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Hayward Will Not Run For Third Term As Pensacola Mayor

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Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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After two terms in office, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward will not seek a third. The announcement came Wednesday from City Hall.

Ashton Hayward was a political neophyte when he entered the mayoral race in 2010, the first election under Pensacola’s new charter that changed to a strong mayor form of government. He was elected over incumbent Mike Wiggins and two other challengers.

He was re-elected in 2014, collecting 65 percent of the vote against Donna Clark. But on Wednesday he decided to drop out of the race, three months before the June 22 qualifying date. Under the charter, the mayor is limited to three terms, but Hayward says the time has come to step down.

“Once you set out to accomplish something and set the goals; you do that and it’s time to move on,” said Hayward. “I think it’s good to have new leadership and I think it was important for us to make that decision and I felt good about it.”

Hayward says he began thinking about not running again last fall, and discussed it at length with his wife An and their son Aiden.

“I wanted to do it the first quarter of ’18, just to give some people comfort here at City Hall,” Hayward said. “To know who could potentially be coming into office, and most importantly just to focus on the big goals we’ve set out to do and continue to do.”

One of the hallmarks of the Ashton Hayward administration has been his up-and-down relationship with the Pensacola City Council. He has been criticized by some members for not attending many of the Council meetings. But Hayward says he got some “great advice” in 2010 from Rick Baker, then the Mayor of St. Petersburg.

“[Baker] said, ‘Ashton, do not go down there and sit at every Council meeting,’” said Hayward. “’Because you’re going to get pulled into conversations and you can’t vote. We set the vision and the tone and where we’re going as a community, and we’re going to advocate for policies that we want pushed through,’ So I stuck to my guns and I think that was the best thing that we did in our city.”

One of the larger success stories for this administration is bringing in VT Mobile Aerospace, whose plant adjacent to Pensacola International Airport is set to open later this spring. But along with the sunny days, some rain has fallen as well. Hayward says he has some regrets. One has been the fish hatchery project, which failed to get off the ground. But the key, he says, is to get back up when you fall: his definition of success.

“That was a position I believed in,” said the Mayor. “In that situation I’m close to the individual who was a proprietor; we had a difference of opinion, but you move on.”

So far, there are two candidates for the Mayor’s chair. Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson declared earlier this year. Just after Hayward’s announcement Wednesday, Drew Buchanan filed his paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections.

“Grover and I grew up together; I supported Grover and his first run at office,” said Hayward. “Drew Buchanan is a young man; very smart, very articulate. I think it’s great that we have those two gentlemen in the race, and that we get some other people in the race.”

Ashton Hayward has nine and a half months remaining before he leaves City Hall. He was asked what’s next for him, both politically and personally. Part of his answer was that he’s not ruling out another run for public office.