By Tony McCray
The Gulf Coast Voice publisher/owner, Ms. Jacqueline Miles, interviewed the City of Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward on Tuesday, July 18th to discuss the accomplishments of his administration. Mayor Hayward was elected mayor of Pensacola in 2010 following the city government adopting new “strong mayor” chartered government in 2009.
The Voice Newspaper wanted to interview Ashton Hayward to have him, in his own words, tell ‘his story’ on what his administration accomplished after such a momentous beginning of his first year in office. The MWBE Program adoption showed Hayward’s commitment to “bring the operation of City Hall to the people” as he stated during the interview.
As a signature decision of his new administration, Mayor Hayward, soon after his successful election, spoke at the 2011 Regional Equity to Achieve Prosperity (REAP) Summit in the city’s Downtown and outlined his vision for Pensacola. At the event, hosted by Unity in the Family Ministry, the new mayor did not hesitate to voice his support for a government purchasing disparity study. This decision supported by the City Council, placed Pensacola in the unique position to become the only Gulf Coast government between Tallahassee and Houston to conduct the study, adopt the findings of purchasing discrimination against women and minorities, and implement a Minority and Women Business Enterprise Program.
Ms. Miles asked the Mayor how he felt about his two terms in office. Mayor Hayward began with a description of his vision of the city when he took office, “We can think bigger, and we can have that constructive conversation, because culture beats strategy. If the culture is not willing to change, we are not going to transform our community for the benefit of our citizens. I was very fortunate and very blessed that the community was willing to take a risk on me. They believed that I can take a risk on this guy, and hopefully he is going to deliver. You know as the Mayor you cannot hide.”
Hayward is a native of Pensacola, attended local schools, and graduated from Florida State University with a degree in political science. Prior to his election as mayor, Hayward worked in New York City for the AT&T Corporation and the Financial Times. In 2003, Hayward returned to Pensacola with his wife, Ann, and started a real estate firm, which he managed until taking office in 2011. It appears that his growing up in Pensacola and being a native served as creating a foundation to return City Hall to the people. In that regard, the Mayor touted his scorecard of accomplishments of creating jobs by providing local businesses with the opportunity for them to compete for city contracts through the new MWBE Program, enhancing the quality of the workforce through training and education programs, establishing “a united front” with city, county, non-governmental groups, working with the community to determine the highest and best use for the Main Street wastewater treatment plant, and developing policies for the use and development of surplus city-owned property like the Blount School site.
As mayor, Hayward manages a city staff of almost 800, a budget of over $200 million, and works with members of the City Council to set policy and the city budget. In addition to managerial and policy duties, the mayor directs local economic initiatives and advocates pro-Pensacola legislation to state and federal agencies. Mayor Hayward has been a board member of the Florida League of Mayors since 2014 and currently serves on the FLM Strategic Planning committee. In 2015, Governor Rick Scott appointed Mayor Hayward as a commissioner with Florida’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service, Volunteer Florida. Mayor Hayward is also a board member for Achieve Escambia and is a member of the Escambia County Infant Mortality Task Force.
Part 2, of the Gulf Coast Voice interview with Mayor Hayward, will be spotlighted in next week’s paper so do not miss this strategic and very significant story.