NICEVILLE, FL – Has anyone in America held office longer than these two men? Both were sworn in on the same day 43 years ago.
Corbin is a highly creative city manager. His accomplishments include putting an observation deck on the water tower, creating a large, convenient civic complex that includes the city hall, police station, large library, and a large community center. All with ample parking.
But it is fair to say his most impressive accomplishment was to win support for Niceville’s Turkey Creek project.
Turkey Creek was named for the flock of wild turkeys that once made their home along the clear waters of a wide, crystal clear spring fed stream with a sandy bottom that winds though a towering cypress forest brimming with birds and other wildlife.
Corbin, using city employees to do the job, has constructed a three-quarter mile long, wide boardwalk with steps and platforms next to swimming holes where the clear water varies in depth.
It even has a ramp so people in wheelchairs can reach the water’s edge.
People in canoes, kayaks, on paddle board or peacefully floating on inner tubes wend their way on the tens of thousands of gallons of cool spring water that pass by and under the boardwalk.
The day I was there a city worker was manning a pressure washer, cleaning the boards and railing and making sure it remained in top shape in every way.
A total of 900 feet of additional walkway has been built further upstream and needs just 400 feet to be built to connect with the longer stretch.
The park management has television cameras mounted along the way so they can observe the actions and behavior of visitors. A police officer is assigned to the boardwalk.
No alcohol or food is permitted in the park, although there are tables and bench near the entrance for those who bring picnic lunches.
With the large summer crowds (between 1,200 an 1,500 visitors in a single day) the city has opportunistically purchased additional land that could provide the additional parking that is needed.
There also is an older, but solid brick home that could serve as a senior center.
The walkway was built in stages, a section at a time. The most emotionally moving section, away from the rest, is dedicated to area children who have died. Their names, birthdays and the date they died are on permanent plaques attached to solid pergola-style beams. Family members can sit on benches under the names and pray or meditate.
I watched mothers and fathers push their children in strollers down the boardwalk. There are visitors from across the United States and many parts of the world, since Niceville is an easy place to reach from Interstate 10.
Corbin couldn’t have created all that Niceville is known for without strong political support. Mayor Randall Wise has held his office for 43 years, and only once had he had an opponent on the ballot. The interesting fact is the Mayor holds an unpaid position in this city. He puts in the time because of his love for the Niceville. There also are five city councilmen (including one woman) Corbin must persuade for the funding of his projects.
Eglin Air Force Base, said to be the largest, or one of the largest in the world is nearby. This is where the Jimmy Doolittle raiders were trained during World War II before their effective and dramatic bombing raid on Tokyo.
The moral of this story is to hire an outstanding, creative city manager with long local ties and give him the opportunity to produce. Let’s hope that Corbin and Mayor Wise are not simply extremely rare finds.