The transition of power in the greater Pensacola area has been slow, but it took a huge leap this year when Ashton Hayward was sworn in as Pensacola’s first strong mayor. The power brokers of the past have aged, seen their real estate values plummet and their friends fail to hold on to county and city offices.
New names and faces are rising up, and power has been dispersed throughout the community.
All of these factors made the 2011 IN Power List one of the most difficult to compile. Readers submitted their recommendations. Friends and foes of the paper were consulted. Names were added and deleted, and the order was hotly debated. We decided to combine the community and elected officials into one list, which made our task even more challenging. We had to expand the list to 100 names to accommodate all the recommendations.
We maintained our position that the past Number Ones have been “retired” to our Power Hall of Fame, so we didn’t have to worry about where to rank Fred Levin (2007), Collier Merrill (2008), Lewis Bear Jr. (2009) or Quint Studer (2010).
After two weeks of arguing, the IN ended with a Power List that is younger and more diverse than any of the previous four years. Many of the familiar names from past lists are still there, but they may have moved a little further down the list.
The IN Power List isn’t an exact science and does attract debate and criticism, so enjoy the read and let us know who you think we left out.
#1 ASHTON HAYWARD, Mayor of Pensacola
Thoughts on making the Power List? I’m flattered, of course, but I also look at it as I have a huge responsibility to grow our city. I’m going to do everything in my power, under this new form of government, to truly tell the story of Pensacola. For too long, we’ve suppressed the town and kept off the radar. It’s all about creating jobs, creating awareness and creating inclusion in our city.
What have you encountered as you’ve promoted Pensacola in D.C. and elsewhere? The reaction has been extremely positive, I have to say. The new form of government works. When they figure out that you’re the CEO of Pensacola and in control of a $216 million budget, people listen.
People know the name, but not a lot about the city. They understand my interest is to grow Pensacola and create an environment where people want to work, live and play. Once they understand that message, people say they want to come visit, check your town out.
How should you use your power as strong mayor? My power is to be able to reach out to the citizens of Pensacola and see how I can make their quality of life better, build our infrastructure better, to make sure we’re looking at every detail of our city–whether it’s our enterprises, downtown or neighborhoods. You have to look at all the details of our city and see what’s lacking and what can we do better. It’s my job to reach out to everyone, not just one facet of the city.
Biggest surprise during your first five months? How many that probably weren’t in the Hayward camp are in the Hayward camp now and want to really help. There are still naysayers as there always is in politics and business. People are really coming around where they want to build on the momentum and truly help our city.
We truly have the opportunity in this decade to be the number one city in Northwest Florida. We don’t need to be outshone by Walton, Bay or Okaloosa counties. When you have a community with opera, symphony, ballet, Saenger Theatre and world-class waterfront, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be growing population.
A year from now, what will we be saying about your first year in office? You are going to see a significant impact on the west side of Pensacola, truly improving that side of the city, which has been neglected far too long.
Gallery Night last week was the best one since An and I moved to Pensacola. I saw more families and more diversity than I’ve ever seen downtown–eating in our restaurants, from Jaco’s to Jackson’s to Hopjacks. These people are taking ownership in their city.
Saturday night An and I went to a jazz concert at Will Call. It was amazing the number of people there. People are proud this is their city and are more comfortable with it now.
Wow, people are taking ownership. This is not just a city for seven or eight guys. It’s a city where everybody can be successful.
Who have been your mentors? I bounce a lot of ideas off of Stu Arnold, who was the president of the Financial Times when I was there. My father has definitely been a mentor to me. He has always been honest, telling me to think before I speak and to go with my “gut.” And they will never lead you wrong. He is the epitome of a gentleman.
# 2 Julian MacQueen, Founder and CEO of Innisfree Hotels
Community involvement: That’s a tough one. On the board for Independence for the Blind, Sacred Heart Hospital, Beach Community Bank; advisor for Take Stock in Children; Tauperville Society
Define power and influence: Power and influence are earned and not given.
Greatest accomplishments: Marriage, children and bringing together an organization based on principles and virtues that actively practice those on a daily basis.
