City of Fort Walton Beach Receives Quality of Life Survey Results

The Fort Walton Beach City Council received the results from the City's first Quality of Life Survey at a special meeting on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. The purpose of the survey was to provide community leaders with an understanding of the voting public's awareness of and attitudes toward issues and challenges facing the City of Fort Walton Beach and the greater Fort Walton Beach area.

The third-party telephone survey was conducted from February 24 through 28, 2020, by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy using Florida State voter registration information to survey 625 Fort Walton Beach residents, reflecting the demographic makeup of voters in the City. Quint Studer of the Studer Community Institute presented the survey results to the City Council, staff, and the public at the June 16 meeting. The City partners with the Studer Community Institute for leadership training and strategic planning to improve the quality of life for everyone in Fort Walton Beach.

"I am very pleased with the results of the survey, and I am also pleased that our City Council and staff are always looking at ways to engage with and listen to our citizens," said Mayor Dick Rynearson. "There is no better way to know exactly where you stand than to directly ask the questions. We will use this information to improve in some areas and celebrate what I consider to be some great successes."

The survey revealed residents' thoughts on economic conditions, taxes, crime, traffic, education, leadership, cultural opportunities, the environment, and other issues that affect the area. Overall, 66% of the respondents believe the City of Fort Walton Beach is on the right track. The top issues identified include traffic, taxes/government spending, growth and sprawl, and crime. Based on statistical analysis, these issues reflect the concerns of a community dealing with the by-products of fast-paced commercial and residential growth and development.

"Our elected officials, staff, and community members have worked hard for many years to move Fort Walton Beach in a positive direction. These survey results are a reflection of those efforts," said City Manager Michael Beedie. "We will use this data to prioritize resources and projects to improve issues identified in the survey. I appreciate the Studer Community Institute's partnership and the community's participation and engagement."

Data shows that 76% of respondents rated the overall quality of life in Fort Walton Beach as positive. Other items that received positive responses include natural beauty and physical setting, availability of outdoor parks and playgrounds, welcoming and inviting to people of diverse backgrounds, ethnicity, and culture, and quality of public education.

Additionally, results included some overall negative ratings, identifying areas for improvement. Some of these are the availability of affordable housing, being able to get from place to place with little traffic, public transportation, and the availability of cultural opportunities such as theater, museums, and music.

Respondents also weighed in on the effectiveness and management of the City's fire and police departments, providing 93% and 79% favorable responses respectively.

"Having viewed results of many cities, the Fort Walton Beach results are the most positive I have ever seen with a first survey," said Studer. "The hard work of many in the community to create and sustain a high quality of life is working!"

The complete results of the survey, Studer's slideshow presentation, and the video of the June 16 presentation to the City Council can be found on the FWB Quality of Life Survey page.