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!