As Pensacola Mayor-elect Grover Robinson begins preparations to take office later this month, the current mayor is there to lend a hand to the transition.
Ashton Hayward could have run for a third term under the city’s 2009 charter, but chose not to. On Friday he and Robinson met to begin the changeover, which begins with the new Mayor’s installment on November 27.
“I think it’s exciting for Pensacola,” said Hayward. “Grover and I go back a long way; we talked everything about family, personal life – we both grew up in Cordova Park, we used to pass each other on the way to school. I was going to St. Paul’s and he was going to Cordova Park. His parents were amazing people.”
The discussion also turned to issues which are important to Pensacola, such as where the city is today and various changes during Hayward’s eight-year tenure and moving forward.
“We discussed the importance of the executive branch (Mayor) and the legislative branch (City Council),” said Hayward. “I shared with him it’s entirely different, and I think once you get in here and see the landscape for yourself, I don’t think you can really, fully understand until you’re actually in those shoes.’
Robinson, says Hayward, is fully aware that the executive role of mayor is different from his previous legislative role of county commissioner.
“Because [as mayor] you’re responsible for everyone in the workforce; you’ve got a lot of people depending on you within City Hall as well as [Pensacola’s] 55,000 citizens,” Hayward said. “It’s going to be a big job and I think I was trying to frame that and Grover understands and he was extremely receptive.”
During the race, Hayward endorsed Robinson’s opponent, Pensacola City Councilman Brian Spencer. The Mayor says it was a profoundly difficult choice to make.
“Grover and I discussed a little bit of that; I worked with Brian, we were together on the [City] Charter change and that was my reasoning on that,” Hayward said. “I felt like Brian was the right candidate. But I think in politics, you have to be bigger for the community and the city; it’s about the citizens paying the freight and making our city go.”
The Robinson-Spencer matchup was one of the rare campaigns where the candidates stuck to the issues and their visions of Pensacola – without the mud-slinging and other vitriol that’s come to mark political campaigns in this day and age. Their civility came as no surprise to Hayward.
“Grover and I grew up together; he’s got a lot of integrity, and Brian and I worked a lot as well together and he’s got a lot of integrity,” said Hayward. “Their interests were the best interests for the City of Pensacola and the citizens of Pensacola. And that’s what they showcased. I think it’s a testament of where we’re going as a community.”
Despite the Spencer endorsement, Hayward is now solidly in the camp of Mayor-elect Grover Robinson, pledging his full support -- part of which is based on his personal experience.
“I shared with Grover that I want him to be very successful, and I’ll be a big cheerleader and support him in any capacity that he needs me to be there for him,” Hayward said. “Being the first strong mayor, there’s a lot of things that you learn, and we kind of paved the way for some things that hopefully will be easier for Grover.’
As his mission is ending at City Hall, Ashton Hayward believes he’s fulfilled his vision as mayor. But he also believes the city’s better days are ahead, and he’s looking forward to being a part of that as a private citizen.