There will be at least one new face on the Pensacola City Council after the November election, following the departure of a long-time member.
In a written statement, Councilman Larry B. Johnson announced he would not seek reelection after a decade in the District-4 seat. That district includes Cordova Park, East Pensacola Heights, and a portion of East Hill.
“We’ve had a good run; I think Pensacola’s in a different place than it was ten years ago,” said Johnson. “We’ve been real happy with the success and the direction our city is in now. And so, it’s just time to move on.”
Among those successes: a domestic partner registry at a time before same-sex couples won the right to marry, Bayfront Stadium and the resurrection of downtown, going to a Mayor-Council form of government, and a couple of environmental achievements: a recycling program and improved water quality in Bayou Texar.
“I did not see dolphins in Bayou Texar ten years ago; in the last three to four years we’ve seen them, and I think the public’s seen them,” Johnson said. “We have wildlife reentering this bayou; that’s a positive sign.”
But despite those and other accomplishments, Johnson says in the past couple of years, one or two other council members have, in his words, lost sight of their mission and have placed self-interest and political vendettas ahead of the greater good.
“I’m just tired of these long meetings that nothing gets accomplished,” said Johnson. “We’ve got one councilperson right now that just really talks an awful lot, more than probably the other six councilpersons combined.”
While Johnson isn’t naming names, one of his most vocal rivals has been Council Vice President Sherri Myers.
“The remarks about me he’s entitled to make,” Myers said. “But what really, really hurts me is how he’s treated the public. I feel his comments toward the public on numerous occasions has [sic] been very inappropriate.”
Myers also points to a note from Johnson to former City Hall employee Lila Cox, who was fired by Mayor Ashton Hayward in 2014, that recommended council members’ remarks be limited to two minutes.
“I’m just going to do the work that I think needs to be done on behalf of the citizens, and I am going to be vocal about it,” Myers said. “And if that doesn’t suit some people, then maybe they shouldn’t be serving on a governmental body.”
As for Councilman Larry B. Johnson’s political future, he says everything is on the table – including a possible run for Mayor.
“I have gone down and picked up the paperwork to file to run for Mayor,” said Johnson. “We’re going to sit back for a week or two, and talk to people I respect and take a look at my political future. I’ve had people talk to me about County Commission, and the state House seat the Frank White is moving on now to run for Attorney General.”
So far, the only candidate to file for the District-4 seat is Pensacola businessman Jared Moore, a political rookie who now serves on the city’s Planning Board.