Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 30th 2014

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Outtakes—Real Leadership

Vince Whibbs served as mayor of Pensacola for four consecutive terms, from 1979-91. He wasn’t a strong mayor, like Ashton Hayward, but he was a civic leader and successful business owner.

He respected the office of mayor and the people he served.  He brought dignity to the position knowing that his actions reflected on how the city of Pensacola was perceived regionally and nationally.

Vince stood for integrity, professionalism and public service. His standard welcome speech, which began “Welcome to the Sunshine State,” brought smiles to faces of those who heard it and a sense of civic pride. His words were respected and had meaning. He put this community above himself and the community loved him for it.

In the 25 years that I knew him, Vince never asked what was in it for him. He was former president of the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce, SubWest Rotary Club, Gulf Coast Council of the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement. He served on the board of trustees of Sacred Heart Hospital, Pensacola Junior College, University of West Florida and Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.

Vince never stopped giving back to the community. When his heart finally gave out in May 2006, Vince was in his kitchen on this way to give a speech in support of the Community Maritime Park. The Pensacola City Council honored him by naming the park after him.

As I reflect on the Mayor Hayward’s actions over past few months — the airport food services contract that he has refused to let the council discuss again, his notice of default regarding the Pitt Slip leases and his rush to announce the memorandum of understanding with ST Aerospace to make sure he got the credit — I wonder how Mayor Whibbs would have handled each of those situations.

I don’t think Vince would have been afraid of losing a vote over whether Chick-fil-A and Einstein Bros. Bagels or The Fish House and Bagelheads were operating at the airport.

I’m positive that if he felt the Pitt Slip sublease had issues, Vince would have called Collier Merrill and discussed them directly in hopes of reaching a fair resolution. He never would have leaked anything to the media to hurt The Fish House.

Vince never had a problem sharing credit for successes. He rarely used the word “I,” preferring “we” instead. He always was the first to congratulate others for their triumphs. He understood diplomacy and teamwork.

We could have used Vince’s leadership in 2013.