastcoast and a little further North. Communities within Okaloosa lived quiet pioneer-likelives for quite some time. The county remained relatively undeveloped, with littleto no paved roads, electricity, or telephones until the 1940’s, thanks to militaryintervention. It was in the mid-1930’s that the military began setting up inOkaloosa, and the county soon became home to Eglin Air Force base which, at 724square miles, is one of the largest in the world. Okaloosa County’s ComprehensiveAnnual Financial Report for 2016 mentions that Eglin Air Force Base containsthe Air Armament Center, which is where much of the United States Air Forceweapons are received and thoroughly tested – so it is no wonder Eglin is, and willcontinue to be, an important asset to the United States.Okaloosa is not acharter county, meaning it does not have its own set of laws and such; itsimply follows the Constitution and general Florida laws.
The government ofOkaloosa is run by a board of county commissioners, one for each of its five districts.Okaloosa County Commission is responsible for the county’s money, ordinances, maintenance,future planning, zoning and business regulation, citizen health, and creating andappointing people to boards and committees. It seems that the county pridesitself on being citizen-oriented, preservative of natural resources, and beingeconomically conscious. All of which are necessary in order to maintain itsstatus as a popular tourist destination. Okaloosa County Commissioners evenfounded an environmental council, about thirty years ago, that focuses on beachand waterway clean-up, as the beaches of Okaloosa draw in many of its tourists.
This environmental council also assists in keeping the forests and roadsides ofOkaloosa county free of litter.The budget of Okaloosacounty is mainly spent on initiatives that help its citizens. These, asoutlined in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2016, include: publicsafety, physical environment, transportation, human service, and culture andrecreation initiatives. Approximately $250,000,000 of the 2016 fiscal yearbudget went toward these citizen-oriented initiatives.
According to the County Administrator,John Hofstad’s, 2018 budget letter to the County Commission, Okaloosa county hasa tentative budget of $378,716,046 for the 2018 fiscal year; this is nearlythree percent higher than that of the 2017 fiscal year. This slight increase inthe budget is meant to support the county’s growth, new positions in EMS, and theimprovement of law and law enforcement.