Message from Nancy Fetterman and Anna Whibbs
August 29, 2006
It’s long, but worth the read:
As the widows of Mayor Vince Whibbs and Vice Admiral Jack Fetterman, we are writing this message to the citizens of Pensacola. We are deeply grateful for the encouragement, love, and support our families have received from this charming community in the last few months. Vince and Jack were splendid friends and each had inimitable qualities of greatness: gentleness with strength, firmness with compassion, humor with depth, love with authority, common sense with practical skill and wisdom with a smile.
Each gave years of their short time on earth, encouraging, and sustaining this magnificent state and its people. As our Mayor, Vince spent seventeen years assembling an enthusiastic culture of civic responsibility and vibrant growth in Pensacola. Afterwards, as Emeritus, he was ever the cheerleader for progressive leadership in a city he adored. When Jack arrived in 1991, these two men worked in tandem to help the city, county, and state move forward in a progressive and energetic manner. Together, with many distinguished friends, they helped motivate the community to consider a Maritime Museum in Pensacola.
The passing of both men came at a turning point in Pensacola’s history. What began as a visionary endeavor initiated by our husbands, is becoming a perversely stubborn and irresponsible protest by those who demean and diminish our husbands’ affection for this city by inappropriately suggestive commentary, innuendo and unjust remarks. I assure you that these same individuals would not impugn the integrity of Vince Whibbs or Jack Fetterman had they been here to defend themselves. We understand differences of perspective concerning the project, but we are asking for fair, honest appraisals, not defamation for the remaining highly regarded principals of the project. In these last few days, we say, “Enough!”
Allow us to respond to those issues that appear to be in question by some dissenting voices in the community:
Vince and Jack were principled men, and surrounded themselves with only honorable men and women who followed ethical principles of leadership in all efforts relating to Pensacola and/or the state of Florida – as volunteers. Over the years, our husbands supported various efforts for the benefit of Pensacola and its environs. Many of their endeavors involved briefings with city and county officials, always held in respect of State of Florida Sunshine laws. (More about these meetings in the following paragraphs.)
As he envisioned the idea of the Maritime Museum project, the one concern that Jack Fetterman noted was the lack of infrastructure around the museum, especially if it was placed across from Pensacola City Hall, noting that an adjacent parking was boring. Coming from other Navy communities, he had firm statistical evidence that Seattle, Norfolk, and San Diego have successful waterfront developments that include museums, galleries, cruise lines, ball fields, restaurants, and an infinite variety of walking destinations. He knew that these notable development efforts of other cities employ thousands of people. He knew that K – 12 and university students enjoy the efforts of all of these cities as do tourists who bring additional revenue. Through museum industry studies, he learned that education and technology are forever intertwined. Instinctively, he knew that change is controversial and complicated but necessary in order to prevent stagnation or worse, decline.
Serendipitously, the Maritime Museum project grew into a larger initiative during discussions with the mayor and city manager about rebuilding our city after Hurricane Ivan. It was an initiative that both Vince and Jack enthusiastically supported; it included Quint Studer and the University of West Florida and began to mirror the successful waterfront designs noted earlier. Always in respect of the Sunshine Laws, the newly formed group began meeting again with private individuals, and city and county officials who needed information about the project and its merit. Readers who do not work with grants, business interests, or everyday local issues, may not realize this is a necessary and requisite step in every suggested change to city and county development. It allows an unlimited, concise question and answer period for the officials and their staffs, making the monthly meetings flow more smoothly. Our elected officials need this information early on to make informed decisions later. To imply that this was anything other than a standard procedural method of informational order is to impugn the dignity of the process, the officials, and those who followed it according to state laws.
In addition to factual errors from the opposing leadership voices, others border on the wacky, and astute observers would be wise to consider the folly of them. There is no validation for allegations that the city/county cannot support the project without an increase in taxes. It can – end of story. In response to the signs that indicate, “We can build a better waterfront park” – our family and friends wonder – how, when, where, and what? In response to moving this effort to Naval Air Station, we know that the U.S. Navy will never relinquish the Allegheny Pier for a cruise line or adjunct to a Maritime Museum especially during a critical and indefinite period of national readiness. Finally, the rationale that a Maritime Museum can be “attached” to the National Museum of Naval Aviation is so naïve and unsophisticated it is bewildering. The Naval Museum’s mission has been and will ever be as the premier transcendent museum capturing the heritage of Naval Aviation. Period. With the addition of the Naval Museum’s National Flight Academy and the possibility of a Maritime Park, Pensacola will truly become the first place city for innovation, education, and tourism.
With this message, we hope to remind you that life is short. In these last days of reflection for the future of our city, we ask for a return to respect and civility with neighbors and friends. We invite you to help transform this community with the lofty and principled vision of our dear husbands and those who are assisting in the endeavor. Help us bring the Florida State Maritime Museum into the forefront as a flagship model, sharing the state’s narrative history, which conveys with it an appreciation of a diversity, culture, maritime studies, nautical archeology, technology, and environmental issues. Let us utilize the entire complement of the park, including the beautiful waterside amphitheater and ballpark, as a showplace for a multiple use recreational area an a place for festivals, theater, music, art, children’s exhibits, Fourth of July celebrations, private revels, and more. The Park and the Maritime Museum may be memorials dedicated to Vince and Jack; but solid, discerning citizens who also cherish Pensacola, both its past and its future, will build it.
Pensacola is the place where America began. Join us in telling the rest of the story. Vote YES for the Maritime Park on September 5.
Anna Whibbs Nancy Fetterman