Pensacola, Florida
Friday June 22nd 2018


Outtakes—Pensacola’s Rebirth

By Rick Outzen

Watching the destruction of hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought back memories of Pensacola’s recovery from Hurricane Ivan—the weeks without power, the constant whining of chainsaws, and long discussions about how we would rebuild our lives, businesses and community.

What I learned from those days after the storm is that the recovery period can become an opportunity to create an even stronger community. There was a segment of Pensacola that wanted only to rebuild what we already had. They were satisfied with putting new roofs on houses, clearing the streets and repairing the roads and bridges.

The rest of us wanted something better. We no longer had to accept the status quo. We could look at how other communities handled their challenges and adopt those solutions that worked. The recovery from Hurricane Ivan gave us an opportunity for the rebirth of Pensacola.

Names of those who have contributed to that rebirth would fill this newspaper. They created this new mosaic of our community that is more diverse and progressive than before the storm. I’m proud that our newspaper played a role.

We welcomed the Community Maritime Park project that took a piece of contaminated, city-owned property on Pensacola Bay across from city hall and developed it into a stadium, festival park and parcels for offices and retail. We fought for the removal of the Main Street Sewage Treatment Plant that made it nearly impossible to sit outside on Palafox Street when the plant’s odors drifted to the east.

We sought to upset the pecking order of civic clubs and community boards that mandated younger members had to wait their turn for years before having a voice. We facilitated the creation of the Pensacola Young Professionals because we realized the first step to keeping young talent in this community was to listen to them and give them a seat at the table.

We helped with the Quality of Life Survey because too many politicians were claiming that they had unique insights into the community that validated their efforts to block progress. The survey gave us an objective view of what people really thought.

We endorsed candidates who embraced innovation. We supported a revision of the Pensacola charter that allowed for a strong mayor to assume the reins of city government and give the city a chance to view its future more progressively.

And Pensacola has changed significantly over the past decade, but the rebirth is far from finished. The heaviest lifts—improving public education and building a stronger, more diverse middle class—are still ahead of us.

However, I’m confident that together we can achieve that, too.