Three candidates are vying to be the successor to Pensacola City Council President Jewel Cannada-Wynn’s District 7 seat in the city’s only election on the ballot Tuesday.
Delarian Wiggins, James Gulley and Brenton Goodman are each competing to win more than 50% of the vote Tuesday.
Wiggins, a sergeant in the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, was the first to enter the race, declaring his candidacy for the seat in June 2019, four months before Cannada-Wynn publicly announced she was not seeking another term on the council.
Wiggins told the News Journal he is running because after serving in the U.S. Army and then as a sheriff’s deputy, he believes in public service and felt he could be a representative who is approachable to everyone in the district.
“District 7, in my opinion, has lost its identity, due to big developments going on, and people not sitting down and talking with members in the community,” Wiggins said.
District 7 covers the western parts of the city limits, including areas like the Tanyard, Sanders Beach, Baptist Hospital and Community Maritime Park.
The revitalization of downtown Pensacola is pushing west, and all three candidates agree that having a supply of affordable housing is a major issue for the district.
“I think now is the time for us to start looking at more innovative ways to uplift and bring not only the district up, but the community up,” Wiggins said.
Gulley, a retired educator, filed to run in May and said he’s running because he has been involved as board member on the Westside Community Redevelopment Area citizen advisory board for several years and has gotten a first-hand look at the problems he feels the city is not addressing in the district.
He believes the CRA, which covers the majority of the district, should help current residents do more housing rehabilitation to keep them in their homes, rather than selling and moving out of the neighborhood.
“We can’t afford to keep doing demolitions,” Gulley said. “We’ve had over 108 demolitions over here on the westside from 2015 to 2019 and over 420 new housing units.”
The CRA was created to help blighted areas by diverting property tax money from that district to be spent on projects meant to revitalize the area. The City Council controls the CRA.
Gulley said he believes council members do not conduct enough oversight over the priorities of the CRA and money has been wasted.
“What I’m disturbed about is the way the (CRA) work plans are written up,” Gulley said. “You’ve got a work plan that just lists God knows everything, and then that leaves everything at the discretion of the director as to what really gets taken care of. I want more accountability out of that.”
Goodman, an attorney, filed to run in June and has out-fundraised the other candidates, despite entering the race last. He picked up an endorsement from former Mayor Ashton Hayward this week.
Goodman said he’s been involved in community organizations since he graduated law school in 2016 but decided to run after finding out he and his wife were having a son earlier this year.
“I’ve had ideas for how Pensacola could change, and I wanted to see a politician that would do it in a manner where they weren’t overconfident and were prepared,” Goodman said. “And I thought that I could be that sort of change and help try to drive Pensacola in a manner that I would like to see my son grow up in.”
Goodman said he believes the growth District 7 is experience is a good thing, but the city needs to use its power to take an active role to ensure any new development includes requirements for affordable housing with a definition of what that means.
“And we define it as the median income for, say District 7, because the median income for District 7 is about half that of Pensacola,” Goodman said. “So if we really wanted to address the affordable housing issue, gentrification and people leaving, let’s talk about the people who are the ones that are really struggling, who are being pushed out of these nice areas that a lot of people in Pensacola didn’t care about for years.”
If no candidate crosses the 50% mark Tuesday, then the top two candidates will advance to a runoff in the November general election. Three other City Council seats — Districts 1, 3 and 5 — will also be up for election in November.
Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.