Senator Roberta Fox (D., Coral Gables)*
Roberta was one of my best friends in the legislature–smart, gregarious, but tough as anyone on a women’s issue. I first met her when I went to to the Women’s Political Caucus in Miami for an endorsement interview. Since I was running against a woman–Connie Baker–I thought it was a critical interview. Not surprising, Roberta gave me no slack. But I ended up getting the endorsement, won the election handily, and kept Roberta among my best friends up until her untimely passing a few years. Senator, you served your constituents well, and boy are you missed today.
Readers of this Blog are in all probability very familiar with Andy Reiss and his wonderful restaurant creations next to the Capitol. Andy is native of Miami, and one of the most creative chefs anywhere. He rotates restaurant themes from deli, to italian, to gourmet, to sports bar, but always includes a political theme. He even rotates the naming of some of his dishes, as the political leadership turns over in the Capitol. Andy is one of the fertile minds that came up with the idea of a “Downtown, Getdown” for FSU and FAMU home football games, which event is headquartered where? Right in front of Andrews’ renoun restaurants. His restaurants are some of Susan and my favorites in the Capitol.
Al Cone, Esquire
In the Florida trial bar, there are legends. One, I am told was the late Al Cone of West Palm Beach. I knew I was favored to win my race for District 116 in the Florida House of Representatives in 1974, when I was invited by an incumbent member of the House to join him on a ride to Yehaw Junction in the middle of the state to meet Mr. Cone. After about a two and half hour drive from Miami, we approached a ranch just off Highway 60, west of Vero Beach. Al was there with his ranch hands, and we sat down to get acquainted. He was very bright and seemed to know a great deal about me. He never asked for anything, and upon my getting in the car to return to Miami, he handed me a check of $500 for my campaign. Although I often heard of Al’s prominence in the trial bar over the years, I never talked to him again. I often felt that I would have benefitted by his counsel during my service in the House and Senate.
Senator Dick Langley (R., Clermont)*
If there was ever a “squeaky wheel” among the Republicans existing with the Democratic majority during the “Golden Era” of the Florida legislature, it was Senator Dick Langley of Clermont. Dick had all the tools–smart, good lawyer, knew the rules, not afraid to debate (anyone) and loathed the Democrats. As I mentioned in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I was presenting a bill on water management districts in Florida, when the senator stood to ask me if I would yield to him for a question. Against my better judgement, I did yield and still regret it. He asked me from where the water came within the water managment districts–I stumbled and stammered, thinking from God, up river tributaries, maybe from the brackish water around the everglades, who knew? Dick went out of his way to not embarass me as he explained the weather. I picked my jaw up and went on to the next bill. Senator Dick Langley was one of my favorite foes, and a damn good lawmaker.
Senate President Louis de la Parte (D., Tampa)*
Florida Senate President Louis de la Parte of Tampa was one of the most respected members of the legislature, when he was elevated from President Pro Tem to President in 1972, with the resignation of Senate President Mallory Horne to run for the U.S. Senate. Senator de la Parte excelled in children’s issues and the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Health and Rehabilitative Services. Louis also had an outstanding sense of humor, once lamenting after losing a floor debate to Senate Dean Dempsey Barron, “Curse you Red Baron.” Senator de la Parte is badly missed in the Senate today.
Associated Press Reporter Bill Kaczor
Bill Kaczor is now one of the most senior members of the Florida Capitol press corps, representing the prestigious Associated Press. I first met him when he covered newly appointed Secretary of Health and Rehabiliative Services, Alvin Taylor appeared before my Senate Committee of the same name, for confirmation. Alvin had been a career HRS employee, and he enjoyed the total confidence of Governor Bob Graham, so he was easily confirmed. Bill was kind enough to review my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, and although he was complimentary about the book, he did offer a number of corrections and changes. Bill often covers stories from his desk in Pensacola, but we have grown to appreciate his very professional reporting from the Capitol for the last 30 years plus.
Vice President Walter Mondale*
I was in my third year in the Florida Senate when I received a call from the White House inviting me to meet Vice President Mondale, who was making a campaign stop in Miami. I was told to be at a certain hanger at Miami International Airport along with my good friends, Senator Ken Jenne and former Representative Alan Becker, among other political figures from South Florida. The Vice President was very cordial and I was surprised that he knew of my background, including my areas of legislative interest–social services and the environment. He asked me to get involved with he and President Carter’s campaign against Governor Ronald Reagan and Congressman George Bush, but I never heard back from their campaign.
I first met Ree when one of the House committees to which I was assigned by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Don Tucker, was Health and Rehabilitative Services. I have previously mentioned in this Blog that committee staff being the best I ever saw in Tallahassee. Ree may have been the smartest of the group, and she still is today. When Governor Bob Graham appointed me to Chair the Health Care Finance Task Force in 1982, I immediately sought out Ree for the staff. She was wonderful in staffing the two year Task Force and crafting a report to the Governor and legislature that resulted in landmark legislation in 1984. Ree went on to an extraordinary career in health care administration in Florida, in Washington state, and now for the National Governor’s Association in Washington. I will always consider Ree among the best I ever met during the “Golden Era” of Florida politics.
Representative Emerson Allsworth (D., Ft. Lauderdale)
I have always felt State Representative Emerson Allsworth (D., Ft. Lauderdale) was a largely unknown powerhouse in the Florida legislature. I came into the House after he left, but the veterans often spoke of his impressive command of the legislative process. His Broward Delegation was in transition from all Democratic to partially Republican when he served, and that probably undercut some of his clout. I had an opportunity to work with Emerson professionally after he was out of the legislature, and found him to be an outstanding lawyer. He is again, a good example of the outstanding talent found among the lawmakers who served in the “Golden Era” of Florida politics.
Agriculture Commissioner Doyle Conner*
Most political observers of Florida politics will remember long time Cabinet member, Doyle Conner for his service as Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. It was in that regard that I worked with him and his outstanding staff like Jack Shoemaker. But, history may remember him more for his election as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 1957–the youngest ever, and a student at the University of Florida, at the time. Doyle remains available as an advisor to state leaders in Florida, and will always be one of the great policy makers to bridge the old and new Florida during the state’s “Golden Years”.
Federal Judges Alan Gold, James King, and Don Middlebrooks
I have been honored to know and work with three outstanding judges on the Federal Bench. U.S. Judge Alan Gold was a young assistant Miami-Dade county attorney when I met him during the early 70’s. He had an excellent education from the University of Florida and the school of law at Duke University. U.S. Judge James King is one of the most senior federal judges in the country. Susan and I had the pleasure of having his daughter stay with us while she was serving as a page in the Legislature in the late 70’s. U.S. Judge Don Middlebrooks was a staff attorney in Governor Askew’s office and invited me to partipate in his Florida Bar sponsored committee on children’s issues in the 1980’s. Both Judges King and Middlebrooks took their undergraduate and legal education at the University of Florida and the Fredrick Levin School of Law. Florida is indeed fortunate to have such outstanding jurists serving our country.
Chairmen and Representatives A. H. “Gus” Craig (D., St. Augustine), Ed Fortune (D., Pace), Billy Joe Rish (D., Port St. Joe), John Forbes (D., Jacksonville, Bob Hector (D., Miami), John Ryals (D. Brandon), Ray Mattox (D., Winter Haven) and Earl Dixon (D., Jacksonville)*
Today, with term limits, the Committee Chairs might have an average of three years prior service. When I was first elected in 1974, Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) introduced his committee chairs, many of which are listed above, with an average of over 10 years prior service each. Many other Chairs from that era have been profiled in previous Quorum Call posts. For me, these gentlemen were the face the legislature–seasoned, conservative, close friends and totally loyal to the Speaker. Interestingly, all of these Chairmen elected to stay in the House for their entire careers, which as Governor Bob Graham once told me, is why these lawmakers had such clout during the Golden Era of the Florida legislature.
Miami Herald Writers Bob Sanchez and Juanita Greene
One might say they were the “ying and the yang” of the distinguished Miami Herald editorial staff, during the ’70s and ’80s. Bob was a proud FSU graduate in Miami, expousing a solid conservative viewpoint. Juanita, on the other hand, was an ardent liberal environmentalist, especially on issues dealing with Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. I quickly became a fan of both, reflecting what my critics would say was inconsistent thinking. In defense of both Bob and Juanita, I do believe they were very bright and took positions based on common sense. I occassionally run into Bob in Tallahassee, but have lost track of Juanita. They were both special opinion writers from the Golden Era of Florida politics.
Republican Activist Mike Thompson
As the expression goes, “Mike Thompson was Republican before it was cool.” Mike was a bright Miami advertising executive that was a pioneer in the Florida Republican Party during the Golden Era of the ’70s and ’80s. He ran for office, once as the running mate of Former Senate President Jerry Thomas (R., Tequesta) in 1974. As I look at the fringe elements of the Republican Party today, I cannot help but think that Mike must cringe. He was a solid conservative out of the Barry Goldwater mold–truly a believer in the adage, “Less is More.” I have lost track of Mike over the years, but I do miss the purity of his political ideology.
Senator Don Gruber (R., Coconut Grove)*
I once heard a long time legislative aide refer to State Senator Don Gruber (R., Coconut Grove) as “that nice Senator from the Grove). The Senator pulled off one of Miami-Dade’s biggest political upsets in the ’70s and ’80s by unseating long time and popular Democratic Senator Eddie Gong (D., Miami) in 1972. It was history making in that he joined Representatives Tom Gallagher (R., Coconut Grove) and John Cyril Malloy (R., South Miami) as the only Republican legislators in modern time to be elected in Miami-Dade County, with Gruber being the lone Republican Senator. Gruber was an anthropologist and travel agent by trade, and those credentials did not turn many heads in Tallahassee among the remaining Pork Choppers and North Florida power brokers. The Senator was unseated 2 years later and ran unsuccessfully against me in 1978.
Representative John Culbreath (D., Brooksville)*
Most of us knew the powerful Chairman of the House Regulated Industries Committee as “Big John,” due to his University of Florida football physique, of which he was so proud. The jurisdiction of his committee was mind boggling–telephone, liquor, para-mutual, and even in those early days of the 70’s, computers. But to his colleagues, he was gentle and friendly, even to newcomers like me. John was what former Governor Bob Graham once told me was the key to power in Florida politics–get a safe seat in the House, build up seniority, go along to get along, “lay low,” and you will garner more power than any Governor or Cabinet member. Believe me, John had power in Florida politics. Although his pace has been curtailed, I am told he still occassionally lobbies in the halls of the Capitol, but as the expression goes, John Culbreath “has forgotten more than most lobbyists and legislators know today.”
Senator Verle Pope (D. St. Augustine)
“The Lion of St. Johns.” Senator Pope was a giant in the Florida Legislature, bridging the old among the “Pork Chop Gang,” and the Golden Era from the 60’s reapportionment. He, like his former senate president colleague, Senator Mallory Horne (D., Tallahassee), had earned the respect of the Choppers, but also understood the future and how the legislature was to change. He was considered an eloquent orator and debater, but I am told had a softness for his fellow senators. Many feel that he would have made a great governor, but his years just ran out on him in time. For the true students of Florida politics, any discussion of the best of the best must include the Lion of St. Johns, Senator Verle Pope.
Senator Ron Silver (D., Miami Beach)*
Ron served in the Florida House of Representatives and Senator almost as long as any other sitting member, and with great distinction. I worked closely with Ron as he followed my Chairmanship of the Dade Delegation in 1983. He is probably best known for his outstanding service as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee for social and criminal justice services, even during the administration of the Republicans. For members, Ron may have been best known for his sense of humor, even when it was self-directed. The Senator though was very serious, particularly with issues of interest to his Miami Beach constituents. Senator Ron Silver is again, typical of the quality legislators from the Golden Era of Florida politics.
Speaker of the House of Representatives E. C. Rowell (D., Wildwood)
Every wonder why, with all the locations in Florida, the state decided to make the end terminus of the Florida Turnpike at remote little Wildwood? The answer is the powerful, member of the “Pork Chop” gang, cigar chewing North Florida former Speaker of the House, E.C. Rowell. Wildwood was the Speaker’s hometown and he convinced then Governor Hayden Burns (D., Jacksonville) that it would be the terminating location of the new, multi-lane toll roadway. Although Speaker Rowell was not in office when I was elected to the House in the early 70’s, his legacy was still felt and his record was well established as a legislative leader during very turbulent times. He was the lobbyist for the Florida Truckers Association and I worked with him on a road building dispute in my South Miami district. Speaker Rowell may have been the last sitting presidening officer who was proud to lay claim to the Pork Chop Gang era in Florida.
Representative Joel Gustafson (R., Ft. Lauderdale)
Joel served in the Florida House of Representatives before me, but I came to know him as typical of the ‘new breed’ of urban legislator during the Golden Era of Florida politics. He was swept into office during the multiple re-apportionments of the 1960’s from Ft. Lauderdale with outstanding credentials–pioneer family, outstanding education, law degree, and successful businessman. I got to know Joel through me professional association of one his best (and childhood) friends, attorney Bill Caldwell of Vero Beach. Joel had a near miss of an election to the Congress, but has continued his outstanding service to the state on various boards, including the important Ethics Commission. Joel was an excellent example of the successful bi-partisan result of the sweeping reapportionment approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960’s.
Media Consultant Sergio Bendixen
I met Sergio during Steve Pajcic’s campaign for Governor in 1985-86. Sergio struck me as one of the smartest people I had met in politics, and I still feel that way today. Since I was Co-Chairman of Steve’s campaign with former Federal Reserve Governor and former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Fred Schultz, I had a chance to work very closely with Sergio. Apparently I was have not been the only person impressed with Sergio–he has offered counsel and advice to numerous candiates…primarily now for national office. Sergio’s speciality is tapping into the rich and growing hispanic constituency in America. He is still young in political time, so you will continue to see the impressive work of Sergio Bendixen across the country.
Representative Carl Ogden (D., Jacksonville)*
Carl chaired the powerful Finance and Taxation Committee in the Florida House of Representatives, when I was first elected to the House in 1974. He was a close confidant of the Speaker and wielded great power over all financial issues introduced in the session. Carl was by most standards, a moderate, and unlike today, was receptive to proposals for new taxes—but, only if they had merit and were progressive. His main counterpart was really not in the Senate, but in the Governor’s office in the person of Joe Cresse. The Governor had won election in 1970 based on introducing a corporate profits tax, and Ogdon was one of the architects of the Governor’s new tax program. Carl is still called on today to provide political commentary on complex finance and tax issues.
Senator Fred Karl (D., Daytona Beach)
Senator Fred Karl is one of our state’s great public servants, but is somewhat unknown outside the baby boomers. He has been a very successful corporate attorney, served in local government, a state senator, a member of the state supreme court, and head of the insurance agents association. He has recently released a wonderful memoir of his outstanding career. I have had an opportunity to talk to him and visit occasionally, and have found him to be a fountain of information about Florida government. He joins so many to have served so well, during the golden era of the Florida Legislature.
