Panama City Beach Mayoral Candidate Information

With election day coming up on Tuesday April 17th, the Panama City Beach Mayoral candidates are preparing to stake their claim on the results.  There are 4 “qualified” candidates running and the issues they’re discussing range from future tourism, current spring break woes and future development-related concerns.

I reached out to three of the four candidates with interview questions and got a response back from two of them.  Sharon Hagstrom I was unable to find contact information for.  Sharon, if you see this in time, contact us here and we’ll get your answers added.  Also, Ken, I sent you an email as well, if you get me your answers back, I’ll get them added.

The four candidates are Sharon Hagstrom, Ken Nelson, Gayle Oberst (current Mayor), and Travis Schofer (listed in alphabetical order).

Gayle Oberst – Current Mayor

Q. What is your background in public service and how do you think that background lends to your potential mayoral performance?

I have served as Mayor for the past six years and am involved in many social, civic, and municipal/state activities. I have served in various capacities in another state. I have first-hand knowledge of civic, business and community matters, and have written grants and worked to secure funding for many projects such as youth activities, building libraries, providing recreation, additional police services, and educational activities. My professional background in finance, budgeting, and management serves to make me a better Mayor. Since I am retired, I work full time for our community and city and bring to the Mayor’s office and the Council a balance representation of all beach residents and businesses.

Q. What is your position on the topic of College Spring Break, how it is now, how it used to be and what do you envision for it in the future?

As the culture of our nation has changed so has the culture of those attending spring break. The City is requesting that a task force be formed of the City Council, County Commission, TDC Board, Chamber of Commerce Board, Economic Development Director, and local residents to discuss spring break and tourism in general. I think these entities can make some changes such as with our special events and noise ordinances, parking issues, enforcement, etc. and coordinate activities so that we have better control. I sincerely hope that we can increase the family spring break business and that would make us less dependent on the college/high school spring breakers.

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow our tourism industry?

The City does not market the beach thus we do not plan for and grow tourism. Our concerns center around providing services for our citizens. We depend on tourism for the funding to support the City and these services. The City appoints 4 members of the TDC and two of those must be city council members. Usually the Mayor serves on that council and represents the local residents viewpoint. I make the point in discussions about the direction of tourism marketing “PCB needs to be a year round family resort.”

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow other industry in the Panama City Beach area?

The City works with the Beaches Chamber and Bay County Chamber of Commerce and they in turn with the Bay County Economic Development Alliance to attract industry to the area. As the commercial land in and around the airport develops, it would be natural since PCB is only 15 minutes away to see our City become the housing area for those employees.

Q. What are some of the other issues you believe are critical to Panama City Beach right now?

The City has been working on a number of things such as transportation/traffic issues. The County, Department of Transportation, and the City are installing high tech fiber optics along Back Beach Road and Highway 79 that is estimated to increase the efficiency of the traffic on these by 25%. We have also gotten the 6 laning of the Back Beach Road moved up in priority with DOT. We are working on loop roads that will ease the traffic off as well. The City has an environmental concern with putting retreated water into West Bay and that has been solved with the Conservation Park which is good for the environment and provides recreation. The redevelopment of the rest of the Front Beach Road with the Community Redevelopment Agency is something we will work on for the next 20 years and not only will it beautify the area but will solve parking and traffic concerns. Another issue is maintaining a noise level that works for tourism, second home owners, and permanent residents. Maintaining and increasing services provided to our residents without a property tax is an issue that the City has met but must always be aware of and work through on budgets. The Land Development codes for property development are updated, ready to be reviewed, and put into place.

Travis Schofer

Q. What is your background in public service and how do you think that background lends to your potential mayoral performance?

I am a Military Police Combat Veteran of the United States Army having served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. I have 12 years hospitality/service industry management. I have experience in US and world market financial trading as a day trader of the stock market. I live, work, and eat in Panama City Beach. I shop at Pier Park, I play softball at Frank Brown, and I walk my dogs at the dog Beach in Panama City Beach. I am an everyday resident of the working class.

Q.What is your position on the topic of College Spring Break, how it is now, how it used to be and what do you envision for it in the future?

