Pensacola City Council, At Large B

There are five Pensacola City Council seats up for grabs this election season. Two of those seats—including the At-Large B seat—will be on the ballot for the August primary.

The At Large B seat currently belongs to Council President Sam Hall. He is being challenged by Charles Bare and Victor Cross.

Sam Hall

The city council president wasn’t sure he was going to seek re-election. Then a group of citizens approached him on the matter.

“I think they were a little bit concerned about the choices available in the race,” Hall said, explaining that the group had certain qualifications they were seeking in a candidate. “At the end of the day they said, ‘Sam, you’re the only one that has all of these qualifications.”

There has been some discussion about cutting the At Large seats (A and B) from the board. Hall said he agreed that the nine-person council was too large, but didn’t see the At Large seats (which represent the entire community, as opposed to a single district) as expendable.

“How we get down to five seats—I don’t really have a dog in that fight,” Hall said. “There’s probably 20 different scenarios.”

The current president has presided over a dramatic period for the council. Since transitioning to a new charter and strong-mayor form of government, the council has been going through what is repeatedly described as “growing pains.”

On several occasions, Hall has attempted to quell the discontent. There have been other times during which he appeared quite discontent himself.

“I’m not saying we’ve gelled yet, but some of the acrimony has died down,” Hall said. “It’s not gone completely.”

Charles Bare

After an unsuccessful bid for mayor, Charles Bare is back and vying for the council’s At Large B seat. He’s not terribly concerned about the possibility that the seat he’s running for could be cut from the council’s bench.

“My first reaction was ‘uh-oh,’” Bare said recently, adding that upon reflection he decided he could contribute to the council even if the At Large seats were to sunset at the end of his term. “I could work two years and get some things done.”

The candidate owns his own business—The Charles Bare Company—and provides tech support and management for small offices and homes. Prior to that he served as District Representative for Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida).

Bare is a graduate of the University of West Florida, where he received his Masters in Public Administration and Coastal Zone Studies in 1994. In his senior year at UWF, the candidate served as student body president.

Bare’s career has included stints in Atlanta working for the U.S. Department of Education, and locally at UWF as Director of Governmental Relations. In 2003, the Army reservist was deployed to Iraq, where he served for a year.

In the context of the back-and-forth between city council and Mayor Ashton Hayward’s administration, Bare has made his opinion publicly known via participation in public meetings.

“I think the real problem is that many of the staff don’t feel they can talk to council,” he commented recently on Councilwoman Sherri Myers’ lawsuit against Hayward. “If the mayor is telling them they can’t talk to council, that’s a violation of the charter.”

Victor Cross

This candidate is a political newcomer. He was encouraged to run for the city council’s At Large B seat by the local Fraternal Order of Police.

“Those guys came to me and encouraged me to run,” said Victor Cross. “I have a world of respect for the job they do.”

Cross is the son of a Pensacola police officer. In 1980, the candidate’s dad was killed in the line of duty.

His connection to the law enforcement community plays heavily into Cross’s candidacy. He says he would like to help foster a better relationship between the city and its police force.

“I don’t think the community is really aware of what I see as a big problem,” Cross said. “The main reason I’m running—the reason I got into the race—was the disconnect between law enforcement and government.”

The candidate also said he would like to see an improvement of the relationship between the mayor’s office and the city council.

“I think the contentions are all rooted in the fact that there is a lack of communication,” Cross said, adding that he thinks the mayor’s attendance at council meetings would prove a positive step forward. “Why can’t the mayor come to council meetings? I’m racking my brain right now—when have I seen the mayor at a meeting with council discussing these issues?”

Cross is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and the University of West Florida, where he received a Bachelors in Political Science. Since 1988, he has worked in real estate and currently works at Collector Solutions (a company owned by Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino).

If elected, Cross has said he intends to focus on issues such as the city’s relationship with law enforcement—as well as crime in general—and the city’s shrinking population numbers.