"We want it to be a place for locals and tourists. Tourists want to go where the locals go, and we need the locals for those five months of off season or we're not going to generate revenue."

NAVARRE BEACH — Santa Rosa County commissioners have selected a new operator for the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.

Growing Santa Rosa Enterprises (GSE) was the top choice Monday among three finalists and could take over operations next month.

The other finalists were Johnny Huston's Grille & Bar, and Robert J. Benaquis and Kenny C. Cook. Navarre Beach Pier LLC also was selected as a finalist but opted out.

Growing Santa Rosa is made up of five local business owners with various backgrounds: Jessica Schelfhout, owner of MagnaLead Professional Development; Larry and Jerry Rolison, owners of Ye Olde Brothers Brewery; Ken Fountain of Fountain, Schultz & Associates P.L.; and Jonathan Cole, a sales executive.

They all have a vision of what they wanted the Navarre pier to be, Cole said.

"We want it to be a place for locals and tourists," he said Tuesday. "Tourists want to go where the locals go, and we need the locals for those five months of off season or we're not going to generate revenue."

Earlier this year county commissioners decided to seek a new pier operator after the current contractor, Coastal Concessions failed to meet expectations.

“One misstep after another has resulted in an overall sentiment that the current provider isn’t a long-term solution for the county,” Commissioner Rob Williamson told the Daily News in August.

At Monday's meeting, Growing Santa Rosa representatives said they wanted to keep much of the pier the same, but with some upgrades. The motto was "keeping it local, keeping it simple."

As part of the proposal, the retail shop would be renamed Sanddollars and will stock local art and products as well as fishing and beach gear. The restaurant component will be called Foxtails BBQ and Raw Bar, which will include local seafood and a selection of draft beers from Ye Olde Brothers Brewery as well as a special beer just for the pier.

The proposal also includes a food and beverage cart for the 1,545-foot pier so anglers and visitors can enjoy a snack on the pier.

Growing Santa Rosa will pay the county 1 percent of collected fees. The county also will receive 5 percent of revenue from the restaurant and retail store combined, the proposal said. The company also will pay all utility and maintenance costs.

Before the vote, Williamson said his choice was "razor close" between Growing Santa Rosa and Johnny Huston's. Growing Santa Rosa received three of the commission's five votes.

"This is the most difficult decision I've had to make," he said.

Cole said he didn't know the commissioners planned to vote Monday, but was elated by the outcome. The group already has a transition plan and could be up and running by the middle of next month, he added.

"There was a lot of hard work that paid off," he said. "Now it's official. We pitched it. Now we're doing it."