Senator Edmond Gong (D., Miami)*
The Senator was a wonderful success story for South Florida. Educated at Miami High School along with a number of other distinguished Floridians like Governor Bob Graham and Senator George Smathers, Senator Gong went on to take his law degree at Harvard. He won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, and went on to an outstanding career in the Florida Senate. Perhaps he was best known for agreeing to head up the Florida presidential campaign of New York Mayor John Lindsay in 1972. He was also a close friend and advisor to Governor Lawton Chiles. Senator Gong was always supportive of me and my campaigns, and for that I will always be very grateful.
Legislative Aides Sherry Halstead, Bud Newman, and Ellison Shapiro
I was very fortunate to have outstanding legislative aides during my service in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate. My first aide was active in the Miami-Dade County Young Democrats and was highly recommended by another aide, Ronnie Book–Ellison Shaprio. Ellison was only able to complete one term with me as he elected to stay in Miami rather than return to Tallahassee for the second session in 1976, due to personal matters. Filling in for Ellison during the second session on a referral from my colleague, Representative Alan Becker (D., Miami Beach), was former Palm Beach Post Reporter Bud Newman. During the second two year term of the House and the entire 4 year term in the Senate, my aide was Sherry Halstead, a very bright FSU graduate from my district in South Miami. Sherry had a number of close friends in Tallahassee, and was of great help, particularly in the areas of her interest, health and rehabilitative services. As I often said, the quality of a legislative office is rather clearly reflected by the abilities and commitment of the legislative staff–I had outstanding representation.
Attorney John Edward Smith*
The late John Edward Smith was a partner in one of Miami’s most prestigious law firms, Steel, Hector and Davis. He was a powerful political figure not just in Miami, but around the state and in Washington, D.C. His legal and political brilliance was deceiving because he often dressed “Colombo” like, but his record of achievement was unmatched. I worked with him and his wonderful wife Sarah on issues like the ERA, environmental concerns, and economic development. His influence ranged from counselling Janet Reno on her Senate confirmation as Attorney General to helping guide Florida Governor Buddy Mackay’s august political career. John was also a critical cog in the leadership of both the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Chamber. He was a wonderful friend and is deeply missed today.
Representative Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte
Although Sandy’s professional career took off after his six years in the Florida House of Representatives, it is important to reflect on his legislative service, especially as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during the massive reorganization of the judicial branch of government. Yes, subsequent to his legislative service, he was a legal scholar, President of the prestigious American Bar Association, and served as President of The Florida State University. But, I followed with interest and great respect his leadership in reforming the courts, the criminal justice process, Article V of our constitution and the mentoring of two pretty good young lawyers–the late former State Representative Bill Sadowski (D., Miami) and the former 2-term U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Sandy was truly a rare legislative intellectual.
Lobbyist Dudley Griner
I will always remember Dudley Griner, outstanding lobbyist for the soft drink industry. He approached me during my freshman year in the Florida House of Representatives to file a bill aiding litter enforcement. I was a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and was advised by my county parks department of their support of the bill, so I filed it. Unlike the other bills I had filed at the time which were hardly moving through the committees, Dudley’s bill moved quickly through committees and onto the House Calendar. Within a scant two weeks, this freshman passed his first bill and watched Governor Askew sign the bill into law. From that experience, I found the importance of working with lobbyists whenever you can. Susan became close friends with Dudley’s wonderful wife Hazel, and Dudley remains active in Tallahassee business interests, as well as the legislative process.
Lobbyist Doug Bruce
Normally I would disdain a prominent lobbyist like Doug Bruce. Why–because he was the Executive Director for the legislative Republicans, working under the direction of legendary former Senator Ken Plante (R., Oviedo), and I was a Democrat. But, there was no disdain–only total respect and frankly, admiration of Doug’s ability to navigate the treacherous political seas as a member of the minority party. Doug continues to hone his skills as a lobbyist in town, but rather than seeking a high profile, his firm is more of a “boutique” consulting firm. Not taking sides, but if I had to select a lobbyist today with strong Republican ties, Doug would definitely be on the shortest of short lists.
Lobbyist Scotty Fraser*
One of the most prestigious clients in the Florida Capitol is the Florida Medical Association–doctors, a ton of them in Florida, and they make a lot of money. Who did they select to represent them during the “Golden Era” of Florida politics?–none other than a Tom Adams disciple, scratch golf, cigar (unlit) chewing, personable chap named Scotty Fraser. Because of my committee Chairmanships–health and rehabilitative services, and the funding of health care, I found myself working often with Scotty–I must admit seldom on the same side of issues, but with immense respect for his professionalism and acumen. One issue that always stuck in Scotty’s craw was the need, in his opinion, for a separate Department of Health, for which his clients–the doctors–might have more influence, rather than merged into the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. He did not get his wish on my watch, but he did finally get it. Scotty Fraser was one of the best voices for his clients during the 70’s and 80’s, I am will always consider him a friend.
Corrections Secretary Louie Wainwright*
Few politicians never elected enjoyed the powerful reputation of long time Florida Corrections Secretary Louie Wainwright. I was introduced to the Secretary at the on set of my political career as a result of being appointed by Florida House of Representatives Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) to Chair the House Corrections Subcommittee (replacing Tucker). Louie enjoyed immense respect among the correctional workers’ union as well as law enforcement in general. I found him to be surprisingly progressive, implementing a number of ‘cutting edge’ rehabilitation programs in Florida’s sprawling prison system. I heard rumors about his management style of leveraging the “the good ole boy” network, but saw little evidence of it in touring the prisons. I mentioned earlier in Quorum Call, my legal connection to the Secretary as Amicus Curiae in the landmark lawsuit over health care for inmates, Costello versus Wainwright. Louie Wainwright was a central part of corrections public policy during the Golden Era of Florida politics.
Representative Dr. Dick Hodes (D., Tampa)*
Dr. Dick Hodes was appropriately named by Speaker of the Florida House Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) as the Chairman of the important House Education Committee in 1974 . Dick was a scholar and highly respected among his colleagues, including his Senate counterpart, Senator Bob Graham (D., Miami Lakes), the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Hodes and Graham jointly developed the nationally recognized Florida funding formula based upon individual needs. In other words, a base allocation was provided for each child, and extra needs for either handicapped or exceptional students was recognized in the grant to the school district. As indicated in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I was asked to serve as the running mate with Speaker Hyatt Brown (D., Daytona Beach) in 1978, but turned it down to run for the state senate. Hyatt then selected Dr. Hodes as his running mate, and I thought it was an outstanding selection of an outstanding Floridian.
The “Terrible Tempered” Mr. Ball
Funny how some things you just remember. I was in graduate school at The Florida State University in 1967, studying in the Strozier Library when a Fortune Magazine caught my eye. On the cover was a picture of the Dupont Estate trustee, Ed Ball, with a title, “The Terrible Tempered Mr. Ball.” Although I had heard of him at the time, I did not know of his extensive political prowess. Before the population explosion in South Florida in the 50’s and 60’s, all the power in the state resided in North Florida, and most of that in the Jacksonville area. That was the daily residence of Ball. He clashed with many politicians–and seldom lost a fight. For example, in 1950, incumbent Senator Claude Pepper seemed unbeatable for reelection. Pepper crossed Mr. Ball, and Ball, allegedly, convinced Pepper protegé, Congressman George Smathers, to run against Pepper– the election wasn’t even close with Smathers winning easily. Yes, there are still rumors of chicanery by the Smathers’ campaign, referring to Pepper as a “thespian” in rural North Florida, but the real story was the power of Mr. Ball and the result if you angered him. No Floridan should pass through the sunshine state without some knowledge of the terrible tempered Mr. Ball.
Commerce Secretary Sid Levin*
One of Governor Bob Graham’s best friends in Miami was former Dade County Commissioner Sid Levin. When elected Governor in 1978, one of Graham’s first appointments was that of Levin to the important position of Secretary of Commerce. Since I was also from Miami and had served in the Dade Delegation with Graham, he approached me about working with he and Secretary Levin on a streamlined regional development permitting bill. It was particularly tricky because Graham, Levin and I had strong environmental records, but felt the duplication of local, state and regional permitting was over kill. Upon his return to Miami, Secretary Levin joined the public affairs unit at Florida Power and Light, and has remained active in community and commerce affairs since then.
Associated Press Reporter David Powell*
Most folks working in the Florida Capitol today know or know of David Powell–as a recognized environmental development legal counsel (also as the husband of another outstanding lawyer from the same firm, Victoria Weber), not as an outstanding reporter for the prestigious Associated Press. I first met David when he and Vicky socialized with my aide, Sherry Halstead. David was friendly, but stand offish as he was one of the most aggressive reporters in the press corps. After leaving AP, David got his law degree, and went on to an outstanding career in law and as the respected Executive Director of the important Environmental Land Management Commission (ELMS). David has not slowed his pace today, except for the assuming critical responsibilities in Leadership Florida and most important, raising a wonderful family with Vicky.
Lobbyist John French*
During the Golden Era of Florida politics, it was hard to picture John without Jim working the halls of the Capitol. Jim was the late Jim Krog, previously profiled in the Quorum Call. John worked closely with his friend Jim (both having worked together earlier during the ‘Askew Years’), although no exclusively, on health care issues. John was an attorney who had previously served as the Executive Director of the Democratic Party when I first met him in 1974. Actually we were fraternity brothers at The Florida State University, but at different times. John is still active in lobbying, but with his ’emeritus type’ lobbying career, he is very selective in his representation. You cannot think of that special era of Florida politics, and especially among the prime lobbyists, without John French being at the top of the list of great players.
Representative John Mica (R., Orlando)*
Washington politicos will recognize this name right away, as one of the most powerful elected officials in our national government. Congressman John Mica is new Chairman of the House of Representatives Transportation Committee, and known almost universally as an “expert” in high speed rail transportation systems. Since John was (and remains) a Republican, back in the ’70s and ’80s, he didn’t enjoy the political power, but he was smart, effective, and I always found him approachable. John lost an election and went on to serve effectively as Chief of Staff to the late Senator Paula Hawkins (R., Florida). His brother Dan Mica was a fine congressman from Palm Beach County, so John laid the ground work for a successful run for Congress from his hometown of Orlando several years ago. Seniority has had its’ rewards for the new Chairman.
Deputy Chief of Staff Phil Wise
I have found it very unusual to see a career professional staffer to elected officials. One such, who happen to be among the very best with whom I have worked, was Phil Wise, Deputy Chief of Staff to the late Governor Lawton Chiles (D., Florida). The Governor asked me to join his Administration shortly after his election in 1990, and I reported directly to Phil for day to day guidance. At the time, Phil had previously been on the staff of Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, President Jimmy Carter, and currently is on the senior staff of the Carter Center in Atlanta. Phil was the consummate pro–smart, hard working, clever, and pleasant to be around. It was a privilege for me to work with Phil in Chiles’ office.
South Florida Water Mangement District Executive Directors Jack Maloy and Woody Woodraska
When Florida House Speaker Don Tucker appointed me to the House Special Subcommittee on Water Management Districts, I did not realize the significance of the appointment. At the time, several of the Districts had ad valorem taxing power and in the urban areas of Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach; and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, the amount of revenue generated within the districts, was in the multi-millions. The magnitude of the jurisdiction of the water management districts came home to me when I was invited to board one of their many helicopters and airplanes to tour their canal levies. Two of the outstanding water management managers that I worked very closely with were Jack Maloy and Woody Woodraska. Although both were very competent, Jack was very discernable because of his irascible personality while Woody was more low key. The districts remain a significant political power in Florida–a lesson I learned as a member of the Select Subcommittee in 1970’s.
Young Democrats President Ron Lieberman*
After losing a close election to incumbent State Representative Jeff Gautier (D., Miami) in 1972, I was undecided if I wanted to continue pursuing a political career. About that time, I was contacted by a former supporter and active member of the influential Young Democrats of Dade County, Ron Lieberman. Ron said he was going to run for President of the organization and wanted me to run as his Vice Presidental running mate–a “Lieberman-McKnight” ticket. Although we were elected without a challenge, the campaign served an important purpose of getting my name back out in the political circles– that I was still out there involved. Ron was a friend at an important time to me, and he has gone on to a successful legal career, often representing consumers against the corporate giants.
Tampa Mayor Dick Greco
My business employer during the ’70s and ’80s, Planned Development Corporation, entered into a contract with the world’s largest shopping center developer at the time, The DeBartolo Corporation, to sell the Cutler Ridge Mall. The transaction provided that the two companies would work together on the new venture, because our company retained valuable properties located around the mall. As such, I had a chance to meet Mr. DeBartolo and his management team, which in Florida, was headed up by a gregarious individual named Dick Greco. Dick was a former Mayor of Tampa, and he picked up on the fact that I was a State Senator right at the outset. Dick is now a candidate again for Mayor, and if his past is any indication, he will be a ‘hands on’ chief executive of the city, if he wins the election.
Chief of Staff Dr. Charles Reed*
By most accounts, former Governor Bob Graham’s first term was only moderately successful, but his second term was praised as “textbook.” The reason, in my opinion, was the Governor’s selection of Dr. Charlie Reed as his Chief of Staff for the 1982-86 term. As indicated in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I worked very closely with Charlie and his colleague, Patsy Palmer, as Chairman of the the state mandated Commission on Consumer Choices in Health Care. The two year effort resulted in the passage of landmark legislation in 1984, through the efforts of Senators Harry Johnston, Ken Jenne, and Representatives Sam Bell and Fred Lippman, addressing consumer choices, the funding for indigent care, and a rate regulation trigger in health care administration. None of it would have been possible without the leadership of Charlie Reed.
Representative Bev Burnsed Spencer (D., Lakeland)*
As indicated in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, State Representative Bev Burnsed was one of my favorite legislators–bright, engaging, knowledgeable on the issues, and tough as nails as a member of the Senate-House Appropriations Conference Subcommittee. As I said in the book, when I was thinking about running for Governor in 1986, I had pretty much decided that I wanted Bev to be my running mate–although I never talked to her about it. After leaving the legislature, Bev continued her fine public service (as a Republican) in the Department of State and then with her alma mater, The Florida State University. She married one of my long time friends, Ron Spencer, and I am sure both of them continue to root on the Noles.
House Majority Leader Dick Clark (D., Miami)*
There are three pictures of House Majority Leader Dick Clark with me in The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s. He is easy to pick out–tall (6’4″), disheveled appearance, and a general look of “urgency.” Although we were most often on opposite sides of issues, I liked Dick and found him to be one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives during my first year in Tallahassee. Dick was long time Miami Mayor Steve Clark’s brother, and as he would often say to me, “I am a Roman Catholic, and proud of it.” I can still remember the anger Dick had with our Delegation’s only Republican (and my good friend and chair-mate) Representative Tom Gallagher–Tom angered him even more, with shouts to Clark like, “Better bring your A game Dick if you are going to try to take me out.” Dick and I have a hip surgery replacement in common now, and I always look forward to sharing old stories with my good friend and former colleague from South Dade County.
