Pensacola’s Downtown Improvement Board has a new director. Board members on Tuesday voted to name Curt Morse as the replacement for outgoing director Ron Butlin, whose last day was September 30.
Four of five board members voted for Morse, while one voted for Pensacola Young Professionals operations director Sophia Young. Two other finalists — former Santa Rosa Island Authority director Buck Lee and former Pensacola city planner Alan Gray — received no votes, while former Pensacola City Council executive Lila Cox withdrew her name from consideration before the vote.
The selection of Morse, who lives in Pensacola’s East Hill neighborhood, reflects a desire on the part of the DIB board to select a director with local roots. Butlin and his predecessor Franklin “Kim” Kimbrough each came to Pensacola from other cities and had prior experience managing downtown entities, something Morse lacks.
“I think [the DIB board] want someone that is intimate with the city, knows its warts and whiskers if you will, and also sees the opportunity and the potential that has been realized and can continue to be realized,” Morse said Tuesday.
Morse and his family moved to Pensacola in 2004 shortly before Hurricane Ivan hit.
“We’ve got a family, we’ve owned businesses here, have kids that are in school here, so everything about Pensacola is and always will be a long-term love affair,” he said. Morse has worked since 2014 as a regional branch manager for portable storage company Mobile Mini. He previously owned and operated a franchise for PODS, a competing company, from 2004 through 2011.
Despite Morse’s nontraditional resume, he believes he’s well-suited for the job.
“I’ve got a tremendous amount of small business experience, not only from ownership, but my entire career has revolved around dealing with businesses — their challenges, their successes, and being a part of both,” said Morse. “And on the other side, it’s the softer skills. It’s my ability to build rapport, bridge and forage relationships with people who are stakeholders in downtown Pensacola. I think that’s the value of someone like me who doesn’t necessarily come from a technical urban planning background.”
Noting a number of major upcoming developments, Morse is bullish about downtown Pensacola’s future.
“Pensacola is in its sweet spot right now,” Morse said. “I think it’s a testament to the overall leadership and the huge influx of investment from the private sector. And I think we’re really only beginning to scratch the surface, understand what’s beneath that crust in our urban core, and what can happen when there’s collaboration between both the private and public sector.”
DIB chairman John Peacock said Tuesday that while Morse’s salary hasn’t been finalized, it should fall within the $50,000 to $70,000 range previously discussed by the board. That’s a decrease from the $90,000 salary paid to Butlin, a move Peacock credits to recent reductions in the DIB’s portfolio, including the organization’s decision to end its management of downtown events like Gallery Night and the Pensacola Pelican Drop.