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Couple Inspires 'Bring Back Warrington' Movement

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Some Warrington residents are seeking ways to revitalize the nearly 200-year-old community west of Pensacola. Randy Ponson and his wife Jennifer are leading the “Bring Back Warrington” movement.

Historically, Randy Ponson says that – unlike Warrington – a certain large town just to the east has always had someone shining a spotlight on it.

“The City of Pensacola, even before they had a ‘strong mayor,’ they had some charismatic person who traveled around the world saying ‘Hey, Pensacola’s great, look over here,’” said Ponson.

What began as roundtable discussions evolved into three meetings with the theme “Bring Back Warrington.” They addressed the current state of the community, and the dreams of its 15,000 residents. Ponson says the second meeting was the most effective.

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“We broke into round table discussions with five different groups,” said Ponson. “The goal is to take these ideas and this information to our elected officials and say, ‘This is what we need, this is what we want, this will work, do it.’”

Two of the proposals in the first three meetings involved annexation by the City of Pensacola – which voters in Warrington rejected in 1975 -- and incorporating as a city of its own.

The roundtable discussions have developed a wish list of needs and desires, divided into four categories. One is Economic Development, where Ponson points to the lack of office and industrial parks in Warrington.

“We’ve got lots of companies with contracts on the military bases, with corporate offices across town because there’s nothing nice enough [in Warrington],” Ponson said. “

The second area is Education. The call’s going out for state-of-the-art schools, mentoring and skills certification programs; and building high-tech schools on the west side.

Number three is Youth. According to the findings, younger Warrington residents are struggling with a lack of identity and caught in a “cycle of poverty” that can lead to crime. Part of that, says Ponson, appears consistent with few activities available to younger residents.

The fourth area is Neighborhoods. They’re in a perpetual state of transition thanks to their high numbers of residents linked to the military, and a dwindling number of homeowners.

“These neighborhoods had people buy them in the 1950s, 60s and the 70s,” said Ponson. They raised families; those families lived there, they have an attachment to it. Maybe the kids grew up and went away; the parents pass away and the kids own the house together. So they rent it, or sell it to an investor.”

While not yet at that point, Ponson says going after state and federal assistance could eventually become part of their plan.

Calls to Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill – in whose District-2 Warrington sits – were not returned. More information about “Bring Back Warrington” can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.