I feel Spring Break is very important part of our local economy. I hear a lot about business owners alone profiting from Spring Break, but I think many forget about the employees of those business that rely on that boost to our economy to support their families after a financially slow winter for the hospitality/tourist industry. I believe that solutions to subsidize that Spring Break revenue need to be brought into plan before the City can actively put many employees out of work by pushing this boost to our economy away.

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow our tourism industry?

I have brought ideas out during my campaign such as the City working with the TDC to bring in a minor league sports franchise such as double A Baseball team to our City. If we can effectively market a small franchise we may be able to lure a Major League Baseball Team for a Spring Training which coincidentally begins early March every year. This would be family friendly and major tourist attraction that could partially subsidize a Spring Break crowd. I also believe we should try to market a major amusement park to our area.

Q.What do you plan to do to help grow other industry in the Panama City Beach area?

I believe that Panama City Beach needs a third revenue driver that is not reliant on only Military or tourism. I believe that we are sitting on a gold mine in our area and that laying the foundation, to build a proper infrastructure for a controlled healthy economic growth is important for our future 5 to 10 years down the road. We need to market our City to Major world “Site Planners” but we need cohesion of all City and County officials to market correctly. But at the same time if our City is going to rely on tourism to support our City, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to give the tourist something to do.

Q.What are some of the other issues you believe are critical to Panama City Beach right now?

I believe that Panama City Beach needs stronger leadership and transparency for residents. I believe that there is a silent majority out there of the next generation of leaders who need to realize they can make a difference in our community. I also feel that the City budget can be more effectively allocated to better serve the community. Panama City Beach needs to regain their confidence and that is what will help drive our economy. Panama City Beach needs a fresh start with new leaders of tomorrow stepping up to the plate today.

Wednesday Dinner at J.Michael’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar

This is the second in a series of articles in which we explore 7 Local Restaurants the Tourists Don’t Know About.

For this place, I had to come two different times to get information for my article. I made the trip there mid-week last week during lunch time, but upon walking in, I knew that was a mistake. It was busting at the seams! It didn’t look like there was but one table open. I asked to speak with a manager to see if there was a later time, and was told to come back one of the following days in the mid to late afternoon.

The second time I came in, I was able to speak with J.Michael’s daughter, Rachel, for a little while. She also gave me the number to contact J.Michael so that I could talk to the founder of this incredible joint himself. I gave him a call as I was leaving the restaurant and he told me to come right on back in because he wanted to give me a taste of what it was all about! Of course, I was more than willing and excited for this treat!

With that said, here is what J.Michael’s is all about!

All The Basics

Who to go to?                        J.Michael’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar

What they serve?                   Lunch and Dinner

Where to be?                         3210 Thomas Drive, right in front of the light before the Bay bridge

When to go?                          Everyday, 11 AM — 10 PM 

How to reach them?               (850) 233-2055

How much to pay?                 About $10 for lunch, and around $15 for dinner

The Food

Ok, so according to Rachel, the most popular (cough, cough PACKED) times to eat there are either lunch on Wednesdays or Thursdays, or for dinner on weekend nights. I definitely saw how busy it can get when I came the first time. It was insane that I had never peeked my head in the place before with how much traffic it has. Apparently, my parents were ahead of me, seeing as they had already eaten there a couple of times before. I can’t believe they ate at J.M’s without me.

Any how, they offer a great selection of home-cookin’, turf, and plenty of surf. For starters, J. Michael’s is definitely the “oysters-can-be-made-basically-however-you-want-to-eat-them-at-any-quantity” kind of place, and it’s amazing. They have your classic reubens, favorite fish sandwiches, and big half-pounder burgers, while offering a flavorful top sirloin, a variety of shrimp dishes, and hearty seafood gumbo.

The local picks (other than the oysters) tend to be their steak, roast beef supreme, or shrimp J.Michael. Rachel’s, J.Michael’s, and most of the employees’ favorite meal is their red beans and rice, though. This great selection of food is all homemade, of course, right down to the cocktail sauce! And as you may have also assumed, the seafood and breads they serve are all from local suppliers. Awesome, right?

