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Mayor Robinson Won't Seek Reelection: Too Much Divisiveness

At his weekly news conference Monday, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson revealed plans to step away from politics after his four-year term is over.

“I’m announcing that I will not be seeking reelection in 2022,” Robinson stated.

The mayor said he and his family have been thinking about the issue for a while. He believes it’s the right decision for him and them, and it’s the right time, after a tough year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no doubt that the last year certainly has been more than trying. It’s probably five years combined into one,” he acknowledged. “But, I’m concerned about what I see dividing into sides in politics. When a mask here no longer becomes a device for fighting virus, but becomes a political tool; when we begin to make decisions that are more about politics than about how we make Pensacola better, then those are things that are a serious concern for me.”

Robinson said he was worried about the future of the country and state. But, added that he was most concerned about “our city” amid the current political climate.

“I think things have become more divisive since the election in 2000, but for the most part, they had not permeated down to the local level,” he said, analyzing the political landscape. “I think in the last 12 months, things have become uglier, more difficult and more divisive in what we’re doing and, I hope, that again, we don’t make those same mistakes.”

Robinson said he got serious about leaving politics after discussions with his family over during Christmas.

But, in February, he was presented with the enticing idea of running for president of the Florida League of Cities, which would require him to remain in office.

“It was enough to make me think,” he admitted.

“But, then after spending a week, a week ago, on vacation, I thought there’s an opportunity to do some of the things you want to do and  be happy.”

On the heels of his return from vacation in Arizona, the mayor pointed to last week’s City Council meeting and an argument over whether to provide restrooms at Veterans Memorial Park. For him, it was apparently the last straw.

“I couldn’t believe we were having an argument about not providing veterans bathrooms,” he proclaimed.

Again, the mayor said he felt the focus Thursday was less about how to move the community forward, and more about divisiveness, particularly centered on him. And, he said it wasn’t just him who noticed.

“I think much of their problem with the restrooms, was not problems with the restrooms, it was challenges overall with myself personally and that came out very clear in the debate,” he said. “And, I’ve had more people tell me that.”

Simply, Grover Robinson IV, who just turned 51 years old, says he’s not enjoying himself anymore. He pointed out that his father, Grover Robinson III, gave up political office after 14 years in the Florida Legislature when it was no longer fun for him.

The mayor’s namesake father and mother died in a helicopter crash in 2000 while vacationing in New Zealand.

“No Grover Robinson has lived past the age of 66 and that’s 15 years,” said Robinson, looking into his future. “That kind of puts you in perspective of where things are and if I’m going to do things, I’m going to do things I enjoy and I’m having a good time.”

Credit City of Pensacola
City of Pensacola
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, right, greets Gov. Ron DeSantis during a recent visit.

Robinson’s announcement now of his departure in two years, leaves plenty of time for others interested in the office to explore a run in 2020. Asked about who he might like to see pick up where he left off, the mayor said - in these politically divisive times - it will be most important in finding a leader who can unite people.

“But, I look at some people. He’s young, but I think he’s getting there; I look at Council President (Jared) Moore. I look over at Escambia County and I see Commissioner (Lumon) May. So, there are people out there that I don’t know if they’ve ever expressed interest or have any desire to necessarily serve in this position, but I know there are people who can do that.”

According to Mayor Robinson, the hardest part about his decision not to run for reelection is the people who work for him.

While he says his team has accomplished just about everything they set out to do when he first took office, he indicated that they still have about 20 months to continue the work they’ve done toward making Pensacola a better place. That includes continued expansion of the airport, working to bring more affordable housing to the city, and more immediately, finding a new vendor to handle downtown parking.

After he’s out office, he wants to keep working.

“There are opportunities and I’ll have to try to see where the next challenge or opportunity arises, but clearly there are things I think that are important that are going on in the city that I think would be interesting and challenging to be a part of, and I look forward to those opportunities.”

Meantime, Robinson says traveling is in his family’s future, with a goal of visiting America’s the top 25 national parks.

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.