Lumon May will become chairman of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 21. He sat down with the Independent News over the past weekend to talk about some of the upcoming issues facing the commission.
IN: One of the hottest issues on the county agenda is taking the control of tourism and its $5-$6 million budget from the Greater Pensacola Chamber to a new entity, Visit Pensacola, Inc. How do you see this playing out?
MAY: There is no problem with the county commission bringing tourism out from under the Greater Pensacola Chamber. I’ve been consistent. During my campaign, I committed to moving it from the chamber into a separate entity and I have never wavered since my election.
However, taking it away from the chamber and how it lands are two different things. I wasn’t happy with the first proposal made in August because of its lack of inclusion and diversity.
Inclusion is about more that just race. Race is certainly very important, so is gender, but so is having all the tourism stakeholders included—festival groups, downtown businesses, Pensacola Beach and restaurants. Everybody that contributes to tourism needs to be included.
In September, I thought we needed to push “pause,” take a look at the structure and find ways to include more people. I was glad that the rest of my commissioners agreed to hold off.
We are going to vet the latest proposal from Visit Pensacola, but I think we will make the Dec. 5 deadline. In the end, the commissioners have a fiduciary responsibility. We need to make sure this lands right.
People look to us for guidance and resolution. The commissioners will always have input, since we are the elected officials.
IN: Another issue is the battle some see coming between the county and Emerald Coast Utility Authority over the waste collections and Perdido Landfill.
MAY: That’s an issue I need to get my arms around. It’s a moving target with many differences of opinion.
I don’t see how we can handle disposal without collections. However, I do understand that there have been agreements and commitments made long before I became a commissioner.
This is one issue that I don’t want to rush into. I want to hear from all parties. During my tenure, I will try to help the county come to some resolution on this.
IN: Commissioner May, you have worked hard to bring more services to District 3. You have pushed for a community center in the Brownsville area. What is your vision for that center?
MAY: We talk a lot about economic development. And while we are constantly looking for money for projects like Project Stallion and other economic development projects, we have forgotten to invest in human capital. Sixty-five out of 67 Florida Counties outspend Escambia County on human services, meaning we don’t invest in our people.
This community center is an opportunity to not only do workforce development, but also workforce readiness. It is going to serve as an incubator and a training center. People will get training and we will help them find jobs. They will be building self-esteem and pride in themselves and in this community.
I know this will be a challenge because we’ve never done it before. I’m working to build community support, faith-based support and nonprofit support. This is not going to be an overnight fix, but, in the end, we will have tangible results that the Brownsville area can be proud of.
IN: What other priorities do you have for the next year?
MAY: I’ve been very committed to giving county employees livable wages. We have people that have worked for us for 28 years and make less than $10 an hour. I had hoped to focus any raisesto be given to this group of employees but my fellow commissioners voted to extend raises across the board. I accepted the wishes of the majority but I haven’t lost focus on this issue.
The county has taken control of the jail. I will push, in the first quarter of my chairmanship, for a jail advisory committee, because there are still questions about jail operations.
I would like to have shorter meetings and show more cordiality among the commissioners.
Every day we meet, there is a civics class or some child watching to learn how our government operates. They are looking at us as leaders. If we can’t come to resolution without conflict, then we are doing a disservice to our future leaders.
I’m going to try to show leadership by doing the basic things my mother taught me—be nice, be cordial and be respectful of others.