Pensacola, Florida
Monday April 22nd 2019

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Outtakes—Better Get It Right

By Rick Outzen

The actions and policies of the next Pensacola mayor will determine whether the city will continue to have the strong-mayor form of government.

In January 2022, the city charter calls for a charter review commission to be established. Any proposed amendments are to be submitted to the city council by July 31, 2022, for placement on the ballot. One of those amendments could be to return to hiring a city manager to run the city if city operations don’t improve.

The next mayor must be committed to having a continuous dialogue with city residents. He must be willing to listen to opinions that differ from his positions and be open to making modifications to his plans. Town hall meetings, a less fortified city hall and an “open door” policy are integral to reconnecting city government with the people.

The 3-1-1 service needs to be more than a phone answering service. Other cities use the program as a management tool to identify problem areas. Inweekly has received too many complaints from citizens who feel like their concerns are going into some “black hole.”

The next mayor needs to take more care in hiring the most qualified people to fill leadership positions. Open posting of available jobs, firm qualifications, peer interviews, established on-boarding procedures and 30-, 60- and 90-day reviews must be implemented, as well as annual evaluations for all employees, including the city administrator. The mayor needs to take politics out of city operations and stress city residents come before any concerns about the mayor’s political career. We also suggest the mayor and city administrator move their offices to the first floor of city hall.

The next mayor needs to review the city’s grievance appeal process for employees. The fire chief blunder might have been avoided had a more objective process been in place. The mayor currently isn’t in the chain of command for appeals. Employees shouldn’t be solely subject to the political whims of the mayor’s leadership team without any safeguards.

The next mayor and his administration must see the Pensacola City Council as their partners in running the city. The mayor must have face-to-face conversations with council members on a regular basis. He must be able to defend his policies and initiatives in council meetings. The mayor needs to let his department heads take questions in those meetings. The nominees for positions that require council approval, such as police chief or fire chief, should field questions during council meetings.

The mayor should be willing to do interviews with all local media, not just the ones who write favorable articles. He should require his staff to do the same.

These changes will make a huge difference in whether we have a strong mayor beyond 2022.