Biggest challenges for our area: Unity of purpose, move beyond internal competing ideologies, focus on external promotion of Pensacola, inclusion and leveraging natural assets both in our environmental capital and people and establishing Pensacola as a brand. Education is a key element to attracting new business and bringing in the voice of the disenfranchised.
Mentors: Adib Paherzadeh and Peter Khan, Bha’I World Center; Ed Gray, local; Kim MacQueen, wife. All of these people really focus on bringing principles into the work place. They taught me to keep taking the high road.
Thoughts on this tourism season: I feel that 2011 will bring us back to the numbers we enjoyed in 2007. My hope is that over time, attention drawn because of the oil spill will attract people who would have not known about [Pensacola]. The introduction of Southwest Airlines has had a profound effect on the market.
Thoughts on the future of Pensacola: I think we are positioned to accomplish with the new strong mayor and new Chamber of Commerce leadership. We are there right now, and I am excited about what that means.
#3 David Morgan, Sheriff of Escambia County
Community involvement: Actively involved through numerous civic and religious organizations
Define power and influence: It’s more important that you earn the respect of the community. Power and influence emanate from an individual’s integrity. My grandfather told me, “Dave, it’s hell dealing with an honest man, make sure you’re that man.”
Greatest accomplishments: Community buy-in. We have made significant strides in changing the culture in the community and the Sheriff’s office. There was a wall between law enforcement and the community, a huge amount of distrust. We have gone from 18 to 45 neighborhood watch groups. All socio-economic groups are taking back their communities, and I am proud to be a part of that.
Biggest challenges for our area: Maintaining an acceptable level of services (fire, police, EMS) with annually declining budgets.
Mentors: Both my paternal and maternal grandparents had a significant impact on molding my character, and throughout my military career I served outstanding officers and under great presidents, who shall rename nameless. [laughs]
Thoughts on second term: My primary job as Sheriff [in second term] is to identify young men and women to head law enforcement and provide an outstanding list of eminent men and women to serve as Sheriff of Escambia County.”
#4 Mike Papantonio, Trial Lawyer, Progressive Media Pundit
Community involvement: My community is larger than Pensacola, but not disconnected from the issues facing this community. I have become a progressive voice speaking out on issues on a national level on both television and radio.
Define power and influence: It comes from deciding what your ideology is and being honest about it and practicing it with your hands, heart and mind. You must have the courage to influence thought—if not, then you are a coward.
Unfortunately, cowards outnumber those with courage. Most people today take the easy way out, which is to agree even if they think it is immoral, unjust or wrong. It is tougher to have an ideological center that you believe in. It takes more courage than most people can muster.
Greatest accomplishments: Having a career at the same time as focusing on family.
Family and friends are more important than career. That sounds like an under achiever, but it isn’t. I don’t value recognition, but I do value coming home to my family.
Mentors: Atticus Finch (“To Kill a Mockingbird”), Clarence Darrow, John Wesley (founder of the Methodist church)
Thoughts on radio show “Ring of Fire”: We have shouted down ignorant opposition when most progressives are willing to back down. There is nothing warm and fuzzy about the show I do with Bobby Kennedy because the other side is full of thugs.
Why is it that I appear on national TV two or three times a week? Because of the message I bring that most progressives are afraid to deliver. When you show up at a gun fight you have to have a gun, not a knife.
#5 Jim Reeves, Real Estate Lawyer
Community involvement: Involved very actively with Maritime Park board, actively involved with Little Theatre board, chairman of the board of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, State Chairman of PRIDE, Inc. Board of Trustees, actively involved at Pensacola State College. Recipient of 2010 Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Pioneer Award, 2010 Citizen of the Year–Gulf Breeze, 2010 Legacy Award from Real Estate Development Association–Northwest Florida Chapter
Define power and influence: Only relates to a person’s willingness to work within the community. The more community involvement, the more influence one might have.
Greatest accomplishments: Being appointed by four different Governors to PRIDE board, both Democratic and Republican
Biggest challenges for our area: Job creation—In order to do that we all have to pull together as one.
Mentors: Former Mayor Reinhardt Holm and Jim Cronley—They basically just taught me to be involved in the community.
Thoughts on Maritime Park: It’s over budget. Since Mayor Hayward has been involved, he has done a great job of trying to rein in the cost and promote the beauty of the Maritime Park.