The volunteer fire chief got fired at Lannie Corbin’s first meeting as Niceville City Manager. The 30-year-old watched as the chief got up with his volunteers and railed against the city council. To no avail – the council voted him out that day.
“I remember going home that night and talking to my dad,” Corbin remembers with a smile, “I told him, ‘I dont think I’m going to last very long.’”
The city council chambers didn’t not have the congenial atmosphere they have now. “Politics back in ‘71 were a lot different than they are now,” Corbin said, “the council changed more often and you had councilmen who were against other councilmen. I think over a period of time, we’ve gotten away from all of that BS. We’ve got some guys there on city council who are about what is best for Niceville. And it’s good to be part of that team.”
In August of 2023 – 52 years after that conversation with his dad – Corbin will retire on his own terms.
In the half-century between, everything has changed. Mayor Dan Henkel noted the city had quadrupled in size – from about 4,000 people to about 16,000 during Corbin’s time at the helm.
For reference, the City of DeFuniak Springs has hired and fired 14 city managers in 15 years, according to Councilwoman Cathy Alley. Niceville had the unique, but not unknown stability of a mayor who spent more than 50 years in office, Mayor Randall Wise. Corbin spent almost his entire career working with the mayor – who died in 2020.
Councilman Abner Williams talked about the differences he could see since he was a little boy – adding he had played in Lions Park near an open sewer that Mr. Corbin had helped to fix. The city hall, filled more so than usual, roared when Corbin asked the councilman if he’d confused the sewage with mud. Williams and the rest of the council were among those laughing hardest.
City Manager Lannie Corbin has spent almost all of his life here. The Corbins have become an institution in the town. Corbin’s father, a native of northern Okaloosa County, actually designed the city’s seal (you can read about the seal’s little-known secret here). He’s spent almost his whole career working as the city’s manager. Now, he’s looking forward to retirement. “Believe it or not, I very seldom go on vacation. I love the mountains, but I’ve only been a few times. I like going up the Mississippi River and having dinner at all of those nice little towns as you go up the Mississippi River,” Corbin said, “Other than that, I’ll probably hang around Boggy. I’ve got a lot of friends here. I’ll probably go down to The Front Porch almost every morning and have breakfast and lunch. It’s going to be quite a change for me. But i’ve got another six months to think about [unretiring],” Corbin said with his same wry smile.
The entirety of the board discussed that they would need to replace Corbin – and thanked him for giving them six months notice to get the right person in the job.
Councilman Sal Nodjomian remarked Corbin’s job would be the envy of many professional managers and that they should lay the groundwork for a national search for a suitable replacement of Corbin’s caliber.
The council tasked city attorney Dixie Dan Powell with ensuring that a workshop could be held legally to begin the process of putting together a committee to lead the search for a new city manager.
Corbin’s replacement will have plenty of responsibility and power to go along with it. In a manager-council form of government like the one Niceville has, the City Manager is imbued with many powers which allow them to make all day-to-day operations decisions on behalf of the city council – including the hiring and firing of personnel. The council, in turn, is responsible for hiring and firing the city manager, allocating the budget and approving ordinances for the city.
Virtually no city manager makes it an entire career, much less 50 years at their post at one city. Corbin’s ability to do so is a testament to his skill as a city manager. The next-longest-tenured municipal or county manager is Okaloosa County Manager John Hofstad, who’s been on the job since 2010.
|Time in Office
|Fort Walton Beach