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Wilkins Leaves County For City Of Pensacola Position

Lindsay Myers

  The City of Pensacola has hired the first of possibly two assistant city administrators – selecting a high-profile figure from Escambia County government.

Keith Wilkins was among five finalists for the position. He’s worked for the county for the past 15 years, as the Director of the Community and Environment Department and most recently, Natural Resources Management. Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward says he’ll be a good fit.

“First and foremost his character and the wealth of knowledge that he has with county government and city government; he’s been in government for 15-plus years,” said Hayward. “He’s just a strong advocate for the county, city and the community. He shares my vision, my administration’s vision on where the city’s going. I thought he’d be a perfect part of the team.”

The search for two assistant administrators began in August, after Chief Operations Officer Tamara Fountain left and Eric Olson ascended to City Administrator. Wilkins comes aboard at City Hall at a time that a number of city projects are beginning to take root for next year.

“We have the fish hatchery, other big projects, to really help me with some projects that I really want to implement, and also some things we want to do in the community in general,” the Mayor said. “He’ll have some day-to-day things working with [City Administrator] Eric Olson, but really taking those big projects that we need to implement.”

As far as the original plan to hire two assistant administrators, the Mayor, for now, is keeping those cards close to the vest.

“As we stated a few weeks ago, we’re going to get someone in there, and obviously that’s Mr. Wilkins right now, to see where we go from there from a policy standpoint,” Hayward said. “

The City’s press office declined to make Keith Wilkins available for an interview.

During his tenure at the county, Keith Wilkins has helped oversee the process of securing BP oil spill money for various economic and environmental restoration projects in Escambia County, Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Bay. Word came down in July that Escambia’s in line for $58 million, bringing the current total of oil-spill related funding to $70 million.

“Right now, things are either still in procurement, design, or negotiations on scope and best available science,” Wilkins said last July. “So it is flowing.”

Out of the total $18.7 billion settlement with the five Gulf Coast states, Florida’s share is $3.25 billion. Seventy-five percent of that will go to Triumph Gulf Coast, a trust fund set up by the Legislature to help the eight most-affected counties in the Florida Panhandle.

The rest will be handed out by the Legislature.

Escambia County’s RESTORE Act Advisory Committee submitted 124 projects for consideration, with nine making the cut for the County Commission, and later the U-S Treasury Department. Wilkins last week said no groundbreakings are expected until the latter part of 2016. He also spoke of lessons learned in this process.

“Because the scoring was scored equally across all categories, big-dollar projects covered more area, [and] got more points,” Wilkins said earlier this month. “The better the writing skills of the applicant, it would rank high, and that looks to be true in some cases.”

Keith Wilkins is scheduled to begin his new job at the end of November.