In addition, they claim to offer the coldest draft beer in the area! I wouldn’t know though, because well, I can’t, nor would choose to drink at all. So anyway, you guys will have to find out for me, and comment below to put this mystery to rest!

The People

To start off, this joint has had the same owner for 35 years now: J.Michael Stuart. He’s done a great job of making it incredibly family oriented, kid-friendly, and locally populated, with the help of his daughter. When a restaurant is family owned and operated, you know you’re in for a great time, with some good food, all in a pretty neat environment. Even though all of J.Michael’s employees aren’t family members of his, they all act like they are. You can tell that they have such a fun time at work, always helping each other out, cracking jokes on their fellow “siblings”, and daring to poke fun at “Boss-man” when they get the chance. Laughter lives at J.Michael’s! Together, they’ve all helped to serve 2.3 million people, just last year!

I was quite impressed by how dedicated J.Michael is to his business. He doesn’t just watch it run itself, like some restaurant owners do. Oh, no! The first thing he did when he came in for the day was to go behind the side bar, slip on a glove and start shuckin’ oysters with employee Tyler. I was sitting right in front of Tyler, just chatting, when he entered, so I wasn’t entirely sure that was even the owner until someone called him “Boss-man”. He shucked until he and Tyler were done with all of the many orders of oysters, and I thought that was pretty darn cool.

It shows how confident in his business J.Michael is, as he tells me that they “make it right”. It doesn’t take conviction from him for me to believe it, either. To those of you that have never checked them out before, J.Michael states how they “are like a book you’ve never read with an ugly cover. But don’t be afraid to come in, see what the stories are all about, and give it a try!” It was incredible timing after he said this, seeing as a few seconds following, a customer walks up to him and says, “I want to shake your hand. This is the first time me and my family have eaten here, and we were really impressed at what a nice job you do. Good food, and great service!” That, right there, is what happens when you read the J.Michael’s story.

The Environment

J.Michael’s has had three different locations, each one being more successful than the last. No matter what the location, though, people continually brought in things for him to put up all around the restaurant. The decor is certainly consumer oriented, with dollar bills and surfboards covering the beams on the ceiling and sections of the wall that aren’t already plastered by locals’ photos and seaside motif.

The place most certainly feels out-on-the-bay, with a southern touch. For instance, there are guns hanging everywhere! J.Michael told me that he started out with 2 or 3 guns, but once people saw he had those, many others decided to give him their rifles and such as well. So, he just started hanging them off of the ceiling. I thought it looked pretty neat!

My Take

When J.Michael told me he would “give me a taste”, I had no idea he meant he would give me four different dishes to try! But they were oh-so-wonderful! First I tried the employee favorite: red beans and rice. It was a total southern flavor, with nothing frilly. It was just good, hearty food; just like how it would be made at home. Next was the seafood gumbo. I could taste how very fresh the seafood was, and the blend of flavors overall was super nice.

Next, I tried the famous Shrimp J.Michael, which had such a strong homemade essence, exploded with freshness, and had a wonderful slight spiciness attributed to just the right amount of curry. For all 3 of these dishes, I found myself using all of my bread to sop up all of the leftover sauces and juices!

Last but certainly not least, J.Michael ordered me up a fried shrimp basket. Those, i dare say, were THE BEST fried shrimp I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot of fried shrimp. They were so big and plump, had the perfect seasoning, a nice light breading, and were full of impeccable flavor so much that there was no dipping sauce required! Sooooo good!

I know it’s not just talk when J.Michael told me, “Our #1 goal is the customer, and that has to come out to produce joy, quantity, quality, and price.” As far as I’m concerned, they get a check, check, check, and check!!!

Quick Pics
Links to the Other Articles

Introductory Article: 7 Local Restaurants the Tourists Don’t Know About

Tuesday Breakfast: Fatty Patty’s Cakes & Cafe


Frank Brown Park Playground gets New Surface

In what was a badly pitted, scared and bruised playground surface, the Frank Brown Park Playground safety surface has finally been replaced.  When they first opened the playground in 2000, it was celebrated and welcomed.  Over the years it’s been heavily used, and I for one have been there like a million times.

