Pensacola, Florida
Monday October 20th 2014

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Outtakes: Panhandle Power


By Rick Outzen

Escambia County has significant influence throughout the state this year. We have representatives on the executive committees of three prominent state associations, Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties and Florida School Boards Association.

School Board Member Patty Hightower is the president-elect for the nonprofit corporation that represents all school board members in Florida and serves as the collective voice for Florida school districts in working toward improvement of education in the state.

Hightower has served on the Escambia County School Board since 2004. She serves as a member of the Escambia County School Board and has taught at all levels from elementary school through college in three states before moving here in 1972.
Before her election, Patty served as program coordinator of the Take Stock in Children Scholarship Program.

Pensacola City Councilman P.C. Wu is the first vice president of the Florida League of Cities and will be inducted this summer as its next president. Wu was also elected in 2004 and currently serves as the president of the Pensacola City Council.

He is a Professor Emeritus at the University of West Florida, where he helped create the Pensacola Center for Creative Community Solutions to seek nonviolent solutions to community problems. He served four years on the Florida Commission on Human Relations under Gov. Jeb Bush who appointed Wu to a four-year term of the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

Commissioner Grover Robinson, IV, is the first vice president of the Florida Association of Counties. He will take over in 2014 the leadership of that organization that lobbies for the counties on state and federal levels.

Robinson was first elected to the Escambia County Commission in 2006. The real estate broker chaired the commission during the 2010 BP oil disaster. He was recently elected to chair Florida’s Gulf Consortium, which represents the interests of 22 of Florida’s 23 counties affected by the BP oil spill and is developing plans to use RESTORE Act money for the counties hardest hit by the tragedy.

It’s unusual to have three elected officials in leadership positions on all three executive boards at the same time. No other county in the state has this much leadership on this level. All three are veteran politicians that understand the challenges of Florida cities, counties and school districts. They have dealt with hurricanes, environmental disasters and the recession.

As our community struggles to deal with poverty, health and education problems, we are fortunate to have their representation. Their influence could be a difference maker for Escambia County.