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Milton’s First Woman Mayor Ready To Get To Work

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

Attorney Heather Lindsay is the first woman ever elected to serve as mayor of the City of Milton. She will officially take over the office this Tuesday afternoon.

Lindsay recently stopped by the WUWF studios to talk about her historic accomplishment and priorities for the city during the next four years.

On her election, Lindsay says she’s honored that the she was chosen by the voters to be the next mayor of Milton, regardless of gender.

“But, it is very gratifying to be able to say that I am the first woman who has the opportunity to be the mayor,” Lindsay said. The notion of being first has been brewing for some time, beginning with her quest to be the first woman lawyer in her family.

“After I graduated law school, I was able to clerk for the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the state of Alabama, Janie Shores, who was a wonderful inspiration to me,” Lindsay proudly proclaimed.

Additionally, she says a family friend from her church years ago suggested a run for mayor with the thought that Lindsay might be the first woman office holder.

Lindsay is a native of Milton, but graduated from Washington High School in the same class of ‘88 as Pensacola’s new Mayor Grover Robinson. After practicing law in Birmingham and elsewhere, Lindsay returned home about ten years ago to work with her father’s law firm.

Service on city council committees and mostly recently as the city’s attorney (a job her father once held) have helped her prepare for her new role as mayor..

The city attorney experience, Lindsay explained, allowed her to understand how the city works, how city staff works, how they want to work with council to be most effective for council, how they can best help council and how the public interacts with council and how the mayor can be a resource for everyone involved.

As she prepared to take office, Lindsay points to some of the critical issues facing the city of Milton.

“We’re in a time of change, where we’re going to have to adapt to things beyond our control,” said Lindsay pointing first to Santa Rosa County’s decision to move judicial center operations out of the old county courthouse and outside city limits.

“We have to be prepared to adapt to that in conjunction with adapting and evolving to meet the changes that are presented by U.S. Highway 90 changing. The study that has been done on Highway 90 is being completed and will be released in Feb. 2019. So, we will have an opportunity to study their findings and recommendations and the results, the decisions that are going to be made that are beyond city of Milton’s control.”

Lindsay believes that the City of Milton should be prepared to deal with the courthouse and Highway 90 changes within the next four years, before the end of her term. But, the city’s strategy for transition hinges – in part – on what the county plans to do with the historic courthouse originally built in 1927. Preservation is a possibility, and Lindsay is open to that, but there’s been no word yet.

According to the newly elected mayor, businesses will be harmed and the city must develop solutions that will help them adapt to all the changes.

Another important factor in the future of Milton is development of a new $31 million wastewater treatment facility. So far, the city has committed $8 million, the county $2 million. Much more is needed for the development to occure.

“Businesses will require that sort of infrastructure to be in place for the development that we’re looking for to occur both in Milton and in the surrounding areas of the county that are close to the limits of the city.”

One of the first things on the agenda of the in-coming administration is to establish a Merchant’s Association to include businesses within and outside the downtown corridor.

And, as the second new mayor in the last four years, Lindsay believes her mandate in winning the election is to do things a little differently.

“I believe the voters are expecting me to help the council be transparent and accountable to the public,” she explained. “I believe the voters are expecting me to help the discourse during the meeting, to remain civil, and that our demeanor remains respectful and that everyone who comes to council to be heard, be treated with dignity and respect.”

So far, so good with the transition.

Following the Nov. 6 election, outgoing Mayor Wesley Meiss has been gracious in defeat. And, Lindsay says she looks forward to working with him on the transition and beyond. She will officially take over for Meiss after her swearing in ceremony at 5:45 p.m. this (Tuesday) afternoon at Milton City Hall, 6738 Dixon Street.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.