by Max Brantley
Mike Huckabee, who left Arkansas, where he built the platform for his media success and which, incidentally, has an income tax, is putting down expensive roots in a beach development in Walton County, Fla., east of Destin — a $3 million home. David Koon reports:
Paperwork filed in Walton County, Fla. shows that Huckabee and wife Janet are building a new multi-million dollar home on Blue Mountain Beach. The building permit for the three-story beachfront house lists the projected cost of construction at $2.2 million. This is in addition to the cost of the land, which Walton County most recently appraised at $853,062. The land was purchased for $800,000 in 2009 by the Angus B. Wiles Trust. The trustee is Bryan Jeffrey, a Little Rock accountant who handles Huckabee's accounting matters. A Florida official said records indicate Huckabee is the owner of the trust. Trusts are frequently established in Florida as a means of shielding the identity of property owners from easy Internet searches. County records for the trust show an $800,000 mortgage with Centennial Bank filed Nov. 20, 2009, and a $2.25 million mortgage with Centennial filed June 23. The documents indicate the first mortgage, with $550,000 still outstanding, was incorporated in a second mortgage agreement for a total debt to Centennial of $2.8 million. The records also indicate a pool or spa is in the works.
According to documents on file, the new house at 756 Blue Mountain Road will feature 8,224 square feet of living space, and 2,969 square feet of porch and deck space. The Huckabees are currently renting a house in nearby Miramar Beach. They also still own a home in North Little Rock. Janet Huckabee is often seen in town, recently at an upscale design store picking out furnishings for the new Florida home. She also has a January court date over a State Police-issued traffic ticket.
A Twitterer snapped a photo of the under-construction home, which makes it appear the house actually has four levels, the top one with what should be a panoramic Gulf view. Google shows you the sugar sand setting.
Huckabee talked to the Walton Sun newspaper about his love for Florida in an interview published this week. He didn't mention Florida's lack of an income tax, but he said housing prices were lower than in New York, where he produces his Fox News talk show, and that he liked the knowledge of grits and the SEC he found there, plus good, affordable restaurants. He said he continues to be undecided about a presidential run, an effort that would likely put a temporary crimp in his TV and radio work and paid speaking appearances.
Huckabee said the change of states was not politically motivated.
“Political aspirations were not a factor in the move,” he said. “People try to read more into it than there is. Growing up as I did in Hope, Ark., it was a dream to do something like this. Living here is a dream. Our first place as young marrieds was a $40-a-month duplex, which was probably overpriced. And since I am in Manhattan weekly, it is slightly easier to get there from here with the new airport. Now if we could just get non-stop flights to New York, it would make my wife very happy.”
As for the choice of South Walton as opposed to other parts of Florida, Huckabee explains, “We have friends who wanted to have a place here for some time. They found two lots and they bought one and we bought one.”
Huckabee said in researching the best place to buy in all of Florida, the Panhandle made more sense.
“It’s less likely to be crowded and there is a great attitude among people here. In South Florida, all of New York and Connecticut relocates there. But South Walton is all Southeastern Conference. I can order grits and people know what I’m talking about. Not to mention, the most beautiful beaches in all of America,” he said. “It’s an incredible, magnificent area with the best restaurants that are on par with those in Manhattan, but you don’t have to hijack a Brinks truck to pay for the meal.”