Tallahassee Democrat Reporter Bill Cotterell
Timing is everything–Bill Cotterell covered the Florida Capitol just before I got there, then went to Atlanta to cover the Capitol there, and returned to the Florida Capitol, just as I was leaving. So, although we did not work together then, I have had a number of contacts with Bill since returning to Tallahassee in 1991 (to join the Chiles Administration). Bill is a native Miamian and served with honor in the military. Even though his employer once gave him the handle of “curmudgeon,” I have always found him pleasant, bright, and accessible. He did a wonderful review of my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, and even offered suggestions on some of my (embarrassing) errors in the manuscript. Fortunately we still have Bill’s outstanding work to enjoy every day, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Thanks, Bill.
Key West Attorney Jack Spottswood*
As indicated in this related Blog, I met Jack during our respective races for the Florida Senate–me in District 38 and he in District 40, in 1978. Although Jack came up short, he had a very interesting background: son of legendary Monroe County Sheriff John Spottswood, who accumulated an immense wealth inspite of a public servant’s salary for most of his career. Jack went to FSU and became one of the most prominent attorneys in Key West. In that role, he was on a first name basis with some of the biggest names in politics, entertainment, law, and finance–not just in Florida, but around the country. As a real estate professional, I particularly noted Jack’s keen eye for the highest and best use of his family’s prime coast properties. I am told Jack continues his great service to his family and community in Key West.
Senate HRS Committee Staff Director Larry Carnes*
Larry was the long time Staff Director of the Florida Senate Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee, when the Senate President appointed me Chairman. As indicated earlier in this Blog, I was already serving as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee funding health care, social services, the criminal justice system, and the judiciary. Only legendary Miami Senator Ken Myers had chaired both committees at the same time, before. Larry was an attorney and among our other staff were 2 more attorneys and 2 Ph.D’s. Senate Executive Director Howard Walton like for the staff to be professional with impeccable academic credentials. Larry has a liberal philosophical bent that did not always please me, but he worked hard, was very smart, and very loyal to his Chair. He died a few years ago as a practicing patent attorney, and he will always be remembered by me as yet another graduate of the “Golden Era” of Florida politics.
Attorney Bill Caldwell*
This entry may surprise some of my loyal readers of this Blog. Bill Caldwell was and is an outstanding lawyer–ivy league and UF education, former Ft. Lauderdale City Attorney, brother of former State Representative George Caldwell (R., Ft. Lauderdale), best friends with former Republican giants Clay Shaw and Joel Gustafason, and general counsel to the old Interama Authority in North Miami. But Bill is a long time Republican, and a good one. My connection with Bill came through a fraternity brother, Don Hall of Ft. Lauderdale who worked for Bill in the City of Ft. Lauderdale. After my retirement from active politics in 1982, I moved to Vero Beach to open an office for Planned Development Corporation, and there I re-acquainted myself with probably the best real estate lawyer I ever met–Bill. He has been my attorney, dear friend, and great political observer. I have not told Bill, but have often thought what a great public policy maker he would have been with his great mind.
The Hodges Family*
One of the most prominent names in Florida politics is that of the Hodges of Cedar Key. The patriarch was a former Senate President and powerhouse during the days of the Pork Chop Gang, Randolph Hodges. He was a very influential lobbyist when I first came to Tallahassee as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1974, and the Senator went out of his way to welcome a new member from Miami. His wife also befriended Susan, and I must say, I can never recall President Hodges asking for a favor or a vote on behalf of his clients. I had the pleasure of serving with his son, Gene in the House, and found Gene to be one of the most liked members in the entire legislature. Randoph’s son-in-law, Don Duden became one of my favorites–he was the number two person at the Florida Department of Natural Resources, and my best source for understanding many of the complex natural resource issues. All in all, the Hodges were one of the great families of Florida political history, in my opinion.
U.S. Senator Harry Byrd, Jr. (D., Virginia)*
As described in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I spent a very special summer, after graduation from college, as the guest of a fraternity brother in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It was a time of reflection, as I awaited enrollment at The Florida State University for my MBA, and the U.S. Army, as a commissioned Second Lieutenant, after that. I had an opportunity to visit the U.S. Capitol, as a guest of U.S. Senator Harry Byrd, Jr. of Virginia. It was a memorable experience, especially watching the Senators debate and the respectful decorum in the Senate Chamber. As I said in the book, I knew then that I wanted to channel my competitive juices from student athletics to the political arena. I read as much and as often as possible about politics, issues, public service. The experience that summer was more telling than I thought at the time.
Secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation Carol Browner
I have an unusual relationship with the former Executive Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Carol Browner. After obtaining her law degree from the University of Florida, Carol began working as a staff assistant in the Florida Senate, while I was a member of the body. Subsequently, when Governor Lawton Chiles asked me to join his senior staff in the early 90’s, I was tasked with an initiative that was staffed by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, headed up by guess who–the same Carol Browner. As I often kidded her, “You worked for me, before I worked for you.” Carol has rejoined the executive branch as the senior environmental advisor to President Barack Obama. She is credited as being a stalwart against polluters by the environmental community, and a bane to the business community. Either way, you will not be able to address environmental issues in Washington today without the involvement of Secretary Browner.
Secretary of the Department of Transportation Walter Revell*
I have to admit my first impression of Florida Secretary of Transportation Walter Revell was not very positive. In 1974 I have just been elected to the Florida House of Representatives from South Dade County and the first bill I filed was to force the state to landscape with buffers communities abutting interstate highways. Governor Askew had arranged for each of his Department heads to meet and greet the new members of the legislature. I was still so “high” from my election that I thought the Transportation Secretary would want to talk to me about my bill and my concerns. He said he knew nothing about it, but did say he would be glad to work with me on it. I stewed…briefly, then after time came to the realization that these important people were required to multi-task…24/7. As I got to know Walter over the years, and today, I have found him to be a truly outstanding Floridian. He could very well be retired in Miami Lakes (he was a long time tenant in Senator Bob Graham’s home), but instead he is still very active with his family, in business and with community and state concerns. I quickly said to myself back then, “Just get over it, Bob.”
Representative Eric Smith (D., Jacksonville)*
Eric grew up in my South Dade County (Perrine) legislative district, and then moved to Jacksonville to start his law practice. He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in the election before me, and after my election, we found ourselves enjoying one another’s company. Eric left the House to run for Congress unsuccessfully, but went on to a very prominent career in local politics on the City Council in Jacksonville, serving multiple terms as the powerful President of the Council. Eric also has a long time political television interview program on cable TV in Duval County, and he has been very kind to have me as a guest on his program. Eric is still young in his political career and I would not be surprised to see him back in either elected or appointed public service in the future.
Former Assistant Attorney General Jim Whisenand
I describe in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, my surprise to find that the Florida Senate was going to try my opponent, Senator Ralph Poston on an ethics charge in 1978. Although the official prosecutor in the case was the Florida Attorney General Bob Shevin, his senior Assistant Attorney General Jim Whisenand was assigned to try the case. It was a major political and media event at the time, airing live on public television, as they say, “gavel to gavel.” The Senator received a reprimand from his colleagues, and Whisenand went on to a very successful private law practice in Miami. I defeated Poston, who passed away about a year ago, in the Democratic primary for District 38 in the Florida Senate in 1978.
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Jon Mills (D., Gainesville)*
I had an opportunity to work very closely with then second term State Representative Jon Mills (D., Gainesville) on the Joint Conference Appropriations Subcommittee funding social services and law enforcement–responsible for about one third of the state’s entire budget in 1980-82. Jon was raised in my district having been an honor student at Coral Gables High. He went on to an outstanding educational career at the University of Florida, undergrad and law school. In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I talk about an amusing joke Jon and I played on Governor Bob Graham during a trip to Washington when the three of us appeared before Congress on a state-federal funding issue. Jon went on to serve the House as Speaker and continued his outstanding service as Dean of the Levin Law School at the University of Florida, his alma mater.
WPLG/ABC News TV Reporter Steve Bousquet
Politicos today will respond right away that one of the best known reporters in Tallahassee is the St. Petersburg Times Capitol Bureau Chief Steve Bousquet. Few may know that Steve got his start in reporting on South Florida politics working for Channel 10, WPLG/ABC news in the 1980’s. I first met Steve after my retirement from the Senate in 1982, and I was serving as the statewide Co-Chairman of the Pajcic for Governor Campaign. I was impressed with Steve’s knowledge of the intricacies of our campaign, and followed with interest his transition from television to print political reporting. I must fully disclose that Steve, his wife and lobbyist Nancy, and family, are neighbors of ours in the Betton area of Tallahassee. Although he does not look it, he is getting close to becoming the “Dean” of the Capitol press corps. Steve is a throw back to the very best of the Golden Era of Florida politics.
Senator Dick Anderson (D., South Dade and Monroe Counties)*
Talk about luck. Former Pro Football Hall of Famer, Miami Dolphin Safety Dick Anderson wore number 40 during his illustrious career. With multi-member districts, my district 38 was shared with the Senators representing districts 39 and 40. In 1978, District 40 became an open seat, so of course, Dick Anderson jumped at the opportunity to run for that seat. I can still recall visiting his election campaign celebration to congratulate him, as we both had won election to the senate that night. As pointed out in a previous Blog, Dick and I had few issues upon which we adamantly agreed, but boy he sure was a good guy. We ended up, a lot like Tom Gallagher and me–we agreed to disagree on the issues, but concentrated our friendship on that of our wives–his Joy, and my Susan. Dick is still relatively young and with that great competitive spirit, I would not be surprised to see him in public service again in the future.
Lobbyists Phil Blank and Gerry Sternstein*
Florida Speaker Don Tucker (D, Tallahassee) surrounded himself the best of the Capitol politicos, and two of the very best were attorneys Phil Blank and Gerry Sternstein. Not too long after my initial election, I found myself outside the Speaker’s inner circle, and therefore I only viewed Phil and Gerry as an observer. But they were smart, shrewd, and calculating, which is what they job assignment called for. I never understood why the press did not take up the Speakers’ causes with more enthusiasm, but it certainly made Phil and Gerry’s jobs that much harder. After I went over to the Senate, and Speaker Tucker retired from office, I had a chance to work with Phil and Gerry on several issues of mutual concern, and found them both to be consummate professionals. They were two of the best in Tallahassee during the Golden Era, and today as well.
Reporter Rick Flagg
Rick is an institution in the Florida Capitol. Tall, unkept long red beard, smart, disheveled, and a voice like Tom Brokaw–Rick has been the premier Florida news radio reporter for as long as I can recall–maybe going all the way back to 1974. To those new to press conferences and Rick’s anticipated questions–he has a low tolerance for routine, memorized answers, especially from lawmakers that are not very bright. I recall during one of my press conferences, Rick stood up to ask me a question, but instead wrote a period in the middle of his legal pad–when I stared at him with a puzzled look, I realize he was saying to me, “Senator, what is your point?” I deserved that, and pledged to myself to be better organized and more to the point during my next press conference, especially if it was going to be attended by veteran reporter Rick Flagg.
Representative Mike Abrams (D., Miami Beach)*
I recall Mike Abrams of the Concerned Democrats of Miami asking me if I joined the organization in 1971 just to obtain their endorsement. I told them I did not, and if I knew they were going to endorse candidates in my race, I would not have joined them, because of the conflict of interest. Mike seemed to appreciate my candor and we went on to become friends for now almost 40 years. Mike served as Chairman of the Dade County Democratic Party, after supporting the surprise victory of President Jimmy Carter in 1976. He ran for and won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1982, and served with distinction in the areas of health and rehabilitative services and finance and taxation. Mike is now one of the most influential lobbyists in Tallahassee and Miami, heading up the lobbying team for Akerman and Senterfitt Law Offices.
Miami Senior Activist Max Friedson
You know how you often remember the “first” of everything important in your life? Well, my first endorsement interview during my 1972 race for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, District 119, was with the Miami Council of Senior Citizens. The President was a crusty, tough guy name Max Friedson. I was apprehensive about the interview since it was my first, but I received an unexpected advantage because the candidate going before me was none other than former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. The Council and particularly Max absolutely loved Janet and the good feelings carried over into my interview (even though I did nothing to deserve them). They did endorse me, and in irony, I ended up chairing the Senate Committee with jurisdiction for all of elderly affairs in Florida, a state with the country’s largest elderly population. You just never know…but I will never forget this, my first endorsement interview.
Secretary of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services David Pingree*
As mentioned in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I worked closely with David and his associate David Dunbar in creating the Management Fellows Program within the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. It was crafted after the acclaimed IBM Management Fellows Program, and was designed to help the Department recruit and retain the very best managerial talent in the market place. David was appointed Secretary of the Department by Governor Bob Graham, and together, they forged a number of first of a kind initiatives, like the Bill of Rights for Retarded Citizens and the Community Care For the Elderly Program. David left government a few years ago and is now a senior executive with the Unisys Corporation.
Coral Gables Public Relations Executive Ron Levitt*
I can remember today having lunch with former Miami City Commissioner Arden Siegendorf in Miami (arranged by my IBM sales colleague, Bob Ryall), when Arden suggested I talk to political public relations professional Ron Levitt about handling my anticipated campaign against long time Miami incumbent State Representative Jeff Gautier (D., Miami) in 1972. That year Ron probably had more candidates under his supervision than any other PR firm, but he did seem to be a good fit for me, due to the fact that this was my first race. After winning office, I have remained in touch and good friends with Ron. He had a major impact on any success I enjoyed in Florida politics.
Senator Ken Jenne (D., Hollywood)*
As I indicated in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, Ken and I went to Lake Worth High School in Palm Beach County during the 60’s, although we did not know each other then since I was 2 years ahead of Ken. We crossed paths early in our political career as both of us ran against sitting incumbent Senators to win our seats, and both of us relied upon the expert political relations counsel of George DePontis and Stu Rose of Project Masters. When in the Senate, we worked very closely with the “reform” wing of the Senate in opposition to Senate Dean Dempsey Barron (D. Panama City). Unfortunately Barron won more than we, but I would not trade the experience for anything. Ken had an unlimited future in politics, but as Ken’s close friend, Attorney General Bob Butterworth (D., Ft. Lauderdale) once said, “Ken probably stayed in office too long.” Ken plead guilty to a felony and spent a year in prison for financial irregularities as Sheriff of Broward County. Ken is still a relatively young person, and I am sure is contrite, so my guess is that he will be involved in some very worthwhile causes in the years ahead, with real success.
U.S. Senator Mike Mansfield (D., Montana)*
Senator Mansfield served as the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate during the turbulent eras of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon’s presidencies. He was the longest serving Majority Leader and was noteworthy for many characteristics and achievements, but one I mentioned in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, was his brevity in answering reporter’s questions. It was not unusual for the Leader to respond to a complicated question from a reporter with a terse, “yes,” or “no,” or “maybe.” He was a very direct, no nonsense personality that was effective in working with Senators on both sides of the aisle. He also served with distinction during the Clinton Administration as the U.S. Ambassador to China.
