Pensacola, Florida
Sunday October 21st 2018


Outtakes—Tough Month

The last month has been a painful one for Mayor Ashton Hayward. An optimist would say some difficult lessons were learned, and Pensacola city government will be better for it. The pessimist waits for the next bonehead blunder.

Me? Not my circus, not my monkeys

The biggest problem for Hayward was all the miscues that surfaced were fairly simple for the public to digest.  His problems undermined his image of fighting for transparency and economic growth and building public trust.

Losing the Center for Entrepreneurship and other projects at the Community Maritime Park shocked everyone.  Mayor Hayward had proclaimed his support for the $20-million investment by Quint and Rishy Studer both on the front page of the daily newspaper and in a city council meeting. He told us that he had only a few tweaks, but the list was nearly a dozen changes to the approved leases.

The Studer withdrew their proposal. Later, we learned that the city’s only other prospect, a Miami developer,  had failed to send in a revised plan for the park.  The mayor was left with nothing for the maritime park.

The public was left trying to figure out how the mayor, who has traveled the world courting corporations to invest in Pensacola, could not close a deal with a couple whose offices are within walking distance of city hall.

Then the mayor went on television to explain why he gave Tamara Fountain control of the airport, port and natural gas operations. He misstated her education, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if he immediately corrected it.  However, Hayward did nothing while the media tried to figure out her qualifications. He didn’t speak up until after she resigned.

The public wondered what kind of boss doesn’t defend his leadership team. It wasn’t Fountain’s job to defend her promotion. The mayor was the one who should have done it.

Then we have City Administrator Eric Olson complaining to the bosses of the president of the city’s most active homeowners’ association that she was using her federal email account when she contacted city staff. Olson and the mayor defended the phone call because they said she violated federal policy.

The public didn’t care about the policy. They don’t like city officials calling their bosses. If Olson had a problem, he should have called the person.

To his credit, Mayor Hayward has made changes. He is advertising for two assistant city administrators and a new human resource coordinator.

The optimists should be happy.