Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward recently dropped by the studio, for a chat with Dave Dunwoody to look ahead at the year in Pensacola governance.

DD: Mayor, before we look ahead to 2016, let’s look back at 2015. What do you consider to be some of the accomplishments in city government?

WUWF Public Media

In 2015, the nation’s economic recovery continued its slow, steady improvement. And, now as the year comes to a close, we’re taking a look at some of the economic highlights during the past 12 months here in Northwest Florida.

“Actually, good news, of course, with unemployment,” said University of West Florida economist Rick Harper, referring to the 5.0 percent unemployment rate recorded in October of 2015 for the Pensacola Metro area, which includes Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

Pensacola Pelican Drop Facebook page

  The 8th annual Pelican Drop is set to begin at 3pm on New Year's Eve in downtown Pensacola. There have been some changes made to this year’s event. "We've moved the Pelican to (the intersection of) Garden and Palafox. It's a much bigger area". That’s Danny Zimmern from Pensacola Mardi Gras. They’re the company that produces the Pelican Drop for the Downtown Improvement Board.  He says the new location allows for a bigger stage and more area for people to stand and watch the bird fall.

Santa Rosa County

Hunter Walker is wrapping up work as Santa Rosa County Administrator. In a final conversation with WUWF before leaving the post, he looked back at his 20 years on the job.

“Twenty years is a long time; that’s a generation,” said Walker. “The county’s changed a lot. I turned 65 in October so it seemed time.”

Walker has seen a lot of changes in Santa Rosa County during the past two decades, noting that the population was approaching 100,000 in the mid 1990’s, when he arrived. Now, approximately 163,000 people live in Santa Rosa.

Flickr//Andrew Bardwell

As part of WUWF’s look ahead to 2016, Dave Dunwoody recently sat down with Grover Robinson. In November, Robinson again took over as chairman of the Escambia County Commission.

“I’m hoping this time we don’t have an oil spill or some other natural disaster like the last time when I was chair,” said Robinson, noting that plans for rebuilding the Escambia County Jail Central Booking facility that was destroyed in a gas explosion during Pensacola’s April 30, 2014 flood event.

Photo via Flickr// Matt Stratton /

Thanks for listening to the Christmas edition of 14/59. I promised some bonuses online and the first is what you should be drinking while listening to Christmas music: a classic Manhattan. In my family tradition this is a drink for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here's how I make it:

2 oz bourbon (can be rye, if you prefer, I use Bulleit usually)

0.75 - 1 oz sweet vermouth

a few dashes of bitters (can use orange bitters or mixture)

shake or stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or tumbler (I like a tumbler with a large cube of ice in it)

Residents in northwest Florida and south Alabama are advised to keep tabs on the weather the next couple of days, since the area remains under a hazardous weather outlook.

A surface-level high pressure area off to the east has been causing a flow of warm air up from the Gulf of Mexico, which is keeping temperatures in the 60's and 70's around the clock.

“It looks like it’s going to continue as we approach Christmas,” said Don Shepherd, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mobile. Those warm temps also mean a heightened chance for severe weather.

A recent report by the Studer Institute in the News Journal, and a subsequent viewpoint by former News Journal executive editor Randy Hammer, again spotlighted the serious poverty issue that persists in Escambia County.

Photo via Flickr// Ivy Dawned /

Florida’s Department of Agriculture is reminding Christmas chefs to follow some basic but effective steps to avoid food-borne illnesses.

About one in six Americans, roughly 48 million, gets a food-borne illness each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common illnesses are norovirus and the Salmonella bacteria. 

Michael Spooneybarger / CREO University of West Florida

Coffee table books are can’t-miss choices for the impossible-to-buy-for people on any holiday list. Titles cater to extremely specific interests. Whether you’re shopping for a James Bond movie poster collector or a connoisseur of wine from Slovenia, publishers provide.

DEO Florida

Florida’s unemployment rate continues to drop, to five percent even in November, down point-one percent from October. The Department of Economic Opportunity also announces more than one million private-sector jobs have been created since 2010.

DEO Director Jesse Panuccio says the five percent mark equals the national average, and translates to 486,000 unemployed out of a labor force of 9.6 million. Pensacola has seen 3,600 jobs added so far in 2015.

University of West Florida

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses the decision by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

Harper called the increase in the interest rate of a quarter of a percentage point “good news,” noting the Fed tracked the economy carefully and is responsible for maintaining both full employment and a low and stable price level nationally.

University of West Florida

In 1992, archeologists found the first remains of the shipwrecks of Don Tristan de Luna’s fleet on the bottom of Pensacola Bay. De Luna, of course, was the man who first settled what would become Pensacola. But the exact location of the settlement was always a mystery. Was is the operative word.

Friday marks the annual exodus home by military personnel at local bases, and the United Service Organization is gearing up to help out.

The holiday events are part of the long tradition of the USO, which has 160 locations in 27 states and 14 countries. It dates back to its creation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in February, 1941 – ten months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

AAA projects the number of travelers for Christmas and New Year’s to hit the 100 million mark for the first time ever.

Actually, the auto club says 100.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from now until Sunday, January 3. That’s a 1.4% increase over last year, and seventh consecutive year of growth for this period. A number of variables are at play.