Dade County Manager R. Ray Goode*
I would describe Ray Goode as a textbook administrator of municipal government. He was the long time and very successful manager of the one of the country’s largest counties, during multiple crises (see today’s blog on multiple riots, an en masse immigration onslaught, and an off the charts destructive Hurricane). Ray originally hailed from West Virginia, so he brought solid common sense to Miami in the late 60’s. He had all the obvious character traits of a successful politican–smart, provocative thinker, peripheral vision, deep empathy for others, and a great sense of humor. It still amazes me today that Ray never ran for elective office. I had the honor of Ray managing my successful campaign for the Florida Senate in 1978. He was probably the best municipal administrator of the Golden Era of Florida politics.
Representative Amos and Sergeant Earnie Sumner*
I first met Amos Sumner when he was serving as the Staff Director on the important Senate Agriculture Committee. I later met his son, Earnie, a young staffer in the House of Representatives. Both individuals caught my attention because they were smart, industrious, and very responsive to my questions. I later found out of their rich heritage in Florida politics–Amos being a member of the House, several more of their cousins and uncles serving in positions in the House, Senate, Tax Assessor, Judge, Sheriff, and even a General in the Revolutionary War. They do not boast about their rich heritage, but their respect for the institution is immense. I thank both Amos and Earnie, and their kin, for their outstanding service to the state of Florida.
Senator Warren Henderson (R., Sarasota)*
Other than one of the most senior Senators to serve in the Florida legislature, Warren was unique in that professionally he was a “numismatist”–a collector of rare coins. He was one of only a handful of Republicans who continually won election during the Golden Years of the ’70s and ’80s, and was one of the most recognized voices on protecting the environment. Since I was on both the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees, I had a chance to work often with the Senator on environmental legislation. But, most of his colleagues will recall fondly Warren’s extraordinary sense of humor. He was known to invite Senators to his office after Session to put up their feet and discuss the highs and lows of the day. It was truly a pleasure to serve with Senator Warren Henderson.
Representative Joe Allen (D., Key West)*
In Key West, close friends are known as “Bubbas”. State Representative Joe Allen (D., Monroe County) was my Bubba. He had served for many years as the Tax Assessor in Monroe County, and moved up to representing Monroe County in the Florida House of Representatives, after Rep. Billy Freeman (D., Monroe County) decided to run for Sheriff of the county. Since I was running for the Senate, representing both Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, Joe was a great help in introducing to his county. We worked very closely together on legislative issues, and to this day I really think Joe is one of the finest public servants, with whom I ever had the pleasure of serving.
Lobbyists John French and Dr. Steve Wilkinson*
As outlined in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s’s and ’80’s, I was honored to have established by statute a study group unofficially named, “The McKnight Commission.” We were charged with looking at the growing problem of funding indigent health care, especially as a result of the Cuban Mariel Boat Invasion of my district in South Florida. But, the hidden agenda for the Commission was whether to regulate hospital rates in the state, and that drew out the for-profit hospitals’ top lobbying guns–lawyer John French and Dr. Steve Wilkinson. Although we were on opposite sides of that issue, I couldn’t help but greatly respect their intelligence, tenacity, and accessibility. Although we did pass a rate regulation mechanism and it was enacted into law, it was weakened somewhat by the effective work of John and Steve. They remain very good friends today, and are still at the peak of the their game in the Capitol.
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives James Harold Thompson (D., Gretna)*
James Harold and I were elected together in November of 1974. Although very quite and polite, James Harold was an imposing lawmaker, after you got to know him. He reminded me and many of our colleagues of what President Abraham Lincoln must have been like–tall in stature, quiet, but very articulate and commanding of everyone’s attention. James Harold went on to have a very effective Speakership in 1985-86, working closely with another good friend, Senator Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach) who served then as Senate President. Today, James Harold lives in Tallahassee and is one of the most effective lawyer lobbyists in the Capitol. But he is still a very good friend, and always available to help an old colleague.
Herb Score of the Cleveland Indians*
It was after the end of the 1956 season in Major League Baseball. The best known resident in my hometown of Lake Worth, Florida, was Cleveland Indian Pitcher, Herb Score. I was playing Little League baseball at that time, and I was invited by a friend to go by Herb’s parents home to meet him. He was big–6’3″ and over 200 pounds. He was very friendly to us and offered to sign both a picture and a ball for me. At that time, he was clearly the best pitcher in the game–20 wins and 9 losses and an ERA of 2.63 and a staggering 263 strikeouts in 249 innings pitched. Prior to his tragic injury in 1957, his record was even better with an ERA of 2.00. The political connection is that his sister married another Lake Worth alum, former State Representative Carroll Webb (D., Tallahassee), with whom I worked closely when he was the Executive Director of the Administrative Procedures Agency, that I had helped create. Sadly Herb passed on recently, but baseball fans, especially from Cleveland will always remember one of the game’s very best players.
Pensacola Political Advisor Fred Levin
I first met Fred after my election to the Florida Senate in 1978. I understood him to be an extraordinarily successful trial lawyer from Pensacola, a former law partner of Governor Reubin Askew (D., Pensacola) and a very close confidant of Florida Senate President-designate W. D. Childers (D., Pensacola). He went out of his way to introduce himself to me, and I always found him accessible, friendly and helpful. But it was not until 1980, when Childers assumed the Presidency that I really gained an appreciation for his political skill, acumen and tenacity. During his term, Childers was at odds with Senate powerhouse Dempsey Barron, and without Levin at his side, I don’t think W.D. could have survived. As it was, Levin was most often seen in the President’s office barking out orders to the staff and lobbyists. I had often wondered what kind of elected lawmaker Fred Levin would have become. For our friends that are lawyers, yes it is the same Fred Levin for which the renowned University of Florida School of Law is named.
Miami Herald Reporter, John Van Gieson
I first met John when he was a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, during my service in the Florida House of Representatives, from 1974-1978. When I was elected to the Senate in 1978, John took over the Miami Herald Capitol Bureau as Chief, and we worked together on a regular basis, since I was Chairman of the 30-member Dade Delegation during that time. John was an excellent reporter–he an extraordinary instinct when the politician was not being truthful and he had little patience for hyperbole. After leaving politics and taking a position as Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing with Fringe Benefits Management Company (“FBMC”), a national third party administrator of employee benefits, I contracted with John (he had then, and now, his own public relations firm) for professional services. He was a consummate professional and one of the best reporters with whom I had the pleasure of working during the Golden Years of the Florida Legislature.
Representatives Jim Brodie and Scott McPherson (R., Miami)*
Jim and Scott were elected as rare Republicans in the “Reagan Landslide” of 1980, joining their mentor, Representative Tom Gallagher (R., Coconut Grove) in the 30 member Dade Delegation. Both of them were obviously very bright and energetic…but consistent and loyal conservatives. I was in the Senate representing their districts and always found they available, accommodating and helpful. Jim went on to lose a hard fought race for the Florida Senate, and then worked in the Bush Administration; while Scott also worked in the Bush Administration and now works for Florida House Speaker Larry Cretul (R., Ocala). Some many today plead for bi-partisanship–they need only look at Rep. Jim Brodie (R., Miami) and Rep. Scott McPherson (R., Miami) as model lawmakers.
Representative C. Fred Jones (D., Auburndale)*
Fred was the powerful Chairman of the House Transportation Committee for many years, so ably representing “Imperial Polk County.” He was also one of the most loved members among legislators from both sides of the aisle. All of us who served with Fred will always remember him lumbering up to us, especially during the final days of a grueling Session, and hearing him bellow, “Let’s go home.” Fred was one of those easy going lawmakers who was smart like a fox–earning his degree from the University of Florida, while holding membership in the prestigious Blue Key. I worked very closely with Fred on the Areas of Critical State Concern legislation, including the Green Swamp in his district. I had the honor of signing a copy of my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, for him about a year ago in Lakeland.
Reporter Bib Willis
It is probably wrong to describe Bib solely as a reporter for public television back during the ’70s and ’80s of the Florida Legislature. Over the years, she has been a lawyer, an administrative law judge, a political consultant, a good friend of Susan and mine, and of course, one of the best reporters in the Capitol. I had a special connection with Bib, in that she referred me to her mother’s outstanding restaurant (I think the name of it was the Pigeon’s Cage) in Key West, when Susan and I were campaigning for the Senate in 1978. Bib was much more than a reporter–she ran the award winning public television programming of the Legislature. She still practices law and counsels clients in Tallahassee–she was one of the best and one of my favorites from the Golden Years.
Senator Mattox Hair (D., Jacksonville)*
I had know of Mattox before I met him in Tallahassee, where both of us served in the Legislature from 1974-1982. His brother, Horry, was my ROTC professor at Florida Southern College, and he had told me about his brother’s strong interest in politics. Mattox and I became very good friends finding ourselves on the same side on many issues. One of those was in opposition to Senate Dean Dempsey Barron’s attempt to control the selection of the Senate’s presiding officer. Barron even tried the ploy of promoting Mattox for Senate President, and declared in frustration, “If Senator Hair would have just picked up the phone, when I called him, he would be Senate President today.” Surprisingly, his constituents did not elect Mattox to serve in the Congress representing Jacksonville as he sought, but I am told he is still very active around “The First Coast” with his legal practice, his family and community involvement.
Representative Bill Andrews (D., Gainesville)*
Bill had served in the House since 1966, representing Gainesville, when I first met him in 1974. He was a scholarly lawyer, but always seemed to have time to mentor freshmen like me. Bill concentrated his legislative interest almost solely to his district–appropriations and education. I was surprised that Bill did not go on to run for the Senate or even Congress, because I understood he was extremely popular in his Central Florida district. But, Bill was like so many that were elected in the pinnacle class of 66–bright, young and somewhat idealistic lawmakers that became the centerpiece of the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature.
Senator Vince Fechtel (R., Leesburg)*
As mentioned in the previous Quorum Call entry, Senator Vince Fechtel graced the cover of my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, adding a nice bi-partisan flavor to the book. Vince was a very popular member in both chambers, and often “poped” in on his colleagues while flying around the state in his own plane. Like former Representatives Bobby Hattaway(D., Altamonte Springs), Randy Avon (R., Ft. Lauderdale) and yours truly, Vince first cut his political teeth in the Florida Jaycees. Above all else, the Senator was an entrepreneur who always looked at solid business solutions for problems in the state. Boy, could we use him now.
Representative Bobby Hattaway (D., Altamonte Springs)*
I liked Rep. Bobby Hattaway a lot as my colleague in the Florida House of Representatives. Make no mistake, I had a number of reasons: we were elected together in 1974; we served together in the Florida Jaycees (he as President); we were on bank boards of the same holding company; we were both Democrats in a largely Republican district; and we were both pro-business. Also, we both retired from the legislature about the same time. But, Bobby went on to run statewide for Lieutenant Governor on a Democratic ticket with former Rep. Barry Kutun (D., Miami Beach) in 1986. Bobby along with former Senator Vince Fechtel (R., Leesburg) are prominently identified on the cover of my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, and I kid both of them today that they are now entitled to royalties for life. Good people.
Public Relations Advisor Ron Sachs*
Probably the least significant achievement of recognized PR guru Ron Sachs is that he wrote the brochure copy for my campaign for the Florida Senate in 1978, as a favor to his and my good friends, George DePontis and Stu Rose. Many today do not know that around that time Ron also had the very important position of Editor for WPLG/ABC News in Miami, for a number of years. He really got started as a young speech writer, out of the University of Florida, for newly elected Democratic Governor Reubin Askew, in the early 70’s. After moving back to Tallahassee in the early 90’s, Ron joined the administration of Governor Lawton Chiles (D., Fla.) and his future public relations career was launched.
Senator Tom Brown (D., Daytona Beach)*
As pointed out in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, Tom and Jo Brown are two of Susan and my best friends today. Both are very active in the Timberlane Church of Christ, where Tom is an ordained minister. The Senator was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1980, following in the footsteps of another well known, but unrelated, ” Brown” from Volusia County, former Speaker Hyatt Brown. Tom went on to an outstanding career in the House and later the Senate with a recognized interest in legislation dealing with improving the ethics in the legislature. Tom was a serious and thoughtful legislator–which is so unusual today, unfortunately.
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Lee Moffitt (D., Tampa)*
Lee Moffitt was an experienced lawyer/aide to former Senate President Louis de la Parte (D., Tampa), and a more than qualified candidate for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives from Tampa in 1974. To everyone’s surprise, Lee won his election by a scant vote. But, when sworn in, he embarked on an outstanding career in Florida politics. He beat me out for the Outstanding Freshman member of the House of Representatives during our first term together, and went on to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives, often out dueling the likes of the Dean of the Florida Senate, Dempsey Barron. Most of the readers of this Blog will be familiar with the internationally renown “Moffitt Cancer Center” in Tampa–no surprise here–Lee secured funding for the start of the outstanding facility during his Speakership.
Senator Clark Maxwell (R., Melbourne)*
Clark Maxwell is a good example of a member of the legislature that “grows” in experience and stature, through continual public service. We were elected together to the Florida House of Representatives in 1974, he a Republican and me a Democrat. Clark developed an immediate interest in his two areas of interest–finance and tax and education. He quickly became an expert in both areas and carried that expertise over to the Senate in 1978, the same year as me. Aligned with Senate Dean Dempsey Barron, Clark rose quickly through the ranks in the Senate to Chairman of the powerful Finance and Tax Committee. He was the architect of the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1982, and was recognized by all of us in the Senate as one of its’ outstanding members.
Senator Bruce Smathers (D., Jacksonville)*
Bruce was a true blue blood politician–son of U.S. Senator George Smathers (D., Florida), a Yale graduate and graduate of the University of Florida School of Law. His first foray into politics was successful, beating two former State Senators from Jacksonville to win his seat in the senate. Bruce was immediately tagged as a future star, but his career in the upper body got off to a rocky start. He was not a part of Senate boss Dempsey Barron’s clique, so he did not enjoy easy success. But when the chance came for him to run statewide, he easily won a seat on the Cabinet as Secretary of State. He immediately focused on “saving the old Capitol“, which positioned him for a favored run for Governor in 1978. He surprisingly lost to Bob Graham, and is now semi-retired in the Jacksonville area.
Representative Jim Redman (D., Plant City)*
Jim was a large gentleman that conveyed his deep religious faith in almost everything he did. As the Pettigrew and Sessum teams began leaving the Florida House of Representatives in the mid to late ’70s, Jim was left with few like thinking colleagues. He clashed with the incoming Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee) and led an attempt to block Tucker’s unprecedented re-election as Speaker. Jim fell short, but continue to serve his Plant City constituents with honor and distinction. Although clearly falling in the category of the prototype legislator excelling in the Golden Era, I really think we never really saw all there was to this outstanding lawmaker.
Representative Billy Joe Rish (D., Port St. Joe)*
“The ole bridgetender over in Wewahitchka” was the expression we always heard on the floor from the distinguished Chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Billy Joe Rish of Port St. Joe, when describing the plight of his constituents from excessive legislation. The late Billy Joe was a very smart lawyer with an outstanding sense of humor. I recall as a freshman, he sent me on a rabbit chase around the floor suggesting that the Pork Choppers, including him, were about to sabotage a bill of importance to my constituents in South Dade County. Boy, he had me going that day. Billy Joe was also a very religious man–I joined him and other members for a very private prayer meeting once a week in the old Capitol. I will always consider Billy Joe as my friend, even though we did not vote together very often.
