In part two of our look at the start of the Pensacola Mayor’s race, WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody spoke with Grover Robinson, who’s foregoing another term on the Escambia County Commission in hopes of succeeding Ashton Hayward.
Robinson was the first to enter the mayor’s race, pre-filing with the Supervisor of Elections Office in October. As he wraps up his fourth term in the County Commission’s District 4 seat. He’s kicking off his new campaign with his record at the forefront.
“Twelve years as Escambia County Commissioner, [I] dealt with Ivan; our economy was stagnating and we really were where the future led us,” said Robinson. “We still have problems, but I think we’ve made leaps and bounds on where we are, and what’s happening. We’ve seen economic progress happening; I think we’re still trying to deal with how that works out and how we find our place as a community. But we’re moving forward.”
After winning four County Commission races as a Republican, Robinson is now embarking on a race for a non-partisan office.
“I’d like to see where the County is non-partisan,” Robinson said. “I like a non-partisan race; I think it gives the people the opportunity to see individuals all the way through and what they can bring to the table. But I think in local government you don’t see those kind of thing that happen on the state and national levels. And thank God for that. I think it makes it much less contentious.”
Getting down to brass tacks and starting with economic development, Robinson says downtown Pensacola is a key; but then again so is being a team player to improve the greater good of the region.
“Playing with [Escambia] County, playing with Santa Rosa County; finding ways we can work together,” said Robinson. “When you look at the RESTORE Act, what I did with that to bring over $100 million to Escambia County alone, and probably $1.5 billion dollars hoping to eventually get things over here for northwest Florida. That happens with teamwork.”
In downtown Pensacola there are things happening, that Robinson says can be done in other parts of the city.
“What I’d like to see happen downtown [is] to continue to see what we’ve seen, and I think it will,” Robinson said. “I’ve gone out and talked to other people across different parts of the city. The West Side would like to see some of that happening in Brownsville; the North Side would like to see some things off 9th Avenue. That’s one of the things that got me interested in running for mayor.”
Another economic goal is building off the ST Aerospace plant adjacent to Pensacola International Airport, which is set to begin operations later this spring.
“We’ve always said aerospace is what we do, with the mission of Eglin [Air Force Base], Pensacola NAS and Whiting [Field],” said Robinson. “We should be more involved in aerospace here, and I think ST Aerospace shows that. I think we can expand that and we can build upon that.”
And then there’s tourism. According to Visit Pensacola, visitors in 2016 spent more than $787 million. When the figures for 2017 are released in about a month, that figure is expected to surpass the $800 million mark.
“The best thing about tourism is that it exports your taxation; it helps you collect money from outside the area,” Robinson said. “When the tourists come in here and they pay 35 percent of the dollar, that’s a good dollar. That makes it cheaper for us to get more dollars to spend on projects that really bring amenities to our citizens.”
According to financial papers filed with the Supervisor of Elections Office, Grover Robinson has about $70,000 in his campaign coffers. And like his current rival, Drew Buchanan, Robinson says he’s never accepted money from political action committees – and none has been forthcoming from the National Rifle Association.
“The NRA has never been involved in local governments; that’s not something they get involved in,” said Robinson. “That’s just not the way the state races and the federal races are run; it’s just not the way we’ve run it. The limits are $1,000 a person; that’s what we do.”
Meanwhile, the Grover Robinson mayoral campaign is busy collecting the required petition signatures, equal to at least one percent of the total number of registered voters in Pensacola.