The 10 Most Important Niceville News Stories in 2022

Well, we are almost to the end of our first year of giving y’all the news here at MBN, and quite a bit has happened! 

 

We’re grateful to you, our readers, who have generated enough interest in the mission of our little company to create a more informed and involved group of citizens to make our home an even better place to live!

Thank You to Our Sponsors

We also must thank the sponsors who’ve made this venture possible. 

 

Thank you to Cindy Zimmermann, Realtor – who was the first to believe in our mission and back it with her hard-earned money. She gave us the opportunity to see if this thing would work! 

 

Thank you also to Northwest Florida State College who saw our mission to educate and jumped right on board to make our mission a possibility. 

 

Thanks as well to our friends at Good Life Legal, Cafe Rico, the Dear App, and 3rd Planet Brewing, who also want to create the best possible community for us to live in. 

 

Finally, thank you to Realtor Tracy Jennette, who continues to provide support and her expertise in Zoning and Planning to keep citizens informed about what is happening in the Niceville area. 

 

We could not have done this without you all. 

 

Now, to the top ten stories that captured your attention this year.

Tragedy struck the Niceville Police Department in August when a traffic crash on SR-85 South claimed the life of K-9 Officer Blue of the Niceville Police Department. Blue was a staple of the department and a high performer. Earlier in the year, Blue and his handler, Sgt. Phillip Ritcheson had competed and performed well in the United States Police Canine District 1 Field Trials in Santa Rosa County earlier in 2022. 

K-9 Blue was also responsible for a sniff and seizure of methamphetamines earlier this year from a stolen vehicle.  

Sergeant Ritcheson and his Niceville Police Department comrades hosted several law enforcement agencies at a memorial service at Northwest Florida State College’s amphitheater in Niceville.

The Boggy Bayou Mullet festival has hosted some outsized headliners during its’ almost five decades in show business. But, the city and private organizers ended the festival amid the COVID-19 pandemic and dropping attendance. 

That left the city with a rather large plot of US Air Force Land to use for various needs. The land also gets used as a sports complex and a frisbee golf course – but the Niceville City Council hopes to get a longer lease on the property and build a sports-tourism-generating engine like a baseball or softball complex on the extra land. Here’s what we know about the plan. 

A growing trend at Okaloosa County High Schools sees the position of Athletic Director and Head Football Coach getting separated out. Oakloosa County School Board members and district officials alike have mentioned that the two responsibilities are more than enough work for one person. 

 

That being said, the school board approved the promotion of Ruckel Middle School coach Daniel Griffin to the AD post at Niceville High School over the summer of 2022. 

 

Griffin put in more than two decades as a coach and teacher in the Okaloosa County School System. He also boasts a state championship as a football player with Fort Walton Beach High School in 1991. 

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office investigators charged Susan Rebecca Cole with second-degree murder in the death of an unidentified man in early November. The charges stemmed from an incident at a house on a side road near The Oaks Condominium Complex on November 5th.

 

Cole was charged with murder and pleaded not guilty in court on December 13th. Cole is out of jail on $20,000 bond. 

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team (SRT) raided a home on Fir Avenue early in the morning on May 2nd. The team arrested a number of people living in the house, who were eventually released back into the public. 

 

Neighbors reported hearing loud bangs and other noises early in the morning as the SRT moved into the home with a warrant. According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, investigators were able to link a recent narcotics overdose death to the home at 919 47th street (a home with a side street to Fir Avenue). 

 

The only person arrested and tried due to the charges, Pat Mulcahy, pleaded no contest to drug possession or use and was released from jail on November 23rd.

Principal Paul Whiddon, the principal of Ruckel Middle School for almost 20 years, retired over the summer and left a vacancy at the top spot at the Middle School in downtown Niceville. 


The Okaloosa County School Board Approved Destin Elementary School Principal Joe Jannazo to take his place as the head Ram in a unanimous vote at their second board meeting in May.

In a surprise move, the Okaloosa County Commission failed to approve the Mid-Bay Bridge Budget on its initial pass through the local elected body in May of this year. 

 

The Commission eventually approved a budget for the Authority, but without money for lobbying or advertising. That decision cut almost $75,000 from the authorities multi-million dollar budget.

County Commissioner Nathan Boyles argued that the County should make it their priority during this spring’s legislative session to either have the authority rolled completely under the county’s purview or made a ward of the state. Boyles lost that vote 4-1. 

The Okaloosa County School District Races were easily the most contentious races in local elections during the 2022 cycle. Six candidates, three representing the electoral establishment, beat three challenger candidates over the summer. Additionally, voters sent two-term incumbent Carolyn Ketchel back to the County dais with a plurality, 48%, of votes over her two challengers. 

 

In March, Valparaiso chose its mayor, Incumbent Brent Smith, over local activist Patrick Palmer


City Council Elections in Niceville will look a little different in 2023. For one thing, the will no longer take place in the middle of the summer – and will fall in line with other municipalities in Okaloosa County. Voters will go to the polls in March now to choose their representative on the Niceville City Council.

Bluewater Bay was rocked by accusations of incredible violence when Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Christian Dewet Viljoen and charged him with aggravated assault on two children. According to a sheriff’s deputy’s affidavit, Dewet struck two children with a baseball bat after cutting their golf cart off on a street with his truck near their home. 


Viljoen entered a not-guilty plea and awaits trial in the case – which has been continued several times. As of December 27th, Viljoen’s pretrial conference is supposed to take place on January 9th, 2023; 228 days after the alleged attack. 

For the first time in almost a decade, someone was shot and killed inside Niceville City limits.

 

Two men, Bryson Mitchem and Brandon DeQuan James, were killed in the incident that took place on February 11th. A third man was injured in the killings. 

 

The shooting, which took place on property near Props Brewery in Niceville caused the business to release a statement that they were not involved in any way with the incident. 

 

At least one of the guns used in the killings was stolen from an unlocked car in Okaloosa County in late 2021, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. 

 

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Tragedy was avoided when a student found a rifle which had been discarded after its use in the shooting. The rifle was found on fields that are Niceville High School Property. 

 

The accused killers’ cases are still working their way through the system.

Wrapping Up

given us the opportunity to serve our community. We look forward to serving you in 2023 with more news and information that matters to you from your local area!

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