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Ralph Haben (D., Palmetto)*
One of the best liked members of the Florida House of Representatives during my service was former Speaker of the House of Representatives Ralph Haben (D., Palmetto). His popularity was a little surprising because he tended to clown around more than expected for a member achieving such important positions in the House. He was also an ultra conservative, but was able to work with colleagues of all persuasions. When Ralph was running for Speaker, I was honored that he asked me to be his running mate, but I turned him down since I was planning to run for the Florida Senate. As I pointed out in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, Ralph went on to have an outstanding term as Speaker because he made it a point to surround himself with members of all opinions, not just his own. Ralph is still active in the Capitol, being one of the most sought after lobbyists in Tallahassee.
Congressman Earl Hutto (D., Pensacola)*
I had the pleasure of serving in the Florida House of Representatives with Congressman Earl Hutto from Pensacola in the early 70’s. Earl was a solid conservative, and one of the easiest members with whom I had the pleasure of working. I, along with many of our colleagues, missed Earl when he went to the Congress, because he so ably represented the viewpoint of his retired military constituents in Northwest Florida. I had the pleasure of re-uniting my friendship with Earl during a recent House Reunion of the House of Representatives in Tallahassee, and catching up on old times. In my opinion, he is a true unsung Florida Lawmaker and fine American.
Representatives Karen Coolman, Linda Cox, and Anne Mackenzie (D., Ft. Lauderdale)*
This is the first entry of its kind–three outstanding legislators, all from Broward County. But there is more–Karen, one of the smartest legislators I ever met, and I were elected in 1974–Linda, who also served with distinction as a member from Broward County, was Karen’s aide. There is still more–Linda’s aide was none other than Anne Mackenzie, who not only served in the House of Representatives with distinction–but, she went on to serve as Majority and Floor Leader in the House. Karen, now Karen Coolman Amlong, is a successful attorney; Linda, also an attorney, passed tragically several years ago, and Anne continues her outstanding service to the state as Executive Director of the Florida Legislative Research Center and Museum at the Historic Capitol.
Representative Gwen Cherry (D., Miami)*
Gwen was a very smart african-american attorney who never really got her “sea legs” under her in the legislature. She tried to mix and mingle with the members, but I often thought she might just be more academically inclined than her colleagues. During the “Attack on Entebbe,” described earlier in this Blog, I had the responsibility to secure Gwen’s pledge to vote for Representative Hyatt Brown (D., Daytona Beach) as Speaker Designate during the 1977 Session. I knocked on Gwen’s rented house door near Doak Campbell Stadium around 10 P.M., and found her in her house coat and curlers. We had a nice chat and she enthusiastically committed to the Brown speakership. Tragically, Gwen died a few years later in a car crash into a drainage ditch near the stadium, and we lost a fine member before she really peaked as a lawmaker. She was still a fine member of the legislature, and I will always remember her as my friend.
Senator Ed Dunn (D., Daytona Beach)*
A star member of the Florida Gator football team that played Penn State in the 1960 Gator Bowl, Senator Ed Dunn (D., Daytona Beach), turned to politics after getting his law degree. He served as legal counsel to Governor Reubin Askew (D., Pensacola) and went on to win a seat in the Florida Senate in 1974. I had the pleasure of serving with Ed and found him to be one of the few true intellectuals in the upper body. Ed came within a whisker of winning the race for Attorney General against Bob Butterworth. He passed a number of years ago, but in my opinion, Senator Ed Dunn made an indelible mark as one of the outstanding legislators from the Golden Era of Florida politics.
Mike Vasilinda and Gary Yordan*
Still a presence today in Florida politics–but now major–Mike and Gary were video reporters at the Capitol in Tallahassee, during the Golden Era of Florida Politics. I first got to know them well during my campaign for the Senate in 1978. My public relations’ firm, Project Masters, headed by George Depontis and Stu Rose had worked with Mike and Gary over the years, and contracted with them to do a campaign television advertisement featuring my family. The production was award winning, and I went on to beat not one, but two former senators to win the election. Mike has a nationally recognized video production company now and Gary, who is a former Leon County Commissioner, is a brilliant creator and consultant of political strategies in Florida.
Representative Dick Batchelor (D., Orlando)*
In a predominately Republican Orange County legislative delegation, Florida State Representative Dick Batchelor (D., Orlando) stood out, but for more than the one reason of his party affiliation. He was an ex-Marine, and tough as nails. He was also very bright and gregarious. He gravitated during his legislative career toward his deep love for children’s issues. He was a staunch ally to Democratic Governors Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, and Lawton Chiles. He also was a confidant of President and Mrs. Clinton. After an unsuccessful bid for Congress, Dick returned to Orlando as a consultant, lobbyist and political commentator on local television, as he is today. I always considered Dick typical of so many among the Golden Era of the Legislature–proud to serve his country in the military, altruistic, and unrelenting in that which he believed so deeply–children’s causes.
Bob Shaw and Tom Fiedler of The Miami Herald
Unlike today, the Florida Capitol Press Corps previously had a reputation of being tough, inquisitive, but generally fair. During the political Golden Years of the ’70s and ’80s, two of the best with whom I worked were Bob Shaw and Tom Fielder of the Miami Herald. Both had excellent educations–Bob with a Masters Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, and Tom with a degree from the Coast Guard Academy. Bob had some award winning investigative writing including a major piece on automobile insurance premiums in South Florida and a multi-edition piece on Senate President W. D. Childer’s (D., Pensacola) rise to power. Tom, of course, is best known for his nationally known investigative reporting on Senator Gary Hart’s (D., Col.) activities during his presidential campaign. But, I best recall Tom doing a hard hitting and thorough piece on the unraveling of Speaker Don Tucker’s (D., Tallahassee) support among the new, somewhat unconventional freshmen legislators in 1976. I really should offer a footnote in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida legislature, ’70s and ’80s--that reference should also include many in the press corps, including at the top of the list, Bob Shaw and Tom Fiedler.
Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons*
In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I mention my military experience, serving in Korea as a First Lieutenant. The years were 1968-69, and as a result of a major international incident, The Pueblo Attack, our military services stationed in Korea were on high alert for combat. I was stationed with I Corps in Uijongbu, near the dangerous DMZ. I served on the staff of a 3 star General, but my real boss was a full Colonel named Arthur “Bull” Simons…and boy, was he. For students of military action, Bull Simons was probably best known for his successful “Son Tay Raid,” rescuing American POWs in North Vietnam, conducted by him at the personal request of President Richard Nixon. It was a honor to served under such a great American.
Senator Frank Mann (D., Fort Myers)*
Franklin and I were sworn in together as members of the Florida House of Representatives in 1974. He was from a very prominent family in Fort Myers, and he and Mary Lee became the very best of friends with Susan and me. Frank had the unusual combination of an extraordinary sense of humor with a brilliant mind. He had an outstanding education at Vanderbilt University and was a very successful businessman in insurance. When I had no opposition for re-election in 1976, I joined former Comptroller Gerald Lewis in a re-election fund raiser and rally for Frank in Fort Myers. In spite of my support, he won easy re-election, and upon my retirement from the Senate in 1982, Frank took my seat in the upper chamber. Frank went on to serve with great distinction and was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor on the outstanding ticket of Pajcic-Mann for Governor in 1986. Frank still serves in public office as a Republican County Commissioner in his beloved Fort Myers.
Representative Barry Richard (D., Coral Gables)*
Barry Richard had achieved a lifetime of success as the top lieutenant to Attorney General Bob Shevin (D., Miami), when he decided to run for the Florida House of Representatives in 1974. As a candidate, Barry could add to that success the linkage of his father, a highly respected Judge from Miami. Barry won election that year without even drawing an opponent–most extraordinary in those years or even today. Barry’s seat on the floor was directly in front of mine, so I had a chance to observe him very closely over his first and second terms in the House–he was very smart, aggressive in debate, and somewhat calculating in his selection of issues–he was widely expected to run for his old bosses’ position in 1978, when General Shevin ran for Governor. Fast forward to the historic national election of 2000 and you may recall the successful legal counsel for the election of President George W. Bush was none other than my former adjacent desk mate. Barry lost a close race for Attorney General in 1978, and surprisingly never sought public office again. But Barry Richard clearly proved there is life after elected office–a very successful life.
Dr. Ernie Means, Florida Scrivener
Dr. Means was the “Scrivener” of Florida lawmaking during the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature. Since I was not an attorney, when I first got elected in 1974, I made it a point to meet the bill drafting staff in the House of Representatives. One of the individuals I met was a very low key, reserved intellectual-type named Ernie Means. I later found out that when legislation was finally adopted, it would be sent to Dr. Means for review, and editing. But, and this is a big but, Dr. Means was not authorized to change the substance or intent of any laws, and to my knowledge, never did. But, I sure heard many of my colleagues say on the floor, after losing the votes on a pet bill, say, “No problem, I can always go down there and talk to Dr. Means about some housekeeping chores I need done.” Few if any know of the integrity and importance of the staff in supporting the efforts of our lawmakers, and they were the best during the Golden Years of the Florida Legislature.
Representative Joe Lang Kershaw (D., Miami)*
Joe, an African-American, was first elected in 1968 to represent what was known as “Overtown“–so named because President Johnson and Feds thought the quickest way to get through downtown Miami to the “burbs” like Coral Gables, was on a labyrinth of overpasses called I95. Overtown, now understandably, became a community of resentment and the riots of the early 80’s were the result. I can still remember Representative Kershaw on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives declaring, “My districts and my constituents are under seige.” He was a fine person and friends with almost all of his colleagues. He chaired a very important committee in the House, Elections, that with his Vice Chairman, Sam Bell (D., Daytona Beach), shepherded the landmark merit retention of judges legislation in law. It was such a beautiful story that Joe served in the very same chamber where some 30 years before, his father had served as a janitor in the Capitol.
Senator Pat Neal (D., Bradenton)*
Office Suites in the Senate Office Building typically connect two Senator’s offices. Mine was connected to Senator Pat Neal of Bradenton. We were elected together in the House, and moved over to the Senate, the same year as well. So we had a good friendship but found because of our different committee assignments, seldom worked together on legislation. But boy was he smart–graduate of the Wharton School of Finance at the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania, net worth beyond calculation, and one of the state’s biggest home builders–all by the time he was in his 30’s. We found ourselves on opposite sides of the election of Senate Curtis Peterson as Senate President in 1982-84, and since they won, Pat went on to become one of the most powerful people in Florida government, as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senator Pat Frank (D., Tampa)*
There were some who criticized my friend, Senator Pat Frank (D., Tampa) for joining an uprising of young, Democratic House Members (including me) against Speaker of the House Don Tucker in 1976, before Pat had served a day in Session, after her election to the Florida House of Representatives. To her credit, the Senator felt there was a principle involved, and she stood up then, and always has. She went on to serve with distinction representing Hillsborough County, and still does today as the Clerk of the Court. She did run, unsuccessfully, for the U.S. Senate, and will always be a member I will remember for her brains, energy, and tenacity. I was and am, proud to call Senator Pat Frank my friend.
Senator George Stuart (D., Orlando)*
George was an obvious, rising star in the Florida Democratic Party when I first met him in 1978. He was bright (Harvard MBA), good looking, wonderful family, and a proven Democratic voter getter in then Republican rich Orlando. He won his seat in the Senate and ultimately ran for Governor, withdrawing to shift his support to the ultimate winner, former Governor Lawton Chiles (D., Fla.) in 1990. Unrelated to George’s outstanding talent and support in central Florida, his constituency shifted to more conservative over the years, and he was unable to subsequently win a Congressional seat. George and Betty Stuart were wonderful friends to Susan and me, and I will always remember his outstanding service to the state, in the Florida Senate.
Reporter Hank Drane of The Florida Times Union*
I had met Hank Drane’s daughter Penny during my college years, before meeting the veteran political reporter for the Florida Times Union. After my election in 1974, Hank approached me during the 1975 Legislative Session to do an interview. Little did I know that he was doing a profile piece on members he considered to be promising freshman legislators, and I was profiled along with one of my best friends in the Legislature, State Representative Steve Pajcic (D., Jacksonville). I always found Hank industrious, and fair, but he never practiced “gotcha” journalism as did many of the South Florida press. He was a leader in the Florida Times Union sponsorship of the annual Allen Morris Legislative Awards, of which I was honored to be a recipient.
Representative Joe Allen (D., Monroe)*
In Monroe County and the Florida Keys, it is often a compliment to be called a “Bubba,” especially in Key West. As I said in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, State Representative Joe Allen was a Bubba to me. We served together in the Florida House of Representatives from 1976-78, and Joe was invaluable to me in my successful campaign for the Senate in 1978, defeating two Senators. Joe had a long and distinguished career as Tax Appraiser in Monroe County, and was elected to the Legislature in 1976, replacing Representative Billy Freeman, who became Sheriff. Joe was a particular favorite of Governor Bob Graham, because of his courage in standing up to certain special interests in his district; but to me, he was just my “Bubba.”
Governor Kenneth “Buddy” MacKay (D., Ocala)*
Buddy and Ann MacKay were two of Susan and my favorite people in Tallahassee. If there ever was a member made to be a lawmaker, it was Buddy. He was well educated as a lawyer, smart, gregarious, tough, fair and had what I always liked in a legislator, “panache”. Depending on the votes, Buddy might very well have been my first Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. He was locked in a close campaign with former Speaker Don Tucker (D, Tallahassee) in 1974, when former Governor Reubin Askew (D., Pensacola) selected former Senator Jim Williams (D., Ocala) to replaced former Lt. Governor Tom Adams (D., Green Cove Springs) as Askew’s running mate. That opened up the senate seat that Buddy won, followed by his distinguished service in the Congress, as former Governor Lawton Chiles’ running mate, and upon the unfortunate passing of Governor Chiles, Buddy served briefly as the Governor of Florida. Buddy and Ann were among the best ever, serving during the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature.
Few people outside the legislature are aware of the many outstanding state employees who help the members carry out their law making duties. One that particularly stood out on the House side was Dot Carroll. She had the responsibility to support the spouses of the members, and assist the Clerk of the House in carrying out administrative duties. Susan has mentioned the wonderful personality and sincere interest Dot had in the legislative wives during the early ’70s in the old Capitol. Even after retirement, Dot continued her honorable service as an election day volunteer for the Leon County Supervisor of Elections. Dot was a special person serving in a very special position of public trust.
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Ralph Turlington (D., Gainesville)
Although he served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives before I got to Tallahassee, I did have a chance to work with Ralph Turlington when he served on the Florida Cabinet as Commissioner of Education. The Speaker had a solid record as a reformer and lead into law a number of significant education and tax reforms. But perhaps he was best know for having a brilliant mind, but often had difficulty synchronizing his rhetoric with his thinking. It was not uncommon for reporters to look at each other, after a major Turlington announcement, and say, “Huh, what did he say?” He was also well know for his support of the Florida Lottery as an important source of funding educational enhancements. His role in helping transform the legislature during the Golden Era was very significant.
