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Okaloosa To Help Roll Out New Florida Driver's Licenses

The state of Florida is getting set to roll out newly designed driver’s licenses and state I.D. cards. Beginning Monday, Aug. 28, the Okaloosa County Tax Collector’s Office will be one of eight around the state that will begin issuing the new credentials.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles announced the new driver’s licenses earlier this month, with spokesperson Alex Bakofsky noting that this is the first update for Florida ID cards in more than a decade.

“Almost double the number of security features as on the current card; some you’ll see, some you will not see,” said Bakofsky. “That is to maintain security so that a law enforcement officer, or anyone who needs to authenticate that credential, can safely do so.”

The new high-tech ID’s will be available statewide by the end of the year, but will be issued on a limited basis starting Monday at tax collector’s offices in Leon, Duval, Brevard, Lee, Okaloosa, Manatee, Volusia, and Broward.

Okaloosa County Tax Collector Ben Anderson says he sought to be one of the pilot counties.

“You know we take the opportunity to volunteer to help create and set new policies and new directions or new technology, any opportunity we have” Anderson said. “We feel that it’s important to be a part of what’s being developed as opposed to later understanding just what it is.”

Being involved in the pilot, Okaloosa is among the first in the state to receive and test the new equipment required to make the new ID’s.

“One of the key parts of this beta testing is the new hardware,” said Anderson. “This hardware has new requirements and so we’re going to be the Guinea pigs, so to speak, on this new hardware, making sure that the vendor that provides will be coordinating and working with them and the State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that we get the bugs worked out of this hardware.”

Another important part of their work is the implementation of adjustments in the software.

“We’re (going to) be flexing it, checking it, pushing it and then providing our recommendations and comments back to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.”

According to Anderson, everything will be taking place at just one of their five locations. The Shalimar Office is the largest and busiest.

“We feel that we’ll be able to run it through the ringer as best we can; that’s why we picked that office,” Anderson said.

“No apprehension at all,” proclaimed Cherrylyn Mellott, chief of branch operations for the Okaloosa Tax Collector’s Office. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve piloted something. And, we actually look forward to it.”

Mellott says they’re confident, but adds that representatives from the state will be on hand to assist.

“They will be on site Aug. 28, when we go live. We will have our staff come in early to test and get familiar with it and they will stay with us for the most part of that day in case there are any kinks. Of course, in a perfect world, you know everything we would want to run smoothly. But, they are there in case there’s anything that comes up that we’ll need assistance with.”

The new driver’s licenses and state ID cards have been three years in the making, aimed at addressing ongoing changes in the world of technology, including new cyber threats.

Anderson says a key component of the credentials is a new high-tech design with increased security and fraud protection measures.

“They’ve added four pictures of the individual that should be represented on that card,” said Anderson. “You’ll have three on the front; one is a ghost picture. They have a use of ultra-violet ink that shows up. It’s just interesting, unique little things. Behind the picture on the right, at the bottom, it has a gold element behind it, two bar codes on the backside, and then (there’s) also a magnetic strip.”

Uniquely Florida, the card incorporates a pastel-colored rendering of the Florida state seal. On the back, there’s an image of the state among ocean waves. Also, the year 1845 denotes the year Florida became the 27th state in the Union.

Additionally, the new ID’s will incorporate designations for (certain) lifetime licenses, such as hunting and fishing, as well as updated designations denoting whether the holder is deaf or hard of hearing or developmentally disabled.

Anderson says the state has crammed a lot of information on these small cards that play such a big role in our interactions with law enforcement (public safety) and elsewhere in our daily lives.

“I think it’s so important to know how often people utilize their driver’s license as an identification card; how many stores, when you’re using a credit card, the often times they ask for the identification card,” he said.

The new credentials will available locally only at the Shalimar Branch of the Okaloosa Tax Collector’s Office. They will be issued statewide, with no change in documentation or cost requirements, by the end of the year.

In the meantime, residents can renew their licenses and IDs as usual at their county tax collector’s office. Previous driver license and ID cards will continue to be in use alongside the new credential until replaced or phased out.

More information is available on the FLHSMV website.  

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.