Pensacola City Councilman P.C. Wu is a gentleman, a statesman, a scholar and a public servant. There are few people you will meet that are more likeable and down to earth than him. Wu has a way of always turning the conversation back to you and your family. He’s one of those people who make you feel good about yourself.
On the Pensacola City Council, Wu has been the voice of reason, unwilling to get caught up in the melodrama and speaking only when he believes his words might contribute towards resolution of an issue. He always thanks whoever addresses the city council whether it’s city staff, a community volunteer or neighbor for their service and taking the time to speak to council.
Recently, Wu was elected second vice president of the Florida League of Cities (FLC), the statewide association of more than 410 cities in Florida. As he explained to the IN, the second vice president is the only election the FLC has at its convention. The second vice president is the one in line to assume presidency of the organization in two years. Wu follows in the footsteps of Florida Rep. Clay Ford, who was the organization’s president in 2004 while he served on the Gulf Breeze City Council.
“Before Clay got a hold of me, I never had any involvement in the local league,” Wu told the IN during a telephone interview. “Clay is the one who said you need to look at this organization and get involved. That’s what sparked my interest.”
Wu believes his involvement with the FLC helps. “We are stuck geographically so far away from most of the state,” said Wu. “It’s amazing how many people in the state have no knowledge that we exist nor of all we have to offer. I don’t want to sound like the chamber of commerce, but this position helps the whole area get exposure.”
Wu was elected to the Pensacola City Council in 2004. It was his first foray into politics. He said that he ran because he had a “burning desire to serve”.
His interest in politics is rooted in his parents, who came to this country from China, where they didn’t have the right to vote. “My mother never missed an election,” Wu said. “She didn’t care if it was pouring rain or snow, she got out there and she voted. Because she had a restaurant and exposure to a lot of people, politicians would come by and ask for advice.”
Wu also remembered his elementary school teachers impressing upon him the need to serve. “They told us that we all have an obligation to give back.”
Wu’s bachelor’s degree was in political science. He served on the student senate at Florida State University when local attorney John Merting was the student body president. “I’ve always had an interest in politics but didn’t really do anything politically until I retired from the University of West Florida.”
Wu said that because this community had been so good to his wife and family, he decided to run for the Pensacola City Council in 2004. “You spend 30 years somewhere and get an awful lot out of it,” said Wu. “You want to give something back.”
Every elected official has to decide what is the prism through which they see the issues that come before them. The councilman must decide what are the critical core values to his decision-making.
“What guides me, believe or not, is the Rotary Four-Way Test,” said Wu, who served as a District Governor of Rotary International. “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
Those core values came into play in 2008 when Wu voted to approve a controversial hotel lease for Innisfree Hotels at the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport. “Julian (McQueen, owner of Innisfree) had done everything that the city had asked him to do,” said Wu. “When the day came to hold the vote, I saw in the audience Julian on one side and many of my supporters on the other side opposing the lease.”
He said, “I knew that with this vote I was going to make one friend and about 75 enemies, but I had to go with Julian because he had done what the city staff had asked him to do. I wasn’t going to pull the rug out from under him simply because someone else was upset about the deal.”
Wu said that he has enjoyed his time on the council. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, even before the new charter, is that my power is limited,” he said. “The council members can’t tell city employees what to do. People don’t understand this when they call me. I can’t order around city employees, but I can call the city manager or now the mayor’s office to help.”
Although he didn’t support the new charter in 2009, Wu is pleased with the efforts of Mayor Ashton Hayward. “I really like the new mayor,” said Wu. “We need to give him a chance to let this work, because that’s what people said they wanted. I think there’s an awful lot of good that has been done. Ashton is doing a wonderful job.”
Wu said that he discusses his issues with the mayor privately and he supports the mayor’s initiatives. “When the mayor looks good, the City of Pensacola looks good,” said Wu. “What he wants is the same thing that we want. Ashton wants a better city.”
Wu seemed to be tired of some of the long council discussions. “On the council, it seems like on some issues we enjoy arguing with each other quite a bit,” said Wu. “My way of operating with Ashton has been if I have anything, I prefer to call and talk to him directly.”
He added, “I don’t think you accomplish much if you get into a disagreement publicly.”
What kind of grade would Professor Wu give Hayward for his first eight months in office?
“At this stage, I would probably grade him an A or A-.”