What’s new

You may remember how battered the previous safety surface was.  Well, that’s gone and a new one has been installed.  And it looks beautiful.  The material is padded and protects against falls and injury.

The old one looked patched and dingy, but the new one looks cohesive and has that new padded-surface-smell.

They also replaced the fencing around the outside of the playground and replaced the table tops for the picnic benches.

The refurbished park should be open on Friday!

Readers of PCBDaily – The Old Gang is Back!

Jason Koertge has an awesome vacation rental business in Panama City Beach that focuses on remarkable properties around the Pier Park area.  They range from 1 to 3 bedrooms, they’re clean, and amazing.  He can be found lurat

If you’ve been reading PCBDaily for a while, you probably remember a couple years ago when I sold PCBDaily to CYber SYtes.  You see, I had some grand plan that involved climbing the corporate ladder, at some point returning to school to get my graduate degree and just following where life took me.  Well, as life goes, the direction changed sporadically and somewhat unpredictably along the way.

Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, I accepted a position with CYber SYtes (who bought PCBDaily from me), and instead of going to graduate school, I decided to teach others how to do social media.  And of course, in the spirit of a true entrepreneur, working for someone else really began to wear on me.  So my wife and I started, a vacation rental business, to build a more solid future for our kids.

So, that brings us to today.

After a year of explosive growth with and almost exactly 2 years to the day, is back in the arms of it’s creator.  A part of me always resented the fact that that I sold it.  I know many of our readers certainly missed me.  But the last two years was necessary for me to be where I am and necessary for where the future of PCBDaily will be.

PCBDaily has always been the go to place for news and information specific to Panama City Beach and we want it to stay that way.  You’ve always been able to rely on us to find out what’s going on and keep tabs with the local current events.  We’re back, and we’re making plans for it to be even better!

But, I’m not alone.

I founded in 2006.  I ran it alone for three years but decided to instigate some growth in 2009 when I brought on board two very important assets.  With these assets, PCBDaily could have never instilled the value it now has today.  Each of them have been missing a part of their heart as the ownership of PCBDaily was held by CYber SYtes.

This second time around I have two partners in making the PCBDaily magic.  These two partners have always had as much passion for PCBDaily as I’ve had and offered not a moment’s hesitation when the opportunity of partnership came up.

Karen Smith

You probably know her.  Everyone knows her.  She’s the broker/owner of Beachy Beach Real Estate and her kind, fun-loving spirit, so generous she’ll literally give you everything she has and be thankful for the opportunity to do so is literally unforgettable.  She’s always had a passion for PCBDaily and she was one of our first paid advertisers.

She stuck with us from thick to thin and even stayed with it for the duration it was out of my hands.  She wrote for it when she could and she co-founded TheBeachShow with me in 2009.  She’s a real estate extraordinaire and has the awards to prove it.  And she’s so humble she’ll probably ask me to pull these glowing remarks down to subdue her blushing.

Now, she’s a partner in PCBDaily – part owner, equal contributor and 100% awesome.  You can expect regular episodes of TheBeachShow to come back and hear from her smiling face often about what’s happening in the real estate market.

Cebo Campbell

When I first hired Cebo to write for years ago, he was relatively new to the business community here, new to web development, but certainly not new to writing.  Having already been a published author, he certainly has taught me a thing or two.  He was, humorously, regularly dubbed my sidekick, of which a label did no justice for who/what he really was to me and PCBDaily.

Having grown to be not only my best friend (yes, Cebo, other than my wife, you are my BFF), he’s taught me about life, writing and work ethic.  While at first I was “mentoring” him on how to market, he’s far surpassed my skills and become a very high-paid talent to countless others around the country.  His skills are shown all over the place, and you’ll continue to see them as the future wears on.

His heart was always in PCBDaily and his passion was obvious in everything he wrote.  It really only made sense that he too was a partner in the new PCBDaily.  He’ll be writing about tourism, technology and current events.

What’s coming up.

