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Pensacola Mayor: Hiring Milton Mayor Above-Board

City of Pensacola

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson is defending his decision to hire Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay as an assistant city attorney.

City Attorney Susan Woolf made the announcement during the Mayor’s news conference a week ago.

“Heather has over 20 years of experience in various areas, predominantly in employment law and in municipal law,” said Woolf. “Her firm previously represented the City of Milton, so she has a wide array of exposure and experience that I was looking for.”

"We’ll have two mayors at City Hall now; and I’m very excited to be working with her,” said Mayor Grover Robinson. “Heather’s a good friend of mine, we grew up together [and] graduated from Washington High School. I know I’m the first Washington High graduate to be Mayor of the City of Pensacola; I believe she’s the first Washington High graduate to be Mayor of the City of Milton.”

Milton operates under the council/manager form of government, in which the position of mayor is largely ceremonial and part-time – unlike Pensacola’s strong mayor-council setup.

“I’m very excited to have an opportunity to Pensacola, which is also my hometown – although I was born in Milton,” said Lindsay. “And I’m excited to get a chance to serve with Susan Woolf and her entire legal team. It’s a wonderful group of folks, and I look forward to being here in Pensacola starting June 17.”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, speaking at his weekly news conference on May 20, 2019.

Before her election as Mayor last November, Lindsay served as Milton City Attorney. She told the Pensacola News Journal that there are no conflicts of interest with working for the City of Pensacola, and that the situation was investigated thoroughly by both her and the city before the interview process.

In Monday’s news conference, Mayor Robinson said he sees no such problems with Lindsay multi-tasking between the two city governments.

“My expectation of her is to represent the people who she’s there to represent,” Robinson said. "She’s not there as part of the city of Pensacola; she’s there as part of the city of Milton. I don’t understand this issue that everybody’s having; I wish we could get by this – I like to call this ‘parochial poison’ – that we can’t understand how somebody could do something in one specific spot.”

Elected officials have to be able to work with people, says Robinson, and figure out how to do so in a much bigger community. He points to the Northwest Florida Regional Transportation Planning Organization, whose members come from the state, along with the four counties in the western Panhandle – Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton.

“As far as TPO votes, I don’t understand; I always try to vote for what’s best for the community, not what’s best for what I think my little area that I represent,” Robinson said. “Fifty percent of the people wake up this morning in Santa Rosa County and you know what they did? They came to Escambia County to work. Saying somehow or another that [county] line through the Escambia River matters; it really doesn’t.”

Credit Sandra Averhart, WUWF Public Media
Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay also serves as an Assistant City Attorney in Pensacola.

Realizing that EscaRosa is one area working together, says Robinson, there’s going to be a lot more success. And he’s hoping that Heather Lindsay’s hiring will open some other doors for other inter-city and inter-county relationships.

“There’s no secret that the relationship between Gulf Breeze and Pensacola was very strained during the last administration,” said Robinson. “We share a beach, we share a lot of things with Gulf Breeze; we’re not always going to agree, but we should be communicating with each other.”

“But I will say this: if Gulf Breeze is successful, it helps me be successful.”

On an unrelated matter, Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay has asked the State Attorney’s Office to investigate her for a possible Sunshine Law violation. At issue is a memo in which Lindsay discussed Councilwoman Shannon Rice — who was sponsoring a bill to remove ex-mayor Guy Thompson’s name from the community center.

“I think it speaks to her character,” said Robinson.

The Council voted to go back to the building’s original name, Milton Community Center. Thompson pleaded guilty to embezzling $650,000 while running the local United Way. He awaits sentencing on July 29 for federal wire fraud and tax evasion convictions. He remains on probation until then.