To Tallahassee and Back : Close Encounters of the Gubernatorial Kind

During my years working in Tallahassee I have had the pleasure of meeting governors from the past three decades. I have found that the most enjoyable encounters came during informal moments.

I have always admired the office of the governor. I don’t necessarily mean the physical location where the governor works, although it is a very nice place.  Rather, I mean the position of the governor and what power and responsibility the person who occupies that office holds.  The governor is a human being who has been entrusted with the confidence of the people who sent him to Tallahassee to run this great state we call home.  During my years working in Florida’s capital city I have had the pleasure of meeting governors from the past three decades.  I have found that the most enjoyable encounters came during informal or random moments.

The first governor I met was Governor Lawton Chiles.  I and then-Representative Mike Fasano went to the governor’s mansion for the annual “Welcome to Tallahassee” reception for the legislature in 1995.  I have a photo which commemorates that meeting. However, the more memorable event for me personally came a few weeks later.  I went to the now defunct Tallahassee icon The Silver Slipper to meet up with Representative Fasano. The restaurant had lots of curtained rooms ringing a central dining area, giving it a 20’s-era speakeasy kind of feel.   As I was walking around trying to find Representative Fasano I noticed that there was a group of people performing some sort of skit or scene down in the open dining area. I stopped to watch and was surprised to see that Governor Chiles was sitting in a chair acting out a speech while a camera recorded him. I found out later that he was taping his contribution to the press skits, an annual event during which the media and lawmakers share lighthearted jabs at each other. The governor was warm and engaging to watch.  His smile was infectious and I have a fond memory of that evening.

Before, during and after his two terms in office I have had the pleasure of seeing Governor Jeb Bush multiple times.  I have a photo of my then-baby daughter Rebekah and Jeb Bush and his son Jeb, Jr. during a campaign appearance in West Pasco in 1994.  This was from his first campaign against Governor Lawton Chiles.  However, one of my fondest memories of  Jeb Bush came  during his first term as governor. Then- Representative Fasano had an office on the 11th floor of the Capitol.  Late on a Friday afternoon, not long after Representative Fasano had left Tallahassee to return to the district, I looked up from my desk and was surprised to see a very tall man towering above my desk.  He had approached so quietly that I did not even hear him.   As I looked up I was stunned to see Governor Jeb Bush, jacketless and with his shirt sleeves rolled up.  I jumped to my feet as though the president of the USA had just walked into the room.  After a few pleasantries the governor asked for Representative Fasano and I explained that he was on his way back to the district.  The governor nodded and asked me to leave his regards for him.  Within moments I was on the phone with Representative Fasano and breathlessly described the exchange.  The casual demeanor of the governor that day belied the serious, policy-oriented individual that he was at heart.

Governor Bob Martinez served before I started working for the state.  However, I long admired him for his dedication to life issues.  He staked his political career, in part, on attempting to pass laws that protected innocent life.  He paid dearly at the polls for it but earned the undying admiration of pro-life advocates.  One afternoon, long after he had joined the lobbying corps, I was heading towards the snack bar on the 10th floor of the Capitol when I literally turned a corner and nearly ran into Governor Martinez.  I shared with him my admiration for his political courage on life issues. He was warm and gracious and that conversation has stayed with me more than any subsequent “business”-related meetings ever did.  

I had the opportunity to share an elevator ride with Governor Charlie Crist sometime during his term.   It was quitting time one Friday afternoon during session when I stepped onto the small elevator that is used primarily to travel down to the basement  parking garage under the Capitol building.  I entered the empty elevator on the 4th floor and hit the down button.  A few moments later the elevator bumped to a stop on the ground floor.  As the door slid open, a burly FDLE agent stepped inside, followed by the familiar well-tanned face of Governor Crist.  For the remainder of the ride down to the parking garage, and for a few moments afterwards, I shared  some pleasant words with Florida’s 44th governor.  The governor was the same engaging man with the winning smile that had appeared so many times at speeches and rallies during his long political  career.  What was most memorable about that elevator ride was that even though our chat touched on many topics, including his admiration of Senator Fasano, campaign politics was not one of them.

Have you experienced meeting someone involved in politics?  If so, I would love to hear your story.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.  If you have any questions or comments about state government please post them and I will answer them in an upcoming post.  If there is a specific topic you would like me to write about please let me know as well.  I look forward to reading about what is important to you!

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Greg Giordano September 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
I appreciate your comment. I am proud of the work you have done in Tallahassee. What an opportunity you have had to meet leaders and policymakers! When I was in high school our local congressman, Peter Kostmayer, came and spoke to our political group (World Affairs Club). The speech and Q&A he gave spurred my growing interst in politics. I hope you are encouraged by your experiences and continue to be involved in the legislative process.
Marilynn deChant September 27, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Hi Greg, Thanks for sharing your great story about meeting some of the former governors of our state. It brought back my own memories of meeting someone I cared about greatly, Lawton Chiles. What an honor it was to meet him and shake his hand. Also, thanks for taking the time to keep up with your blog, Greg. I know how demanding that can be and you are already so busy. I have very much appreciated the good and competent work you and your colleagues do to help Sen. Fasano do his best for Pasco County and that means so much to many of us! Thanks! Marilynn deChant
Jerry Bailie September 27, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Greg, I enjoy reading the things you put to paper and the stories you have to share regarding things like this. You openess and honesty is a truly great asset you have in sharing stories that have had obvious meaning and impact on your life and you willingness to share them makes me glad to call you a friend. I appreciate you very much and all you represent to the community, your family and your faith. Great job and keep up the excellent work. Jerry Bailie
Greg Giordano September 27, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Marilyn, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me. Gov Chiles was the first sitting Florida governor I had ever met. It is nice to read that you too enjoyed your opportunity to meet him. I also appreciate the good work you do for our community. You and Dell have made a big difference to our fellow neighbors who call West Pasco home.
Greg Giordano September 27, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Jerry, thank you for your kind words. You are a strong man of faith and a leader in our church and beyond. As a fellow believer you have been a constant inspiration to me. I am proud that I can call you my friend.


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