Reporter Bill Mansfield
Bill Mansfield was the senior reporter for the Miami Herald Capitol Bureau when I arrived as a new member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1974. Normally he would have little or no contact with a ‘green behind the ears’ freshman, but it became different because I was from Miami, and was appointed by Speaker Tucker as Chairman of the important House Subcommittee on Corrections. There was a major lawsuit in Florida, Costello vs. Wainwright, dealing with patient health care in the prisons, and because of our Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, I appealed to the Supreme Court to be Amicus Curae in the case. In any event, Bill was a true professional and had an uncanny eye for untruthfulness by politicians. I guess the only thing I ever challenged Bill on was his chain smoking. We miss pros like Bill in the Capitol today.
Attorney General Janet Reno*
Susan and I first met Janet at a candidate screening of the Council of Senior Citizens, and their tough President Max Friedman, in Miami in 1972. She was running for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, as was I, but different seats. No surprise, she was a hard act to follow–bright, engaging, former key staffer to the House Judiciary Committee, Harvard Law School Graduate, etc., etc. Then came me. Oh well, at least I got their endorsement. As the years went on, Susan and I developed a very close relationship with Janet. As I mentioned in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida legislature, ’70s and ’80s, as the Chairman of the Senate Committee funding the criminal justice system, I went out of my way to direct very necessary additional funding to the Miami States’ Attorneys office, which Janet so ably directed. In my book, she will always be one of our country’s outstanding Attorney Generals, and a great American.
President Jimmy Carter (D., Georgia)*
Susan and I were invited to the South Miami home of a constituent, who was hosting a “Meet and Greet” with Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, a rising candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 1976. As I said in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, the Governor made a very good first impression on us, and seemed particularly interested in talking to me about health care, when he was told I was the Chairman of the Florida House Subcommittee on Health and Mental Health. After his election, I was invited to the White House in 1979, along with a number of other state lawmakers, for a briefing by the President and his National Security Team on the proposed SALTII Treaty. My impression has always been that he is a very gifted man–smart, industrious, but slightly awkward in certain social settings. As has been said by many, President Carter has been more effective out of office, than in, in my opinion.
Lobbyist Guy Spearman*
Guy was an integral part of Askew lobbying team from 1970-1978. From there his lobbying practice went up, up and away. He now represents some of the largest corporations in America, but Guy has not let his success go to his head. He is an attorney with his offices in Cocoa Beach, and is an unabashed FSU Seminole fan (as is his wife, Delores). I worked closely with Guy, and his client The Jack Eckerd Foundation on programs for rehabilitating juvenile delinquents, while I Chaired the relevant funding committee in the Florida Senate. Guy worked aggressively on behalf of all of his prestigious clients from Anheuser Bush to the Pride Work Program for Florida Offenders. He remains very close to Governor Askew, as well as Team Tom Adams (see a previous Blog).
Public Relations Executive Seth Gordon*
I first met Seth Gordon when he was an Executive Assistant to State Senator Ken Myers (D., Miami). Seth was previously a newspaper reporter, so public relations was a natural for his long time profession. We became very good friends over the years, and I valued his counsel on strategy, people and situations–including my decision to challenge long time incumbent State Senator Ralph Poston (D., Miami) in 1978–in which I was successful. Seth remains today a good friend and has grown into the elite public relations advisors in the state as well as the country.
Senator Jack D. Gordon (D., Miami Beach)*
The Senator was one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Smart, beyond description; cunning; tough; funny; and a press favorite–Jack became one of my best friends in the Legislature during the ’70s and ’80s. Many people do not know that Jack, a seasoned and successful banker with the Miami Beach based Courshon family, was a most effective member of the Dade County School Board during the tumultuous 1960’s and early 70’s. Jack won his Senate seat by defeating longtime incumbent Senator Dick Fincher (D., Miami) in a very high profile race in 1972. He actually secured enough pledges to become Dade County’s first Senate President for the 1978-80 term, but lost out when Senator Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City) wrestled the President away from him and handed it to Senator Phil Lewis (D., West Palm Beach). Knowing Jack, it was no surprise that he went on to enjoy a close bond with both Barron and Lewis, and became one of the senior chamber’s most powerful members for approximately 20 years. We lost Jack a few years ago, and he is very much missed today.
Leaders Jim Tillman, Bill James, Curt Kiser, Ron Richmond, and Dale Patchett*
The rules of the Florida House of Representatives are very clear–whichever party has the majority membership will select the Speaker of the House. During the “Golden Year” of the ’70s and ’80s, the majority party was always the Democrats. Needless to say, that changed and has not changed back since then. I had the honor of serving with the gentlemen listed in the title of this Quorum Call entry, and although we were from different parties, I can tell you it would have been a distinct honor to serve under their Speakership, if that would have been possible. Ironically, they wield tremendous power today as the venerable pioneers of the Grand Ole Republican Party. Make no mistake, they were extremely powerful, even in their “minority” status. But just think of these gentlemen with the peak of power and with the support of a majority of members in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Wow–what would Florida look like today?
Coach Dick Coffman*
As indicated in a concurrent Blog, Lake Worth High School Football Coach Dick Coffman had a significant impact on my life, and particularly my self confidence in politics. I explain in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s how the Coach advised me in advance of the 1961 football season of his confidence in me, telling me I would be his starting right end, playing both offense and defense (unheard of today). Previously, I had never even made the varsity football team. Since it was a surprise, that expression propelled my determination and self confidence that I would succeed. I later found a similar self confidence when running for the legislature, against seemingly insurmountable odds. I am told the Coach had numerous other high school athletes that he positively influenced in sports, including his daughters. Dick Coffman is an outstanding example of public educators who have made a difference in Floridan’s lives–in this case, mine.
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Terrell Sessums (D., Tampa)*
As indicated in yesterday’s Blog, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Terrell Sessums (D., Tampa) had a special place in history as a calming and yet solid leader in Florida government during the transition from rural to urban political power. Part of the Speaker’s success was clearly due to his gregarious personality, but part of it was certainly due to his visionary sense of the ebbs and flows of people and politics. For example, he befriended veteran North Florida legislators like former Speaker Ralph Turlington (D., Gainesville), but relied heavily on urban leaders like his Rules Chairman Murray Dubbin (D., Miami) and Appropriations Chairman Marshall Harris (D., Miami). On a personal note, this author had the honor of serving with him as a member of the Board of Trustees at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. He will always be remembered for his leadership during the transition into the “Golden Era” of Florida politics.
Representative Joe Lang Kershaw (D., Miami)*
Joe Lang was a history making member of the Dade legislative delegation with whom I served in the ’70s and ’80s. He was a pioneer African American in the House, that rose to the position of Chairman of the House Elections Committee, under Speaker Don Tucker (D. Tallahassee). Perhaps best known for his sponsorship of a tax exemption for “cane pole” fishing as a symbol of the plight of “his people.” He was particularly eloquent in floor debate on the occurence of the riots in Miami, declaring that his district was “under siege.” Joe was very likable and approachable which made him popular with members on both sides of the aisle, and the press. I will always remember him as a friend and fine member of the Florida House of Representatives.
Steve Ross, “PR Genius From Star Island”*
I heard someone say once, “Florida politics goes with Steve Ross, the “PR genius from Star Island,” like bread and butter.” Steve ran some of Miami’s highest profile political campaigns, and it was said, never lost. He was a clandestine advisor to some of the biggest names in the industry, from Kennedy to King High to Askew to Pepper to Gordon to Myers to Graham, and on and on. I had the honor of being introduced to him by my trusted advisors George DePontis and Stu Rose. It was on the occassion of my maiden speech at the legendary Tiger Bay Club at the Dupont Plaza Hotel on the downtown Miami River. Who da thunk? I am told there are now probably a dozen Tiger Bay Clubs around the state. In my mind, there will always be only be one original, and it was the brain child of the “PR Genius of Star Island.”
Senator Mary Grizzle (R., Belleair Bluffs)*
Senator Grizzle was the Dean of the Republicans in the Senate during my service. I had a chance to work with her often, as a result of both of us being members of the Health and Rehabilitative Services (“HRS”) Committee, the Appropriations Committee funding HRS, and the Natural Resources Committee. She was a low key, but very effective member of the upper chamber. I recall Mary filing numerous bills on behalf of her constituents in Belleair and St. Petersburg that were clearly unconstitutional, but nonetheless appealing because they appeared to protect local property owners access right to the beaches behind their homes. The Senator was gracious and generally non-partisan, and that helped make her one of the Senate’s best liked and effective members during the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature.
Representative Alan Becker (D., Miami Beach)*
Many are not aware that Alan Becker barely qualified as a “Floridian” when he won his first election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1972 (having moved from Brooklyn, New York, only a few years before). While a student in the University of Miami School of Law, Alan nearly won a seat on the Miami School Board, but went on to defeat well known education leader (and former Quorum Call member) Pat Tornillo, for a seat in the House. Alan was credited with a memorable campaign slogan, “Alan Becker is running against Pat Tornillo…need we say more?” Alan was a brilliant legislator, specializing in the new field of condominium law. He was a fierce debater, once being criticized on the floor for his eloquence by his Dade Delegation colleague, Rep. John Hill (D., Hialeah). To which, then Senator George Firestone (D., Miami) quipped, “How do I get John Hill to criticize my eloquence on the Floor of the House of Representatives?” Brilliant.
Reporter Ray Starr
Just as with Jack Lee and Glen Woodard, identified below, I regret not including in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, video reporter Ray Starr. Casual observers to the Florida Capitol sometimes confused Ray with the national CBS news sports reporter Haywood Halebroom, because both were in the habit of wearing flashy, often madras sports jackets while working. Actually, I found Ray to be a very serious reporter and one of the first to specialize in video reporting, exclusively in the Capitol. Ray passed on a number of years ago, but his work was briefly carried on by his able and long time associate, Mark Ives. Thanks to Ray and Mark, for at least some of that Golden Era is visually recorded for our enjoyment and benefit.
Lobbyists Jack Lee and Glen Woodard
When writing my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I unfortunately overlooked including two of the most effective lobbyists from that era. Jack Lee so ably represented the liquor industry and various business interests over an approximate 30 year career. I had the honor of luring Jack out of retirement to help the Florida Chamber’s lobbying effort in the mid 90’s. His mentor was a lobbying giant–Glen Woodard of Winn Dixie. I can recall so well Glen saying to me after my successful campaign against two other Senators, “Senator, nothing like a hard fought campaign to remind you what is important to the people up here.” Boy was he right.
Senate President Phil Lewis (D., West Palm Beach)*
Senator Phil Lewis is as much loved as any public servant I have ever met–and that is really unusual today. I knew of Phil Lewis even before his election to the Senate in 1970. I was sitting in Senate President Jerry Thomas’ office in Riviera Beach, when he got a call from Phil, confirming Phil’s candidacy for the Senate. The two Senate Presidents, one current, one future, became best of friends over the years, until Jerry’s passing in the early ’80s. Senator Lewis was the Senate President during my freshman term in the Senate, and although there was tension among the growing number of reformers (including me) and Senate Dean Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City), Lewis was able to steer the senior body to two very successful legislative sessions. President Lewis will always be known for his love, kindness and respect he showed for his colleagues and the public.
Representative Herb Morgan (D., Tallahassee)*
Herb Morgan did not bring an obvious career background to politics. He was the Executive Director of the Tallahassee Area of Retarded Citizens (“ARC”), when he ran for the Florida House of Representatives in 1974. He had a highly contested race to win the seat vacated by Senator Pat Thomas (D., Quincy). But, with the assistance of Speaker Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee), Herb won a seat, as a freshman, on the powerful Appropriations Committee. He learned the appropriations process as well as anyone with whom I served. He went on to Chair the Appropriations Committee for multiple terms and his negotiating battles with his Senate counterpart, Senator Jack Gordon (D., Miami Beach) , were legendary. We lost Herb to the dreaded cancer at a much too early age. When thinking of the major players from the Golden Era of Florida politics, one must always include the Honorable Herb Morgan.
Governor Wayne Mixson (D., Marianna)*
Wayne and Margie Mixson are two of the finest people you can meet. Period. Wayne was the powerful Chairman of the Florida House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, when I came to Tallahassee in November, 1974, to be sworn in as a new member of the House. I never worked directly on legislation with Wayne when we served in the House together from 1974-78, but I always admired his expertise, friendship and willingness to help a colleague, without asking anything in return. He, of course, went on to become Governor Bob Graham’s Lieutenant Governor, in 1978, and for a brief period of time, served as the Governor of the great state of Florida, in 1986. As I said in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I will never forget Wayne’s poignant remarks on the floor of the House, honoring Air Force General Chappy James, an Afro-American war hero from Northwest Florida.
Senator Curt Kiser (R., Clearwater)*
Curt is almost universally identified as the “model” Republican in Florida. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1972, and made a unsuccessfull bid for Congress, before coming back as an influential member of the Florida Senate in the mid 1980’s. Curt searched me out while I was a freshman member of the House in 1974, suggesting that we attempt to lead a bi-partisan coalition on urban county interests in water management–he leading the Pinellas Delegation as an “R” and me leading the Dade Delegation as a “D”, comprising two of the biggest legislative delegations in the state. As reported in an earlier Blog, that fight became known as the “1976 Water War,” in which, I am happy to say we prevailed. I have always felt Curt would make an outstanding Governor for Florida, and hope that at his still young age, he would not rule out that possibility.
As described in a recent Blog, First Friday was a group of friends and political supporters who had the Coral Gables Jaycees in common, that met on the first Friday of each month for a social and political agenda. The members were my wife, Susan, Shelia and Gary Gregory, Ronni and Peter Bermont, Connie and Larry Boecklen, Lynn and Mike Fitzgerald, and yours truly. We formed the group in 1971, and we still occasionally meet, so that makes almost 40 years of fellowship. We lost Ronni and Lynn to that dastardly cancer, but their wonderful memories and spirits are still very much with us. Words cannot describe the memorable friendship, love and yes, political counsel, First Friday provided Susan and me over all of these years.
Reporter Martin Dyckman of the St. Petersburg Times*
To newcomers to Florida politics, Martin Dyckman is probably best known for his outstanding books on former Governor LeRoy Collins, the Florida Supreme Court, and a soon to be released book on former Governor Reubin Askew. In his earlier life, he was the senior capitol reporter for the St. Petersburg Times. His writing often suggested a suspicion of politicians and their boasts of success, particularly those of the well entrenched “Pork Choppers.” On the other hand, Martin was attributed in an article, with a sanguine description of the ’70s and ’80s in the Florida Legislature, as being the “Golden Era” (he attributes that description to his colleague, Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat). This former member of the House of Representatives and Senate, found Martin to be tough, tenacious, but fair. I have been told by many that Martin is badly missed in the halls of Tallahassee today.