PCBDaily has always been your source of news and information relating to real estate, growth and tourism in Panama City Beach, and it will continue to be so.  But, with that, we’re taking the reason for our being to a different level.  In years past, this was ran as a business – trying to generate revenue from ad sales.  Moving forward, there will be no drive to make money directly from ad sales.  In fact, we’re going to remove many of the ad spots, and won’t be taking any paid ads at all.

We want to provide quality information about the area and we hope that you’ll support us through our other businesses.

There will still be some ads.  Choice, non-competing businesses that want to trade some of their products or services will get in exchange the opportunity to advertise along with feature articles and Newsletter promotion.  But this will be kept at a minimum.

Plus, the newsletter will be redesigned and begin going back out weekly – I know a lot of you have asked for this.

We’d like to go back to having regular giveaways and contests and continue with community involvement.

We’re super stoked to have the team back together and to have PCBDaily in its rightful hands.  Tell us in the comments below what you’d like to see us do, moving forward!


Mitt Romney Surprises Panama City with a Visit

Jason Koertge has an awesome vacation rental business in Panama City Beach that focuses on remarkable properties around the Pier Park area.  They range from 1 to 3 bedrooms, they’re clean, and amazing.  He can be found lurat

Regardless of your political affiliation, when a president or president hopeful comes to our neck of the woods, it’s something to take note of.  You may remember, not long ago President Obama came to our beach.  Love him or hate him, he’s still the president, and he along with all the journalists that were following him know about Panama City Beach.  Now, let’s add what could be our next President – Mitt Romney.  Grant it, we couldn’t get him on the beach, he was pressed for time, but at least our general area got some press!

Being a fellow Mormon, I have a natural attraction to Mitt and his position on how to run a country.  Of course, the fact that he runs a tight business ship and wants to make America better for business helps a lot too.  Being a small business owner myself, we need all the help we can get!

Anyway, I didn’t intend on this being a political soap box for me to share my views on who would be a great president (you can see why he’d be great here), just wanted to let you know he was here and share some pictures!

What do you want to hear about?

Jason Koertge has an awesome vacation rental business in Panama City Beach that focuses on remarkable properties around the Pier Park area.  They range from 1 to 3 bedrooms, they’re clean, and amazing.  He can be found lurat

Ok, so I’ve worked out a deal with the owners of PCBDaily to be a regular contributor again, and I have some ideas on what to write about.  But, I want to hear from you what you’d like for us to report on.

There are a number of things going on up and down the beach.  Here is what I’m planning on writing about in the next couple weeks.

  • State of the real estate market
  • 2012 tourism predictions
  • Update on the Aaron Bessant Park improvements
  • Update on the Thomas Drive CRA construction
  • How to rent your condo all by yourself
  • Revise the Pier Park list of stores
  • Revise the Pier Park list of restaurants
  • An article on a new residential development

These are some of the things I’m planning on writing about.  What are some of the things you’d like to see?  Let us know in the comments below.

Where to Retire Magazine Features PCB

While most people think of Panama City Beach as a place for family vacations, college spring breaks, or weekend motorcycle trips- Where to Retire magazine thinks of the area as a place perfect for retirees.  The truth is, Where to Retire named Panama City Beach as one of the top places for retirees to relocate to.  The magazine will be featuring Panama City Beach in their January/February issue. Retirees bring a wealth of economic support to areas, which is why many states and cities hope to attract retirees who which to relocate each year.

Many of PCB’s retiree population comes from the thousands of winter residents who enjoy the area and decide to relocate permanently to our beaches.  “I have the pleasure of seeing first-hand how much our seasonal winter residents enjoy reconnecting with friends and experiencing all the terrific things there are to do in Panama City Beach. It’s no surprise that many choose the REAL.FUN.BEACH. lifestyle year round,” says Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Where to Retire is a magazine dedicated to helping people with retirement relocation decisions and the only one of it’s type in America.  Approximately 700,000 Americans relocate to new towns after retirement each year.  Where to Retire editor Mary Lu Abbott said Panama City Beach possesses qualities important to today’s retirees.  “Though the area has grown in the last decade, retirees still find a relaxing, affordable lifestyle in the Florida panhandle. Panama City Beach shows off its natural beauty of white-sand beaches and emerald waters and continuing education opportunities are available through several area organizations,” Abbott added.