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Pensacola Mayors: John Fogg

John Fogg on WSRE's "Conversations with Jeff Weeks" in 2014.
WSRE
John Fogg on WSRE's Conversations with Jeff Weeks in 2014.

In part two of our series on Pensacola’s most recent mayors, WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody recently spoke with one who as a young Marine Corps aviator, slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

After flying 200 combat missions in Vietnam and a gig as a Blue Angel, John Fogg began his political career on the Pensacola City Council in 1989. In 2001, he became Pensacola’s 56th mayor – and the first elected to that office since Adolph Greenhut in 1913. He says his military career provided the groundwork for holding civilian elected office.

“I think the fundamental values — especially in the Marine Corps — where we work together as a team, we rely upon one another,” said Fogg. “All those values that the Marine Corps embraces are directly transferable into the private sector,” said Fogg.

The big issue at the time, he says, was completing the renovation and expansion of the regional airport.

“The airport was just really in bad shape; it was not at all modern – it looked almost like a third-world country,” Fogg said. “And so that was a major renovation that was really kind of a turning point in the city; shifting its focus to the future and trying to make improvements across the board.”

Another turning point came in 1985 when the city council began giving serious thought to the issue of flight from downtown, which Fogg says left the area a shell of its former self. That work continued into his time as mayor, and up to today.

“All of those things that are necessary for people to want to live downtown; and that really was the key in the late ‘80s and all through the 90s to try to find ways to reinvigorate the downtown, the urban area of Pensacola,” said Fogg. “And make it a place where people really wanted to move and live.”

As a former mayor — Fogg retired in 2009 — he has seen much of that vision come to fruition. Many of the improvements, he adds, are quite obvious.

“The numbers of restaurants downtown now, specialty shops,” said Fogg. “The activity going on in the downtown area at the moment has hit a peak in my memory certainly. And I think the interest in downtown continues to grow.”

Fogg was asked the question that’s being put before everyone in this series – what would have they changed if they could get a do-over?

“I can’t think of any single thing that would require a complete 180 or anything like that,” Fogg said. “In retrospect, you can always you could think of ways you could always fine-tune the actions that were taken, or maybe accelerate their completion and things of that nature. So, nothing really stands out in my mind that I would do dramatically differently.”

Looking to Pensacola’s future, the former mayor expresses optimism – saying that the immediate challenge is completing the development of the Maritime Park property and the land once housing the sewage treatment plant.

Job one to Fogg in that area is building a parking garage, which in turn would solidify an existing bond issue.

“That will allow public and private partnerships to be put into place to accelerate the growth of the urban area; make it more of a magnet for people to live, work, and play, as everybody likes to say,” Fogg said.

Pensacola will see a change in the mayor’s chair next year. Grover Robinson announced several weeks ago that he would not stand for reelection. Fogg says he’d like to see the new mayor have some business acumen.

“We’ve got a $280 million budget; we’ve got enterprise operations at the airport, the seaport, and Pensacola Energy,” said Fogg. “And understands that the primary purpose of any government, is for the protection of the citizens, police and fire, emphasis on those two components especially.”

But looking at the big picture, Mayor Emeritus John Fogg says better days are on the horizon for Pensacola.

“When the pandemic thing is past; the economy continues to grow, and the private sector continues to invest in the downtown urban area in order for the entire city to be healthy,” he said. “Working together and looking at public-private partnerships, I think, is the way to the future.”

In part three, a conversation with Pensacola’s 57th mayor and the final one under the old manager-council form of government.