Lobbyist Ronnie Book*
I first met Ronnie Book in the Dade County Young Democrats Club in 1972. He was a young legislative aid for a bright new member of the Florida House of Representatives, and one of my best friends, Alan Becker (D., Miami Beach). Ronnie offered his help to me in my campaign for the House in District 116 in 1974, and we maintained a solid relationship throughout my political career. He really got his political “sea legs” in 1978 when he joined the successful Graham for Governor Campaign. He went on to become, without exception, the most powerful lobbyist in Tallahassee. Notably, he has done that with Democrats and Republicans in charge. He is playing an important role in supporting my efforts to produce a documentary on my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s. He knows that era well–he was an integral part of it.
Representative Randy Avon (R., Ft. Lauderdale)*
Randy’s mentor in the Jaycees and politics was former Senator Tom Adams (D., Green Cove Springs). They were both from the “Claude Pepper” school–they remembered names, places and events, and would always make you feel important. Randy and I met in the Jaycees–he being an outstanding State President, and me, proudly being a part of the Coral Gables Jaycees. We served together in the Florida House of Representatives, and later in my Senate career, Randy was instrumental in my selection by the Jaycees as One of the Five Outstanding Young Men in Florida in 1980. Randy got side tracked over the years with other interests, but I have always felt he had the necessary “Tom Adams” tools to make it big in politics.
Representative George Sheldon (D., Tampa)*
At Florida Southern College, I was Cadet George Sheldon’s commanding officer. My recollection of George is that he could never clean an M-1 rifle correctly. His recollection of me is that I was a border line “clean freak.” But when we were both elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1974, and were both appointed to the House Committee on Health and Rehabilitative Serves, we forgot about the college days. George has had a lifetime of outstanding public service, separate from being a member of the House of Representatives– being part of “Team Adams,” working for then State Senator Reubin Askew (D., Pensacola), serving as Deputy Attorney General, and currently serving as Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services. Those of us that know George well, know that he was really cut out for public service, which is what he is still doing so well today.
Congressman Harry Johnston (D., West Palm Beach)*
I was elected the same year as former Congressman Harry Johnston was to the Florida Legislature in 1974–he to the Senate and me to the House of Representatives. When I got elected to the Senate in 1978, Harry and his wonderful wife Mary, were two of Susan and my best friends (and neighbors). After I left the legislature in 1982, Harry went on to be elected President of the Senate, and ran for governor, unsuccessfully, in 1986. He later won election, repeatedly, to the United States Congress, representing Palm Beach County. Former President Bill Clinton recognized Harry’s outstanding political acumen, appointing him as a special envoy to Africa. He should also be an outstanding counsel to President Obama.
Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings (R., Orlando)*
I was honored to have served with Lt. Governor Toni Jennings in both the Florida House of Representatives and Senate. We found ourselves on opposite sides of the legendary feud between Senate Dean Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City) and President W. D. Childers (D., Pensacola) during the 1980-82 legislative sessions. But I always like her–she was very bright (educated at Wesleyan College) and gregarious–one of the most popular members of the legislature. Of course, her political career did not stop there–she went on to serve two terms as Senate President, and in my opinion, was one of Governor Jeb Bush’s most outstanding appointments, as his Lieutenant Governor. She is still young–look for Toni Jennings to play a further role in Florida or even U.S. politics. You heard it here.
Representative Bob Hartnett (D., Coral Gables)*
Representative Bob Hartnett (D., Coral Gables) was one of the youngest legislators ever elected at 28 years young, to the Florida House of Representatives, in 1966. He came from a very prominent Coral Gables family, with his father Fred Hartnett serving as Mayor of the “Miracle Mile” city. Bob was very popular among his colleagues, and as a result he remains close to many of them who served in higher office, including U.S. Senators Bill Nelson, Bob Graham, Governors Reubin Askew, and Lawton Chiles. He is a prominent lobbyist and political consultant today, and he and Betty remain good friend of Susan and me.
Senator Paul Steinberg (D., Miami Beach)*
I met Paul for the first time at Ron Levitt’s office in Coral Gables. We were both running for seats in the Florida House of Representatives–Paul’s second try and my first. Ron was a political consultant I had met through a referral from Miami Commissioner Arden Siegendorff. After our respective elections to the House, Paul and I served together on the Natural Resources Committee, and often found ourselves at odds with our Chairman, Bill Fulford (D., Orlando). We were both elected to the Senate in 1978–he having beaten Rep. Elaine Bloom (D., Miami Beach) and me, in beating Senator Ralph Poston (D., Miami). We sat next to each other on the floor and became very close friends, as we still are today. Paul and Sandy have the distinction of having their son, Richard, follow in Paul’s footsteps–Richard was elected in 2008 as State Representative representing Miami Beach–Paul’s old district.
Alvah Chapman of the Miami Herald*
Although Alvah Chapman was President of the Miami Herald and therefore primarily involved with the states’ leading newspaper administrative and financial affairs, he did involve himself with policy issues in state government. As I indicated in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I worked very closely with Alvah and other business and community leaders, as Chairman of the Dade Legislative Delegation, on the Miami Citizens Against Crimeeffort in the early ’80s. Alvah represented many outstanding media professionals from the editorial side of issues in South Florida, with whom I also worked–Don Shoemaker, John McMullen, Juanita Greene, and Bob Sanchez of the Herald;Howard Kleinberg, Joanna Wragg, Clark Ash, Louis Salome, of the Miami News; Ron Sachs of WPLG television station, Allen and Bernice Courtney of WQAM, and Steve Dailey of WVCG radio stations, among others. They were all the ‘ creme de la creme,’ of the Golden Era in South Florida.
U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (D., Minnesota)*
We often seem to remember our “firsts” in life. As reported in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, my first vote for President was for Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota in 1968. I was served in the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant, stationed in New York City of all places, and like so many Americans, I felt our Country was not leveling with us on the Vietnam War. Senator McCarthy opposed sitting President Lyndon Johnson from the beginning, and although both Senator Robert Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey would later become candidates ( as the world knows, Kennedy was tragically assassinated), I felt committed to Senator McCarthy. I was told it was a wasted vote, and I guess that is right. But, I considered my vote then, and now sacrosanct and I honored my original commitment. I don’t know what kind of President McCarthy would have been, but I do know our Country needed Change, even more that in 2008.
Congressman Bill Gunter (D., Orlando)*
Bill Gunter served in the Florida Senate, Congress, and as Insurance Commissioner during the Golden Years of the ’70s and ’80s. He came very close to winning a statewide race for the United States Senate, during that time as well. He started his professional career, after receiving an outstanding education at the University of Florida, as an agent for State Farm in Orlando. Upon winning a seat in the Florida Senate, it was readily apparent that he was an up and coming star in the Democratic Party. He was known for surrounding himself with some of the finest staff in Tallahassee, most notablyLester Abberger and former Tallahassee Commissioner Alan Katz. Bill remains actively involved in politics and heads up one of the state’s premier insurance agencies. This writer has had the great pleasure of working with and getting to know quite well, the distinguished Congressman from Central Florida.
Senate Executive Director Howard Walton*
As I indicated in a new Post to my Blog, I profiled Howard Walton in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s as one of the Outstanding Unelected Public Officials with whom I served. Howard served for a long period of time as the important Executive Director of the Senate, mostly under the employment protection of the Dean of the Senate (and usually my foe), Dempsey Barron (D., Panama City). But make no mistake, the Senate ran more than smoothly, it was on time and was far and away, the more powerful lawmaking body at that time. I am not sure if another “Howard Walton” could survive today’s required transparency and instant reporting technology. But as I closed out in writing that new post, when Howard Walton left the Florida Senate, they “threw away the mold,” unfortunately.
Senator Ken Myers (D., Miami)*
Senator Ken Myers was perhaps the perfect example of the special kind of legislator profiled in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s. He was drawn into politics by a sincere desire to serve, coupled with the chance of a lifetime opportunity afforded through the federal court mandated reapportionment of the 1960’s. The Senator first won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1964, served two terms, and then moved on to the upper body in 1968. He was perhaps best know for authoring the “Myers Act,” requiring humane treatment for criminal drug and alcohol abusers. This author had the pleasure of serving with Ken in the Dade Delegation, where he rose to Dean, serving a total of 16 years. Tragically, he died a few years ago, while still young in his professional life.
Attorney General Bob Shevin (D., Miami)*
Some of his closest friends said Bob Shevin started running for Governor, while a standout high school student at Miami High. After all, he had all the attributes–smart as a whip, determined, good peripheral vision, a deep, gravely voice, and the all important, good timing. Even while a rising liberal State Senator from Miami, he was able to draw on the emotional interest in the national crime public hearings, to chair a similar effort in Florida, that drew huge audiences. Bob won election as Attorney General and set his sights on the Governor’s office in the 1978 election. Unfortunately, his good friend and former Dade Delegation colleague, Senator Bob Graham(D., Miami Lakes) had the same idea. And, no surprise, the Senator had many of the same attributes as the Attorney General. The only major difference was that the Senator had a massive family fortune that he would spend to get elected Governor, if necessary. It became necessary. General Shevin went on to serve the public with distinction as a member of the Florida District Court of Appeals. This author had the great experience of working closely with General Shevin while I served as Chairman of the House Corrections Subcommittee from 1974-76. He is greatly missed today in Florida politics.
Representative Jane Robinson (R., Cocoa)*
Jane was a solid legislator–smart, personable, tough and a good debater. She was not a grandstander, which is probably why she was so popular in the legislature. I sat with her on the House Natural Resources Committee, and although we were from different political parties, we found ourselves often united in our opposition to our Chairman,Bill Fulford (D., Orlando). As a former Washington, D. C. reporter, Jane drew a bead on the somewhat unnoticed spending by the South Florida Water Management District–especially their use of state aircraft, all funded by public dollars. She once asked me point blank, if I had been on any of their aircraft– for the record, on state business. Sheepishly, I said I had–I knew she had the flight records on their aircraft (Jane was a very experienced pilot). I always felt that the Republicans missed the boat by not recognizing Jane’s great potential political appeal and run her for a statewide position. She was certainly an outstanding legislator.
WPLG News Anchor Ann Bishop*
During the 70’s and 80’s, Florida’s largest media market was South Florida, of course, and there were three dominant television stations–WCKT, NBC; WTVJ, CBS; and WPLG, ABC. The respected and always cheerful anchor of the WPLG telecast was veteran Ann Bishop. I had an opportunity to meet with Ann and spend the better part of a day in Tallahassee when she was producing and anchoring a special program on reapportionment during the 1982 session of the legislature. Ann was very bright and tenacious in her reporting, but in my mind, she stood out because she was not pretentious. Ann passed away years ago from the dastardly disease cancer, and I am told the reporting scene in Miami has just not been the same since. Ann mentored one of my friends today, a former WPLG news anchor himself, and now media consultant in Tallahassee, Art Carlson. Art echoes the feeling that Ann Bishop was simply the best at her important profession–she is very much missed today.
Minority Leader Bill James (R., Delray Beach)*
State Representative Bill James was the first Minority Leader with whom I served. Since I often found myself at odds with the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in the early ’70s, I was invited for discussions with the Leader frequently. Admittedly, we have different goals, but often found common ground in pairing our votes. Since I grew up in Palm Beach County, Bill and I also discovered many mutual friends, over the years. Later, when serving as Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, I hired Bill, out of retirement in North Carolina, to represent the Chamber as a lobbyist in the early ’90s. Leader James was a good example of legislators who effectively worked both sides of the aisle during the Golden Years of the ’70s and ’80s.
Lobbyist John Roberts*
If there was ever a model for legislative lobbyists in Florida, this writer feels it would be John Roberts, representing Southeast Banksfor many years before the Legislature. John had all the attributes you would expect of any true professional–smart, tough, good sense of humor, and totally commited to representing his client’s best interests. As I mentioned in this Page about former Speaker Don Tucker, after getting to know John in 1974, he introduced me to many of the legislators, lobbyists, and staff I would come to know as “the players” in Tallahassee. John had a special interest in trying to get the Dade Delegation to vote together, especially on issues of interest to the urban areas. I worked very closely with him in that regard, as outlined in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s. As of this writing John is seriously ill, and tragically just lost a wonderful son and also an outstanding lobbyist, Randy Roberts of Publix Supermarkets. They were among the very best.
Representative Don Hazelton (D., West Palm Beach)*
Representative Don Hazelton was one of the first members of the Florida House of Representatives I met in Tallahassee when attending my first committee meetings. Although “brand new” at lawmaking, I was one of two freshmen (the other being RepresentativeLee Moffitt of Tampa) appointed by Speaker Don Tucker to chair a Subcommittee–mine being Corrections. Don, a Republican at that time, had experience and a passion about Corrections, and it was apparent from day one. The first meeting was an oversight hearing on the Parole and Probation Commission, of which Don was not always a fan of the Commission. The Chairman of the Commission, Ray Howard was somewhat defensive of Don’s stern questioning. Oh boy, I got to learn the intricate rules of running a committee in The Florida House of Representatives on the fly. Don went on to run for a Cabinet seat as Insurance Commissioner, but lost as a consumer advocate against a well entrenched insurance industry. He and his wife Geri are still actively involved in politics in Tallahassee.
Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre (D., Miami)*
I am told that there is a very real possibility that former Miami Mayor and State Representative Maurice Ferre (D., Miami) may become a candidate for the U.S. Senate. If he does, in my opinion, he will be formidable. Although he is along in years, he remains very bright, well connected, and as adroit as ever. I got to know the Mayor in the early 1970’s, and was immediately impressed with his quick mind. I was greatly aided by his support in my race for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, and we have remained friends over the years, either directly or through good friends, like the late David Blumberg, a dear friend of the Mayor. GovernorCrist made few friends by criticizing the President’s selection of the new Justice Sonia Sotomayorto the Supreme Court; like Ferre, a proud Puerto Rican, but he really shot himself in the foot by potentially drawing a substantive opponent like Maurice Ferre. “Loose lips, sink ships.”
Public Relations Executive Leslie Pantin*
Leslie made his mark in Miami by being the Co-Founder (along with his close friend, Willy Bermello) of the world renown Calle Ocho Street Festival in the late 70’s. Leslie and Willy convinced the Little Havana Kiwanisclub that sponsoring such an event would help galvanize the anglo-hispanic communities in downtown Miami. It quickly grew into a festive street party drawing close to a million participants, and now is one of Florida’s most successful community events. Leslie helped me get elected to the Florida Legislature, and almost won election himself to a seat primarily representing Coral Gables. Leslie is an executive with one of Florida’s largest public relations agencies, and was appointed by his friend, Governor Jeb Bush as a Trustee of Leslie’s beloved Florida State University. He also has served in the prestigious position as President of the Orange Bowl Committee and on the Executive Committee of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Don Tucker (D., Tallahassee)*
A highly respected former lobbyist John Roberts, representing the state’s largest banking organization, Southeast Banks, introduced me to Speaker-Designate Don Tucker at the Miami Springs Villas in 1974. Don was very friendly and mentioned to John, “We need to get this guy some support.” It must have worked…when I was first sworn in as a new member of the House of Representatives, Speaker Tucker was my leader. Don was very bright, and had a terrific sense of humor. Somehow he got sideways with many of my predecessors from theDade Delegation, but I always felt he treated me fairly. Speaker Tucker has the distinction of being the only Speaker of the House of Representatives to be re-elected to back to back terms. He was an early supporter of President Jimmy Carter and was expected to be appointed to a senior position in the Carter White House. That never materialized. Speaker Tucker and his wife, Joan are still active with a law, lobbying and consulting practice in Tallahassee.
