“Now is the time to use the positive momentum of our successes to push forward—reach upward” are the words he used on Oct. 22 to open his State of the City address.
His address was well produced, done on a scale that one might expect of a much larger city. It was in the Saenger Theater and opened with a video of Peter Rubardt of the Pensacola Symphony, Dr. Ken Ford of IHMC and Quint Studer talking about what a great place Pensacola is to work, live and play. It closed with Debbie Calder thanking Mayor Hayward for his efforts.
The lights stayed off when the mayor walked on stage and began his speech, standing under a spotlight and before a clear plexiglass podium surrounded with “swave” banners.
Mayor Hayward said that economic development would be his top priority.
“If we work together and focus our efforts across these dimensions, we will create a city where everyone has an opportunity to be successful,” said Hayward. “Everyone will have optimism.”
Hayward spoke of using a regional approach to attract targeted businesses and thanked Navy Federal Credit Union for the jobs that the company has brought to Escambia County. “Thank you for the optimism you create in our community.”
He talked about the relationships that he has developed in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. and claimed to have obtained over $40 million of state and federal dollars for the city.
Hayward said that he would focus on workforce education. “I pledge to push Workforce Education forward by collaborating with businesses, The Chamber, Community, County and State agencies, and Educational Facilities to implement training that puts our citizens to work. I pledge to support Workforce Education and to work diligently to recruit employers and jobs in these targeted industries.”
At the press conference after his address, he gave few details on what the role of city government would be in this area.
Hayward appeared ready to get back to some of the issues that got him elected in 2010. It was the west side of Pensacola that put him office. In the next two months, the city will open community centers in Woodland Heights and Legion Field.
“In addition to this investment, we will awaken The Westside Redevelopment Plan,” he told the audience of about 100 people. “More landscaping, sidewalks, street lights, and traffic calmers will be added to the west side.”
Hayward said that he plans to make the west side neighborhoods safer. He praised the efforts of Police Chief Chip Simmons and the joint gun task force formed by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for recovering over 350 illegal guns and making 175 arrests.
“We will not allow crime to keep our community hostage. This is not an insurmountable problem. It can be overcome. We need to be cautious about negativity. Negativity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don’t want to sweep the crime conversation under the carpet, but our community needs to hear more about the successful people living and working on our west side.”
He said that he will be instituting a round table to address violence. At the press conference, he said he plans to walk the neighborhoods with Commissioner Lumon May and “engage in open and frank dialogue and look for ideas and strategies that can create a clear direction for the future.”
He ended his 20-minute address with the following:
“We will move forward with respect for each other and a shared vision of prosperity and safety for all our citizens. Optimism will take us upward. Goodnight and God bless Pensacola.”