Pensacola, Florida
Sunday October 21st 2018


Politics: A Robinson Family Tradition

By Duwayne Escobedo

Politics has always been a part of the Robinson family.

As a toddler, Grover Robinson IV campaigned for his father, the late Grover III, in his Florida House race. He held up a sign that read: “Hi, I’m Grover, too. Vote for my daddy.” The folksy campaign helped the 29-year-old Grover III distinguish himself from a crowded field and win election in 1972.

He would keep the seat for 14 years giving the younger Grover an opportunity to serve as a page, among other experiences.

“I didn’t realize I was learning it,” Robinson said. “It’s hard when you’re living and breathing it every day. I’m glad I got a chance to be a part of it.”

His father and mother, Sandra, died in a helicopter accident, while on vacation in New Zealand in 2000.

In 2006, Grover Robinson IV decided to continue the family’s political tradition. Now, he is the new Escambia County Board of County Commissioners chairman for the second time.

By the time the 46-year-old finishes his third term in 2018, his daughter, Anna, who began kindergarten in 2006 when Robinson was first elected will be graduating high school in 2018. He and wife, Jill’s, oldest son, Grover V, is showing a knack for politics at the University of Florida as a freshman this year, also.

“It makes life a little crazy,” Robinson admitted. “But I think both of them have enjoyed parts of it. They were exposed to things they never would have been.”

Robinson, who last served as chairman in 2010, promised 2016 will be an active year for the commission. He says he has three priorities.

In his second go-round as chair, he wants to: 1) Set up a process for making smart decisions on BP Restore funds; 2) Create a lasting Santa Rosa Island governance system, so the island will be prosperous for the next 50 years; and 3) See the Olive Road improvements finally completed.

Robinson admits replacing the jail destroyed by flooding in April 2014 and continued growth in tourism are also big looming issues for the county.

Robinson is not afraid to stir the pot. He created an uproar at the end of last year when he suggested $10.6 million in BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill money, which the commission controls, be directed toward goals rather than projects. Robinson, whose District 4 includes Pensacola Beach, has been active in the RESTORE Act process since 2012, serving as the Florida Gulf Consortium chairman.

The county already assessed 124 proposed projects and selected projects that would essentially clean up polluted area waterways.

Robinson recommended environmental and economic restoration focus on improving habitat, water quality and workforce development. Robinson said Escambia County needs to diversify its tourism-heavy economy.

“We need to get it settled and make sure we get it right,” Robinson said of the RESTORE funds. “We need to set a policy that will last for years.”

Another hefty issue includes transforming the Santa Rosa Island Authority, which was created by the Florida Legislature in 1947.  The county assumed control of its Public Safety and Public Works departments and slashed its budget to about $4 million. The county plans to seek state abolishment of the SRIA after this year.

“We need to get it set up right, so for the next 50 years it’s in good hands,” Robinson said. “We need to try to get that done and solve it.”

Plus, Robinson admits being excited about seeing the more than $6 million expansion of Olive Road to four lanes and drainage issues solved.

“By the time I leave, it will be finished,” Robinson said of the road project.

Meanwhile, he said the county is searching for a site to build a new jail complex. He wants to make sure it isn’t flood prone. An April 2014 deluge that dumped more than two feet of rain led to an explosion that destroyed the Central Booking and Detention Center.

“Central booking and the old jail need to be replaced,” Robinson said. “I’m not attached to one place, but it cannot be in a flood-prone area and must be something that can handle a complete replacement.”

He said after new jail facilities are completed in the next three to four years, the county may reconsider returning the troubled jail back over to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Until the new facility is built, the jail will stay with the board,” Robinson said. “No matter what happens, the board is responsible for everything that happens with the facility.”

Robinson also said the county will continue to work with Pensacola, the school district and other organizations to ensure businesses want to relocate here.

“We have a better atmosphere and team-work approach,” Robinson said. “If we can create a good atmosphere, then good businesses will come to us.”

Robinson said overall he’s proud of the improvements and professionalism the commission has shown which have resulted in better leadership to Escambia County residents. He came on shortly after the governor removed four of the five commissioners over a land-buying scandal and suffered through some contentious conflicts between commissioners.

“We still have issues, but we’re light years ahead of where we were in 2006,” he said.

Will the three-term Commissioner of District 4 run for a fourth term on the commission in 2018? Robinson isn’t saying. “I have a plan, but I will say something at the right time.”

Grover Robinson IV File
Born: February 11, 1970
Family: Wife, Jill, and children Grover V and Anna
Education: Birmingham-Southern College
Elected to District 4: 2006, 2010 and 2014
Party: Republican
Notable: Seventh generation Pensacolian. Father, Grover III, served in Florida House for 14 years (1972-1986).