Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Bergosh: Addicted to Politics

By Duwayne Escobedo

His love for politics began in 2006 thanks to his big brother Gary, Jeff Bergosh says.

Gary, an Escambia County Circuit Court judge, convinced Jeff to run for the Escambia County School Board seat that he had vacated.

“He talked me into it,” says Jeff Bergosh. “I was very green. I didn’t know what to do. It was fun. Incredibly.”

He served three terms on the school board and then considered running for superintendent. How close did he come? He holds his index finger and thumb together.

Instead, he ran for the Escambia County Commission District 1 seat in 2016 and won a hard-fought Republican primary with 40 percent of the vote, beating Jesse Casey and Karen Sindel. He then cruised to victory in the general election with 69 percent of the vote over Audra Carter.

“It’s addictive,” Bergosh says about running for office. “It’s a mixture of bare-knuckles fighting and the finesse of a ballet dancer.”

Now, in his second year on the commission, it’s his turn to serve as the Board of County Commissioners chairman, replacing Doug Underhill. It’s a challenge Bergosh says he’s up for. He will get to set the agenda, manage the meetings and help come up with creative solutions with other commissioners and the staff that benefit District 1 and Escambia County citizens.

“I’m excited to do it,” Bergosh says. “I run very efficient and very quick meetings. We’ll discuss every issue every minute we need to and not a minute more.”

Bergosh promises much fewer meetings than the “30 or 40″ the commission had in his first year and shorter meetings. He also promises decorum among the commissioners, staff and public.

“I never raise my voice,” Bergosh says. “Shouting should never be done in public.”

A benefit of so many and so long meetings, Bergosh says, is it gave him a handle on the perspective of the other four commissioners. He credits it for allowing him to compromise with District 5 Commissioner Steven Berry during a recent budget meeting on giving the Escambia County Clinics $300,000 up front, instead of giving them equal payments over the next 12 months like other charities.

“We worked it out,” Bergosh says. “I learned we can get things done. We have more power on this board than the (school board) and I really, really appreciate it.”

He promises to use that power, among other things, to solve the operations of the county bus system, which he calls a “mess.” Additionally, he plans to keep the more than $200 million new jail construction on track and to build the southern part of the Beulah Beltway that adds another interchange with Interstate 10. Plus, Bergosh wants to ensure the wise spending of Triumph Gulf Coast funding from BP for its 2010 oil spill. Finally, he aims to pave more roads and add more shoulders in District 1, which he represents.

He makes it known to the Inweekly that he supports County Administrator Jack Brown and looks forward to working with him as chairman.

“He’s done a good job and continuity is critical,” Bergosh said.

So much has been on his plate in his first year as a commissioner, he says “it feels like two weeks.” He admits his wife and secretary set up his corner office on the fourth floor of the Escambia County complex that overlooks downtown Pensacola toward the Bay Bridge.

“I like a hot kitchen. The hotter the better,” he says.

When the 49-year-old does relax, the former restaurant and bar owner, who now works as a work control/quality assurance manager for a locally-owned company, says he likes to go deep-sea fishing. One of his favorite places is Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the California peninsula in Mexico.

“When I’m not working, I’m plotting fishing trips,” said Bergosh, laughing. “I don’t do it often, but when I do it, I do it a big.”

A photo of one of those trips sits in an 8×10 frame on a bookshelf in his office. It shows a young Bergosh with long, curly hair fishing on a dock.

He says his family is supportive of him in public office. He details much of his work and political stances on his Jeff Bergosh blog. His met his wife, Sally, in college at San Diego State and have been married 23 years. The married couple has three children, including 22-year-old daughter, Tori, 20-year-old son, Nick and 17-year-old son, Brandon.

They are not afraid to criticize him or offer him advice. Bergosh, chuckling, says, “Sally ribs me a little bit.”

But when he seeks advice on an upcoming issue, he often turns to his brother, Gary. The brothers grew up with their late mother, Sally, and late step father, Bob. They live near each other in West Pensacola.

“We’re tight. We talk every single day,” Jeff says. “We support each other.”

Bergosh said after graduating from Pensacola High School, no opportunity existed for him. So, he moved to California. Today, as a commissioner, he plans to continue to support the economic diversification and growth of Pensacola and the county. He said the area needs another leg to stand on economically, besides tourism and the military.

“If you saw what I saw in the 1980s and came here today, you would be blown away,” Bergosh said. “If our kids wanted to stay here today, they have plenty of opportunities to stay here.”