Beverly Zimmern has been mayor of Gulf Breeze for three years.
“Four years next month,” Zimmern said upon reflection. “You lose track of time, it seems like yesterday.”
As mayor, Zimmern oversees a community that is in a state of evolution. The Gulf Breeze of old has long since faded, but the Gulf Breeze of tomorrow is still being realized.
“We’re emerging,” Zimmern said. “We’re not that sleepy village anymore.”
When the mayor envisions the future, she looks to the Andrews Institute. She looks to AppRiver. She embraces the coming “nexus of excitement,” and hopes the city will grow into a place its children can return home to with expectations of viable career options.
“They want to come back, but they don’t have a place to come back to,” Zimmern said.
At the same time the mayor is excited about future growth, she also hopes her community is able to retain its “small-town feel.”
“It’s a big responsibility being in the driver seat,” Zimmern said. “I don’t take it lightly.”
The mayor credited her city’s administration and staff with any success she might seem to be experiencing. She described them as “strong and true to what they do.”
“To do what I do for $1 a year, it’s easy by virtue of the people I’m surrounded with,” Zimmern said.
The mayor said she also appreciates that Gulf Breeze is not evolving in a vacuum; it plays a role in a larger regional picture. She’s a supporter of the Greater Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce’s Vision 2015—which focuses on bringing jobs to the area—and believes her community will play an integral role in a community on the verge.
“Northwest Florida is really poised to bloom, to blossom, to expand, to grow,” Zimmern said.
The mayor said one positive that Gulf Breeze brings to the regional table is a stellar education system. The community’s schools—part of the Santa Rosa County School District—are considered some of the region’s best public schools. Employees of businesses looking to expand anywhere in the area, will likely consider residing in Gulf Breeze for this reason.
“That, to me, is an economic driver,” Zimmern said. “People are not going to want to come here to work if they’re not going to get a good education.”
Prior to becoming mayor, Zimmern was a nurse for 18 years. She also served for 13 years on the Gulf Breeze City Council.
It is not lost on Zimmern that she is a rare breed in this area. There aren’t many elected female officials in the Panhandle.
“It is a man’s world in politics, particularly in Northwest Florida,” the mayor said.
Zimmern is, in fact, the first female mayor of Gulf Breeze.
“I’m proud to be that,” Zimmern said. “I hope that I will inspire future women.”
One of those future women watching is Zimmern’s granddaughter. That’s also one of the reasons she’s doing what she does.
“It’s not just political, it’s personal,” the mayor said.