Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday March 20th 2019

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Outtakes – First 100 Days

By Rick Outzen

In our May 5, 2011 cover story, “Hayward’s First 100 Days,” we compared newly-elected Mayor Ashton Hayward with Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston, S.C., and former Mobile, Ala., Mayor Mike Dow. We had no previous strong Pensacola mayors to use as yardsticks. Now we do.

His successor, Grover Robinson, hit his 100th day on the publication date of this issue, March 7. How do the two compare?

Hayward’s splashiest announcement was his negotiations with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute for a large fish hatchery and marine research facility here. While visiting Washington, D.C., to lobby for BP Oil Spill funds, Hayward had dinner with a friend of The Furman Group, whose founder served on the executive committee of the institute. The mayor told Inweekly the project would create 80 jobs.

Hubbs-Sea World later dropped out of the project. Residents fought building the hatchery at Bruce Beach. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission eventually pulled the plug on the project last summer.

Robinson had to come up with the funds to complete the financing for a $210 million aviation maintenance and repair campus at the Pensacola International Airport. Hayward had left office with the city still $45 million short in funding necessary to receive a crucial $56 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast. Robinson secured funds from the city council, county commission, Florida Department of Transportation and even an additional $10 million from Triumph over two weeks.

Hayward had his own salvage project. He had to complete the Community Maritime Park that had been on the drawing board since 2006. The stadium would be finished in 2012.

Hayward got the city council to approve community centers for Woodland Heights and Legion Field. He also had the council authorize $256,000 for landscaping projects along A Street. He held his first “Taking City Hall to the Citizens” on April 11, 2011.

Robinson has announced a commitment to Complete Streets in Pensacola. With the help of the Studers, a national design firm is looking at how to develop the city’s waterfront best. The Studers are also master planning the parcels at the maritime park that have remained undeveloped since the stadium opened.

Robinson has held a dozen press conferences, two town halls and a special meeting on the future of Hitzman Park and attended council and transition team meetings.

Hayward announced that he had begun the process of streamlining city government and eliminating duplication of services. Robinson is faced with numerous retirements in key management positions and how to build a deeper bench at city hall.

Hayward announced the retirement of City Attorney Rusty Wells. Robinson announced Wells would be his deputy city attorney.

The first 100 days for both mayors showed promise. What happens next will cement Robinson’s legacy.