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Gerald Wingate Honored; Work Begins to Find Successor

City of Pensacola

Funeral services are set for 11:00  Thursday morning for Pensacola City Councilman Gerald Wingate, who died August 13 at age 73 after a lengthy fight against cancer. Burial will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery. Meanwhile, the work to find Wingate’s successor begins next week.

Wingate was first elected to represent District-5 in 2012, and faced no opposition four years later. He served as council vice president in 2016-17, then elevated to president in 2017-18. Also elected in 2012 was Andy Terhaar, who now serves as council president. Terhaar says whomever is selected to finish out Wingate’s term has some big shoes to fill.

“He didn’t talk a whole lot at the council meetings, but when he did everybody listened because they knew that it was important, what he was saying,” said Terhaar. “Because he would sit back and when he had an opinion he’s express it. A lot of times he would take everything in. He was always a great guy, very nice and fun to talk to.”

Eleven candidates are seeking the District-5 seat; the winning applicant must gather at least four votes. The process gets rolling at a special council meeting next Wednesday, Sept. 4. Mayor Grover Robinson plans to watch from the sidelines.

“As I said last time, my only issue was [that] I endorsed a concept; I’m not getting involved on who they select,” said the Mayor.

That concept is Robinson’s request that those planning to run for the next full term in 2020 sit out this process, and that the 11 applicants being considered to finish the rest of Wingate’s term, pledge not to enter the race next year.

“The good news is, we have [11] people who want to do that,” said Robinson. “I think that speaks for what’s happening; one of the reasons I thought [of] the concept that I endorsed is [because] certainly I think we’ll have a number of people who will be interested in running for that seat if it’s an open seat. And I think it just encourages more people to get involved.”

“I understand [the mayor’s] position; I agree that to me it would be bad for the council to put somebody on there that’s currently running for that position,” said council president Andy Terhaar. “Only because it would be almost a de facto endorsement of that person.

Credit City of Pensacola
Pensacola City Council President Andy Terhaar.

“One of the questions I plan on asking all of them is ‘do you plan on running for this seat?’ But, it wouldn’t disqualify them from getting nominated,” Terhaar continued. “The two candidates that are currently running have been nominated by council members and are going to be part of the process. The mayor wanted them to sign a pledge saying they wouldn’t do it; I didn’t agree with that and legally we can’t do that.”

The selection procedure could end up being lengthy -- rather than finishing up on the first or second ballot.

“That won’t happen; if you have 11 people, they’ll take all the people who did get votes, and the people that didn’t get votes will be taken off the ballot and we’ll revote,” Terhaar said. “I’m assuming we’ll have to go 3-4 votes in order to get it narrowed down enough to where we can get someone to get four votes.”

Qualifying ended earlier this month, with the only criteria was the candidates’ home addresses.

“You have to would have been living in [District-5] for at least a year; that’s basically from September 4th of  last year is when you would have been a resident for this position,” said Terhaar.”

Gerald Wingate is the first city council member to die in office since the city charter was revamped in 2009. Under it, the appointment must be made within 30 days of his passing.