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INTERVIEW: Mayor Ashton Hayward On Second Term Goals

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City of Pensacola
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  Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward’s second term is underway, having been sworn in last month. As Hayward sat down with WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody, he touches on that victory, downtown renaissance, and the City Council.

DD: Mayor Hayward, you won re-election last month with 65% of the vote. What mandate does that margin of victory carry into your 2nd term?

HAYWARD: I think it’s a testament of the leadership at City Hall, and the community seeing the results that we set out to accomplish when I became Mayor in 2011. We set a vision for the community and I think quickly the citizens figured out and saw how dedicated I was to them. We accomplished quite a bit in my first four years. I was very fortunate and very humbled.

DD: In your 2nd inaugural address, you mentioned downtown Pensacola as being in the “middle of a renaissance.” What’s next, and what role will Quint Studer’s purchase of the old Main Street Treatment Plant site play in it?

HAYWARD: I’m a strong believer that if you have a dead downtown you have a dead city. And if you think about Pensacola, it’s our lifeblood. It’s 39 square miles. We’ve got to really bring the density downtown and there’s plenty of real estate to do that. Mr. Studer’s been a big part of the renaissance, putting his money where his mouth is, Mr. Studer’s done that in a big way. With the purchase of the ECUA property, 19 acres, it’s going to really lend itself to moving west of City Hall. People want to live in the city limits now, I think more than ever.

DD: There’s new city council leadership, with Andy Terhaar the president and Larry Johnson the VP. What does that mean for your relationship with the council?

HAYWARD: I think it’s very important. Mr. Johnson and I have had a long history together, and I’ve seen Andy be a leader on the council since he became elected. We’re all working toward the same thing and that’s the success of Pensacola. Some of us have a different way of getting there, but I think we need to realize that the first four years was a different form of government (under the 2009 City Charter). I always understood it was going to be tough at times and challenging at times. And one think I think we all need to really realize is that Pensacola has to work together, the city and (Escambia) county to be a leader in the state.

In Part 2 on Tuesday, Mayor Ashton Hayward looks at working with other governmental bodies, luring industry to the area, and lessons learned from his first term.

In the second part of WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody’s talk with Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, the focus is on bagging more industry, lessons from his first term, and working with state and county governments. 

DD: There’s also a leadership change on the Escambia County Commission, with Steven Barry the new chairman. What do you see on the horizon when it comes to working with that body?

HAYWARD: That’s something I’m really looking forward to. I think you saw some really good synergy last year with the county and myself. I think they want the same thing. Working with the five commissioners is going to be exciting, and I think we need to leverage the assets together. The city and county working together is going to be extremely important, especially with the RESTORE Act money coming down the pipe.

DD: Same question, but replacing “county commission” with “Gov. Scott and the local legislative delegation.”

HAYWARD: I’ve talked to Gov. Scott a couple of times since the election. Running a state and a city, obviously it’s different. Theirs is a $70 billion-plus budget, and ours is $200 million.  But you’ve really got to focus on the business community; they’re the ones that create the jobs. Working with (Scott) is going to be extremely important to get our fair share of those tax dollars that we send to Tallahassee. But most importantly, to have an open dialog and let them know that we are over here, and don’t forget about us.

DD: UPS, VT Mobile Aerospace, Southwest Airlines and other firms announced this year they would be locating to Pensacola. How do you plan to use those, in luring other firms here?

HAYWARD: We have a million and a half passengers come through our (Pensacola International) airport (every year). And creating that aviation cluster was incredibly important. Looking at the I-10 Corridor from New Orleans all the way over to Jacksonville, there’s a lot of business that we can grab to come in here. I think VTMA is a start; I think DynaCorps, that acquired HeliWorks out at our airport is very important. Northwest Florida’s very, very appealing, and I think there’s a lot of CEOs and entrepreneurs out there that we have not touched or reached. And I hope that we do that from the Office of the Mayor, Visit Pensacola, (and) through the County Commission.

DD: We haven’t heard much lately about the federal grand jury in Tallahassee that’s investigating your relationships with city contractors. Is there anything at this point that you can share with us?

HAYWARD: We haven’t heard anything. We respect the process, and we hope everything will be cleared up and we’ll move on. We haven’t done anything wrong, and I’ve said that from the beginning, I’ve been very clear on that. We’re trying to grow our community and bring in the best and brightest to serve the taxpayers. That’s always been our focus and our goal.

DD: What lessons learned in your first term will you be able to carry over into the 2nd?

HAYWARD: I said in my speech when we were sworn in that I’ll be working with the same amount of passion, energy and vigor, and the love for my community. As CEO for the city I have to do everything that I can to bring the best to the community. I’ll definitely trust my gut more. You know, I’m 45. I’ve been able to do a lot of things, and I’ve had a lot of people help me along the way. I’ll continue to reach out to the people that know more than I do on a certain subject. But trust my gut.