In part two of our look at Pensacola’s mayoral candidates, WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody recently visited with City Councilman Brian Spencer.
Spencer joined the mayor’s race literally at the 11th hour, signing up about 60 minutes before the end of qualifying in June. An architect by training, he has served two terms on the City Council representing District-6, and finished second in the primary to Grover Robinson with 21 percent of the vote. The two meet in the November 6 runoff.
“I feel like I need to catch up, and am catching up on the campaign trail, given the amount of time that is left,” Spencer said. “Fortunately, the exposure to those second rounds of voters is giving me a lot of optimism.
After the campaigns for City Council, a run for mayor is a little different, says Spencer, both physically and practically.
“A lot more legwork; covering the entire city vs. one district,” says Spencer. “My goal is to devote enough time to that [the] many residents that are beyond District-6 have a chance to meet me face-to-face; ask questions, get to know me a little more personally.”
There is no shortage of endorsements for Spencer’s campaign, including one from philanthropist Nancy Fetterman. Spencer’s top priority – public safety – has garnered another from Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, appearing in this campaign ad.
“And I believe that Brian Spencer is our only choice to be the Mayor of Pensacola,” Morgan says. “Brian is a man of integrity, who always supports law enforcement. He’s innovative, inclusive; and will do what it takes to keep you safe”
When it comes to economic development, Brian Spencer’s position has not wavered from the day he entered the mayor’s race. For one, he believes Pensacola is trending in the right direction; unemployment is down. But it’s not the number of jobs, as it is what they’re paying.
“That is an issue that we must address, as those seeking to start a career in the Pensacola area may be tempted to look elsewhere,” Spencer said. “If our environmental assets aren’t enough to offset lower salaries.”
Calls are now being made to change the Escambia County School Superintendent’s position from the current elected post, to one appointed by the School Board. Spencer is a supporter of the latter.
“I do believe that’s the way we are going to increase the chances of getting the best candidate; I think it will open the door much wider to attract and invite top talent from all over the country,” said Spencer.
The race for mayor is an open seat. Ashton Hayward is finishing up two terms, and decided not to run for a third. Spencer says the unfinished business facing the new mayor includes passing a new city budget, which just had the second reading.
“There are allocations that are set in place; however, Council has the opportunity through resolutions to make budget allocation changes,” Spencer says. “With expectations that the enterprises are forecast to provide the [needed] revenue.”
If elected, Brian Spencer would become Pensacola’s second “strong mayor” under the 2009 charter rewrite. He says going to a mayor-council form of government has defined the general powers of the city and provided accountability.
“The mayor has the responsibility to make decisions based on input from members of Council,” says Spencer. “It paves the way for establishing a vision and implementing it.”
The race for Pensacola mayor has become a very expensive one by grassroots standards. To date, Spencer has raised more than $236,000, compared to $159,000 by Robinson, according to the Escambia Supervisor of Elections office. Spencer has spent $157,000 compared to Robinson’s $89,000.