STRONG MAYOR 2.0 Pensacola history was made Monday, Aug. 8 when the city’s first strong mayor delivered his first budget and State of the City address to an audience of 150 city employees and supporters.
When Pensacola voted in 2009 to switch from an appointed city manager to an elected mayor as the executive officer running the city, the expectation was that candidates would run for the office with a specific platform. The voters would hold the new mayor accountable for that platform.
Candidate Ashton Hayward ran on a platform that offered 20 Solutions that focused on creating jobs, restoring trust in city government, taking action on issues like pensions and the Port of Pensacola, and improving neighborhoods.
Mayor Ashton Hayward has delivered on his 20 Solutions in his first eight months. The potential development of a Marine Research Center and Hatchery on Bruce Beach, in partnership with the State of Florida and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Foundation, happened because of Hayward’s efforts to spur job growth. He moved ahead on the city’s capital budget two community resource centers in Woodland Heights and at Legion Field. He has appointed advisory committees for both pensions and the port, and has established a 3-1-1 system for citizens to contact the city for any non-emergency requests for service.
Hayward’s first budget is the beta version of 20 Solutions. It is tied closely with his platform and carries it to a new level. The budget is 2.2 percent over last year’s General Fund budget, but it rolls back the property tax rate and doesn’t tap reserve funds.
The mayor is retooling city hall to be more efficient, more effective and to be able to act on his initiatives. Departments are being folded into large, more cohesive units that tie together similar functions.
Parks and Recreation, Library and Neighborhood Services will be combined into a Department of Neighborhood Services. Economic Opportunities and Sustainability will oversee the city’s housing, inspections and permitting and will be responsible for the implementation and success of the mayor’s economic development efforts.
Pensacola has gotten the strong mayor that it expected when it passed the new charter. The transition hasn’t been without a few bumps, but the improvement has been phenomenal.
The other thing I noticed on Monday was how Hayward has grown into the position. He was much more authoritative and in command when he delivered his address. I think we may be seeing the beta version of Mayor Hayward, too, in these upcoming months.