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Meet your 2022 Pensacola mayoral candidates

Candidates for Pensacola Mayor from left to right: Steve Sharp, Jewel Cannada-Wynn, D.C. Reeves, and Sherri Myers.
Candidates for Pensacola Mayor from left to right: Steve Sharp, Jewel Cannada-Wynn, D.C. Reeves, and Sherri Myers.

Voters in Pensacola begin the process of selecting a new mayor in the August 23 primary. We recently sat down with those seeking to occupy city hall’s 7th floor.

“I want to make an announcement today -- I’m announcing that I will not be seeking reelection in 2022,” said Mayor Grover Robinson in March, 2021. “[Wife] Jill and the family and I have been discussing this for some time, and I think this is the right decision for us.”

The decision was reached by what he calls “a process over time,” with the COVID-19 pandemic playing an indirect role.

“I’m concerned by what I see dividing into sides and politics; when a [COVID] mask no longer becomes a device for fighting virus but becomes a political tool,” the mayor said. “When we begin to make decisions that are more about politics than are about how we make Pensacola better.”

In the 16 months since Robinson’s announcement, eight candidates stepped to the plate. Four remained standing when qualifying ended last month. Among them is Jewel Cannada-Wynn, a former city council member who also served as deputy mayor.

“I bring all of that leadership to the table from a previous type of government, council-manager, as well as the mayor-council that we have here,” said Cannada-Wynn. “The main point about any government is the leadership that you have, [and] the effectiveness of that leadership, whether it’s council-manager or whether it’s mayor-council.”

Two of Cannada-Wynn’s major issues are housing and the homeless – which in many ways go hand-in-glove.

“An affordable place to stay goes just beyond the homeless,” she said. “To the families, women with children, senior citizens, as well as our young professionals. The housing crisis ha crossed all of those economic lines.”

Another council veteran, Sherri Myers, joins Cannada-Wynn on the ballot. Among her issues is a focus on the local environment, and ways to improve it.

“We have got to build differently; we have got to address the issue of sea level rise and storm water and flooding, and we have got to do better at trees,” said Myers. “The tree canopies, the absorption of water, [and] we’ve got to protect Carpenter’s Creek.”

Another area near and dear to Myers is homelessness. As a legal aid attorney, Myers has worked on the issue for four decades, and says that, and affordable housing, are intertwined.

“When we address homelessness, we have to remember we’re talking about a diverse population and diverse needs,” Myers said. “The majority of people who are homeless are people with disabilities. Some of them have physical disabilities; some have mental illness. Some have a combination of both.”

The four campaign war chests are also at various levels. According to the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections’ latest available figures:

D.C. Reeves $245,237

Jewel Cannada-Wynn $18,476

Steve Sharp $12,853

Sherri Myers $5,880

For D.C. Reeves, the decision to run for mayor is part of what he calls his “emotional investment” in his native city.

“The mayor’s job is not cutting ribbons and taking paychecks; the job is to be intentional about what we want this place to be,” Reeves said. “It’s easy to say that, but I want to get out and do it and try my best to make data-driven decisions, and really continue to advance Pensacola with some intentionality.”

The former sports journalist and current entrepreneur has boiled down his priorities list to three areas. Sitting at number one is public safety.

“That’s rebuilding the trust between the mayor’s office and the police department,” he said. “Doing an intentional job with community policing and making sure that our community — all 39 square miles of it — knows our policeman’s/policewoman’s face and were out there supporting our community. There’s a lot of things we can talk about, but if we’re not a safe community none of those matter.”

Steve Sharp, a retired Escambia County deputy sheriff, is a veteran of running political campaigns, but this is his first foray as a candidate. Part of his “100-day plan,” if elected, is a property tax deferment for “legacy residents” — long-time homeowners on fixed incomes.

Another issue being inherited by the new mayor is homelessness. Sharp differentiates between local homeless, who he says should get help from stronger community organizations, and what he calls “transients” who drift into town.

“A good portion of them have criminal backgrounds and also, a lot of them are using that money to buy drugs and alcohol,” said the retired deputy. “So, let’s take care of the homeless, do what we can with them. But we need to enforce the laws that are out there — loitering, disorderly intoxication, disorderly conduct, open containers, [and] panhandling ordinances.”

And new for this primary NPA – no party affiliation voters don’t have to sit it out. They can cast ballots in the non-partisan mayoral and city council races. If no one candidate gets a majority of the votes — 50% plus one — the top two finishers will meet again in the November 8 general election.