OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WALA) - Okaloosa County Aiports Director Greg Donovan will replace Mark Bellinger as the interim director for the Tourist Development Council (TDC).
Donovan is taking over in a tragic situation and has some serious challenges in his new job.
Less than a week has passed since the former TDC Director Mark Bellinger is suspected to have taken his own life.
Bellinger resigned the post on May 3 amidst a controversy surrounding the misuse of tax dollars . He admitted to using $710,000 in bed tax dollars to purchase a yacht.
Authorities also found evidence that Bellinger may have used more TDC funds to pay for a $747,000 Destin home.
He was found in a vehicle on a dirt road May 4 after having been missing following his resignation.
"We all within the industry worked with Mr. Bellinger. So, it was shocking. To me personally, it was very shocking," said Donovan.
Donovan is also the Okaloosa County Airport Director and was appointed by the Okaloosa County Administrator.
He inherits the TDC during what could be a lengthy investigation by county and federal authorities.
"As interim TDC Director, it's my job to make sure all (authorities) needs are met. I will facilitate all those concurrent investigations and figure out what can we do right now to make fixes to a problem that allowed this to happen," Donovan said.
Donovan said another large focus will be working closely with employees.
"There's a grieving process that all the employees are going to go through. Employee counseling will be coming. We'll then focus on day to day operations and keeping our mission towards tourism," said Donovan.
Dovonvan said while the process to recovery may involve many steps, he already has a plan to get started.
"The tourism industry is so important, and there are so many people involved. The first thing I will do is speak to our employees and ask, 'Who are you?' What do you do? What can we do to fix things?' Then, I'll go to our industry partners as well," Donovan said.
Donovan said he doesn't intend to permanently step in as TDC Director, and his tenure should last around four months.
A national search is now being done to permanently fill the role.
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