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WASTE WATCH: Okaloosa County recovers majority of Bellinger stolen money
OKALOOSA COUNTY -- Okaloosa County has recovered nearly seventy percent of the money misappropriated by former tourism director Mark Bellinger, including much of its BP marketing money.
The county is putting that money in action to bring tourists back to the beach.
Rob Brown "There's no question the Emerald Coast is a vacation destination, and now with nearly a million dollars in recovered funds, Okaloosa County Commissioners have decided how best to spread that message."
Commissioners decided to invest in a range of advertising, with over three hundred thousand dollars going to national tv outlets like the Travel Channel.
They'll use magazines like Southern Living and Golf Digest.
Radio and internet are also in play.
Paula Mitchell manages a waterfront restaurant, where tourism is a large part of business.
Her concern is with the message, not how it's delivered.
Paula Mitchell "My priority would be letting people know that our fish is safe. I'm a restaurant manager, so of course I want everyone to know to come down here and try our fresh fish. I don't want them to eat a hamburger, you know, you can have a hamburger anywhere. So I want them to know that the fish and the waters are safe."
Starnes King makes his living in the World's Luckiest Little Fishing Village.
He says the goal should be to make tourists aware of the area now,
Starnes King "You know, I think the quicker the better, waiting until spring is not necessarily a good idea."
The campaign runs from November through March 30th.
All BP money must be spent by that date.
Starnes King "It should say the Emerald Coast is here, it's beautiful, the fishing's great, the water's great, you know. Just come enjoy the reason you come here, the beautiful beaches, you know, there's just so much about it."
Rob Brown "Now the interim tourism director told me that all money must be spent on advertising media not currently in use by the county.
Of the 1.9 million dollars misappropriated by Bellinger, Okaloosa County has recovered just over 1.3 million.
The biggest losses include nearly 300,000 dollars from a luxury yacht, and 185,000 dollars from a home in Kelly Plantation.