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Pensacola Mayor's Race: Lawrence Powell

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

In his ongoing visits with the candidates in the Pensacola mayoral race, WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody sat down recently with Lawrence Powell, one of two African-Americans seeking the non-partisan office.

Lawrence Powell, 57, is a Pensacola native who grew up in Warrington, and was educated at Pensacola Junior College and the University of West Florida. It was the ROTC program at West Florida that spring-boarded him into his first career.

“[A] commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1982; retired in 2006 and returned back home,” said Powell.

Getting into the mayor’s race is Powell’s first as a candidate, but it’s not his first rodeo. He’s been involved in politics since his retirement from the Army, managing around a half-dozen or so campaigns for others in Pensacola and Escambia County.

“School Board, City Council runs, County Commission runs, and state Representative runs,” Powell said. “So I’ve been kind of behind the scenes over the past 12 years or so, and now I just find myself as the candidate, that I might take some of that experience and desire to continue to move our city forward.”

Some of the other five candidates for mayor are listing economic development at or near the top of their priority lists. Powell concurs, but adds there’s already a lot of work on that going on now.

“That’s a continued, progressive kind of an initiative that I desire to continue to do,” said Powell. “But of course, the infrastructure of our city is most important as well. Every time we get a significant amount of rain it reminds us [to] continue what we need to do with our infrastructure. And I think that economic development goes hand-in-hand.”

One of the other issues for Powell is – in his words – getting back to a government of, by, and for the people. That includes improving the rapport between the mayor and City Council – in light of a sometimes-contentious relationship between the Council and Mayor Ashton Hayward, and the Mayor’s frequent no-show at Council meetings.

“I think that’s important to the whole spirit of collaboration,” Powell believes. “I just find it not understandable how a mayor cannot have that kind of relationship with the City Council. The City Council the constituents within their respective seven districts; and I think it’s important that we hear the voices and concerns that are transmitted to our City Council.”

Powell is also a minister, pastoring Christ Our Redeemer Eternally Ministries in Pensacola. He says religion, per se, is not mentioned in his platform, but rather it speaks about a relationship with God.

“I’m often asked how can you -- and will you -- be the mayor of Pensacola and continue to operate in your calling,” Powell said. “My response to that is that I hope that the mayor would have time to go and worship and fellowship on Sunday as well. I don’t view that as a conflict; if anything, I view it as a moral compass.”

That said, Powell was asked, if elected, how he would put his spiritual and military experience to work at City Hall.

“I think both categories’ experience gives [sic] me background – and a character, if you would – of transparency; and a character that’s concerned about all of the citizens of Pensacola, and not certain citizens of Pensacola,” said Powell. “I truly want to be the mayor for all of the citizens of Pensacola.”

According to the latest financial records at www.escambiavotes.com, Powell’s campaign has raised just over $16,000, and has spent about $11,000. His strategy from now until the August 28 primary will be keeping as high of a profile as possible by engaging the voters.

“I’m not necessarily a politician, but a leader; and I realize in order to lead the people, you have to engage to people,” said Powell. “I intend to continue to knock on doors. I continue to participate in debates that I might hear the concerns, the wishes and desires of the citizens that align with what’s best for the city.”

More information about Lawrence Powell’s campaign for mayor can be found at www.lspowell.com