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Earlier this month, as Pensacola mayor Ashton Hayward marked five years in office, he sat down with The Pulse‘s Drew Buchanan for a look back at his time as Pensacola’s first strong mayor and to talk about his plans for the rest of his term.

Hayward took office in January 2011 as the first mayor elected under Pensacola’s revised 2010 city charter, which dramatically changed the city’s form of government. Voters in 2009 chose to move Pensacola from a “council-manager” system — in which both legislative and executive authority are vested in a city council — to a “mayor-council” system, in which a council serves as the legislative branch and a “strong mayor” heads up an executive branch. Hayward was elected in November 2010 with 54% of the vote, besting then-mayor Mike Wiggins.

In part one of our multi-part series, Hayward talks about why he and his family chose to return to Pensacola after ten years in New York, and responds to concerns that he’s focused too much of his efforts on downtown Pensacola.

In the next part of the interview — which we’ll post Friday — The Pulse talks to Hayward about how he plans to move the success Pensacola has seen downtown into the city’s other neighborhoods, and how he’s working with the state and county to improve the area’s waterways and environment.

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