Representative Maxine Baker (D., Miami)*
Few lawyers practicing mental health issue law are not familiar with the “Baker Act.” The law was named after respected State Representative Maxine Baker of Miami. Representative Baker had long been involved in major mental health issues, and in the early seventies, her colleagues in the Florida House of Representatives named a new reform bill after her, granting specific rights and procedures for protecting those with mental illness. The Baker Act became a model for the nation and still is today. I met Maxine when we both served on the Board of the Mental Health Association of Miami-Dade County. She was very kind to endorse my candidacy for the Legislature in 1974, and we remained close friends (and my counsel) for many years. She was a pioneer among recognized female legislators during the Golden Years of the Florida Legislature.
Representative Betty Easley (R., St. Petersburg)*
Betty was one of the smartest legislators I ever met. She was a self admitted army brat from Texas, who won a seat in the Pinellas delegation in 1972, as a Republican, and went on to become the gubernatorial running mate with former Representative Tom Gallagher(R., Coconut Grove) in 1986, which many described as a political “dream team.” Although a very serious lawmaker, Betty was well know as the publisher of a popular handy book explaining what legislators meant when they used time worn expressions in debate. For example, when a lawmaker would refer to a colleague on the floor as an “acknowledged expert,” she would say it really meant the person was “clueless” on the issue. Betty passed on several years ago, but she was really one of the best of the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature.
Lobbyist Pat Tornillo of United Teachers of Dade*
Pat headed up one of the most powerful and important organizations in Florida politics, The United Teachers of Dade Union. Ron Levitt, my campaign consultant in 1972, introduced me to Pat, when I was seeking the UTD endorsement in a race against a well entrenched incumbent, State Representative Jeff Gautier(D., Miami). Although I was opposing an incumbent, surprisingly, I won Pat’s endorsement and that of UTD, but fell a few hundred votes short of pulling off a major political upset in Miami. After subsequently winning my seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, I worked very closely with Pat and his team on issues of importance to teachers–primarily funding. I remained close with Pat over the years, until his passing a few years ago. I really cannot recall any lobbyists representing their members with the same passion and verve as Pat.
Commissioner Tom Gallagher (R., Miami)*
TGOT ( standing for “Tom Gallagher on Tuesday”–election day) buttons were being worn by almost everyone in the popular Taraus Restaurant in Coconut Grove in 1972 and 74. Tom didn’t win his first race against Rep. Carl Singleton (D., Coral Gables) in 1972, but he did win a big special election against favored Democrat Mona Lightin 1974. Tom was the first Republican elected from Dade County, and he went on to win multiple re-elections to the Florida House of Representatives as well as elections statewide as Education Commissioner and Insurance Commissioner. His stellar response performance during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 drew praises from across the country. Sadly, he lost his bids for Governor. Tom and I sat together on the floor in the House from 1974-78, and we grew to be very close friends, as we are today. Anytime I leave a message for Tom, it is always with the letters, TGOT, my friend.
George DePontis and Stu Rose of Project Masters*
This is my first Quorum Call entry with two names. George and Stu were the two founders and principals of Project Masters, a Miami based political consulting firm that was in its’ heyday in the 1970’s and 80’s. I was fortunate that they agreed to represent my successfulcampaign for the Florida Senate in 1978. Although I was a member of the House of Representatives at the time, and had won re-election without opposition in 1976, I faced two state senators–one incumbent and one former member. George and Stu framed the campaign around a theme of “integrity”, and it resonated with the voters in district 38, encompassing approximately 1/3 of Miami (starting at the north from Miami Springs, south to Florida City) and all of Monroe County. George passed on a few years ago, but Susan and I still enjoy the good counsel and friendship of Stu. As George and Stu always said, their opponents were about “as subtle as cellophane.”
Clerk Emeritus of the Florida House of Representatives, John Phelps*
John Phelps has had a long and distinguished career in Florida government–all in the Florida House of Representatives. His great passions have always been children (his wife Dr. Pam has a nationally recognized child care program in Tallahassee) and social services. As previously indicated in my Blog, he was a vital part of the House Health and Rehabilitative Services staff, and served as Assistant to venerable Clerk, Dr. Allen Morris for many years. He now serves as Curator for the Florida Legislature, but I will always remember him as an extrordinary Staff Director on the House Health and Mental Subcommittee in the 1970’s. John Phelps was a giant in the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature.
Senator Dempsey Barron (R., Panama City)*
I consider myself fortunate to have served during a part of tenure of the “Red Baron”, as Senator Louis de la Parte (D., Tampa) once described Senator Dempsey Barron on the floor of the Senate. He was the Dean of the Legislature when I served with him in the ’70s and ’80s, and he leveraged his experience better than anyone I ever saw in Tallahassee. Many words have been used to describe Barron–relentless, uncompromising, brilliant, vengeful, unforgiving, and tenacious–all are accurate but they really under-describe the man, in my opinion. There were always uncertainties in the legislature, with one major exception–Senator Barron…if he was ‘agin ya’, you had real problems. I know, I did.
U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D., Florida)*
As has been previously noted in my Blog, Senator Bob Graham was one of Florida’s outstanding elected representatives, EVER. As most Floridians know, he was the son of legendary State Senator Ernest Graham (D., Miami Lakes), was educated at the University of Florida and Harvard Law School, was a successful developer and rancher, served with distinction in the Florida House of Representatives, and Senate, was a 2 term Governor, and was the Senior U.S. Senator from Florida for multiple terms. I had the pleasure of serving with him in the Dade Delegation and handling some of his legislation when he was Governor, and I was in the Florida Senate. To their credit, Bob and Adele Graham continue to serve our great state with intellect, integrity, and industry. Thank you Senator and Mrs. Graham.
Miami Developer David Blumberg*
David Blumberg was a most respected developer from Miami, with whom I became associated in 1976, while I was a member of the Florida House of Representatives. Perhaps best know for his development of the community of Cutler Ridge in South Dade County, David was a proven business and community leader as President of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and member of the Executive Committee of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. I always considered David and his wonderful wife, Lee, valuable advisers on political issues. I was not the only one–U.S. SenatorClaude Pepper, Governor Reubin Askew, State Senators Bob Graham, Phil Lewis, Harry Johnston, Dade County Commissioners Hardy Matheson and Clara Oesterle, and a number of the lawmakers from the Golden Era of the Florida Legislature did as well.
Reporter John McDermott of The Miami Herald*
Venerable is the best one word description of the long time political writer of The Miami Herald. I was a no-name freshman member of the Florida House of Representatives, having been elected in the fall of 1974, and for some unknown reason, John decided to “shadow” one of my days at the Capitol. He followed me to my committee meetings, conferences with constituents, and even the after hours fund raisers. His piece ran in the widely circulated Sunday edition, and all of a sudden I became known in Tallahassee, especially among the lobbyists (a copy of the article is included in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s). That was the clout of John and the Herald. He could be hard hitting as well, with ethics among lawmakers (or the absence thereof) being his hot button. John will always be closely identified with the political Golden Years of the ’70s and ’80s.
The Honorable “Mamma” Range (D., Miami)*
For Miamians interested in politics during the Golden Era (the ’70s and ’80s), not many many individuals stand taller than “Mamma” Range from Overtown. Althea Range was a community activist known throughout the African-American Community, and perhaps is best know for mentoring two of Liberty City’s best known politicans, Congresswoman Carrie Meek (D., Miami) and her son, Congressman Kendrick Meek (D., Miami)–I think we all know what post he is now seeking. Range served with distinction herself in public office, having been appointed to the Miami City Commission during the term of MayorMaurice Ferre (D., Miami). She was also extraordinary in that she traversed her community activist role into the exclusive and politically powerful downtown Miami business community. She provided valuable and important political counsel for this author, and many far greater and more influential political figures of the time.
Senator George Firestone (D., Miami)*
Venerable Miami Herald reporter John McDermott once described Senator George Firestone of Miami as the “Conscience of the Senate.” I could not agree more. The Senator was elected state-wide on several occasions, moving the Secretary of State office from the keeper of the seal to a dynamic and vital Cabinet position. I will always remember being invited by him to join in on the late night call in radio programs he hosted onWIOD in the Capitol for both Allen and Bernice Courtney. That program commanded the greatest South Florida audience, and the Senator was the moderator of the program for many years. George and Nola are still very active in political affairs, and they indeed deserve a most prominent place in this author’s Quorum Call, “Hall of Fame.”
Lobbyist Jim Krog*
Jim Krog was a “gentle” political giant in the Golden era of the Florida Legislature. He gained fame and stature as one of Governor Reubin Askew’s lead lobbyists. He also spearheaded the Governor’s unsuccessful race for President. He is perhaps best know for running Governor Lawton Chiles’successful campaign for Governor in 1990, and subsequently serving as the Governor’s first Chief of Staff. I worked with Jim on health care issues when I was in the Senate, and he was my boss when Chilesaskedmeto join his administration in the 1990’s. Although low key, Jim was very bright and had a cunning sidetohispleasant personality. Tragically, Jim died of a sudden heart attack a few years ago, while practicing his trade as one of the best lobbyists in Tallahassee. All of us who knew Jim and worked with him will recall him being one of the voices that had a positive influence on the The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s.
Larry King of CNN’s Larry King Live*
In 1975, I wrote an opinion/editorial on “determinate sentencing” for the Florida Bar Journal, as a result of my chairmanship of the Florida House of Representatives Subcommittee on Corrections. To my surprise, I got a call from the producer of the then WIOD Larry King radio program in Miami, inviting me to be a guest on the show and discuss my article. Larry was one of the most prominent members of the national media, even at that time (he was also a leading columnist for the Miami Herald). My article caught his attention, and during my interview, we seemed to “hit it off.” He subsequently invited me to be his guest on several radio programs on other subjects, including my requested commentary on Jimmy Carter’sFlorida primary race for the Democratic presidental nomination in 1976. As he is today, Larry was then direct, focused, a good listener, and a very provocative interviewer.
Governor Reubin O’Donovan Askew (D., Florida)*
My first introduction to Governor Reubin Askew is documented in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, starting on page 49. In a word, the Governor impressed me as an outstanding “leader.” His service as Governor was so widely acclaimed that he was named by Harvard Universityas one of our country’s greatest governors ever. I found myself in general agreement with his political leanings, so I was considered to be an legislative ally of his, during my service in the legislature. As I mentioned in my book, the Governor had a terrific family, including the best lobbyist I ever met, his wonderful wife, Donna Lou. Askew ran for President, but the timing was off–many have said if he had only run in 1976, the timing would have been perfect for such a bold, decisive and courageous leader (former Governor Jimmy Carter did run that year, and won the Presidency). I still consider it one of my real honors to have served in the Florida House of Representatives during the term of Governor Reubin Askew.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis*
Justice Lewis and I attended Florida Southern Collegein the late 1960’s–I was a senior and Fred was a freshman in 1966. Fred was recruited by FSC as a basketball player, bringing an outstanding record as a prep star from West Virginia. We found ourselves crossing paths early and often as a result of our interest in student politics. Fred graduated at the top of his class (selected as the “Honor Walk” student his senior year) and was named a small college All-American basketball player. Fred went on to receive his law degree with academic honors from the University of Miami and had a very successful law practice in Miami. Since I had worked for Governor Lawton Chiles, I had the chance to support Fred’s successful appointment to the Florida Supreme Court. Fred and his wife Judy(also a FSC graduate) have a wonderful family in Tallahassee, and remain good friends of Susan and me today.
Senator Ken Plante (R., Orlando)*
Senator Ken Plante has always been a model senator to me and a member I deeply respect today. He first entered politics as a ‘ long shot’, running to unseat a well entrenched Democratic Senator from Orlando in 1967. Ken was a young campaign worker for Governor Claude Kirk’supset election in 1966, and shortly thereafter the Republican Party asked him to run for the Senate to “keep the Democratic incumbents challenged.” Plante surprised the political experts in Tallahassee, and won the election, but was not recognized initially as the future star in the Senate that he went on to become. When I was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1974, I worked closely with Senator Plante, who was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Rehabilitative Services. After I was elected to the Senate 4 years later, I went on to chair the same important Committee on Health and Rehabilitative Services, also. Senator Ken Plante–in my opinion, was one of Florida’s outstanding Senators.
Representative Marshall Harris (D., Miami)*
Considered somewhat typical of the newly elected legislators from the “Golden Years” was attorney Marshall Harris of Miami, first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1966. Marshall boasted a Harvard education and a billiant mind, especially for numbers. He enthusiastically supported the successfull campaign of Dick Pettigrew as Speaker in 1970, and became the Speaker’s choice as Chairman of the powerfull Appropriations Committee in the Florida House. Brash, to the point, and somewhat abrupt, Chairman Harris was not always the favorite of agency heads in Tallahassee. Many forget that he was selected by then Attorney General Jim Smith as the Lieutenant Governor Candidate on that ticket in 1986…Smith describing Harris at the time as a political “home run.” Marshall had a profound impact on this author when I was first a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives in 1974.
Representative Elaine Gordon (D., Miami Beach)*
Representative Elaine Gordon was a strident feminist, with whom I worked closely on the House Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee. She chaired the Committee and appointed me as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health and Mental Healthin 1976. Under her leadership our committee crafted and passed into law landmark legislation of benefit to children, the elderly, and consumers of developmental disablilties. Elaine was first exposed to Florida politics as an aide to respected Senator George Firestoneof DadeCounty. She was effective, popular, and cooperative with her colleagues, even those on the other side of the aisle, and had a very successfull legislative career, culminating as Speaker Pro-Tempore of the House of Representatives. She will be remembered by those of us that were honored to have served with her as a champion of woman’s issues, but also of those least able to represent themselves.
Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R., Florida)*
Ander and I sat next to each other on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives, starting in 1974 (in the Old Capitol). We discovered that we had a lot in common–our families, our interest in sports, religion, and civility. Frankly, we seldom talked politics. As I indicated in my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, Susan and I often socialized with Ander and Kitty in Tallahassee and Miami. Ander went on to serve as the first Republican in modern times as President of the Florida Senate and went on from there to win a safe seat in the U.S. Congressfrom Jacksonville. Ander is bright, conservative, and extremely personable. He is yet another example of legislators from the Golden Years representing both political parties with great distinction.
Congressman Dante Fascell (D., Florida)*
Dante Fascell could only be described as a “great American.” He was an accomplished lawyer when he first won a seat in the Florida Legislature, and that led to a most distinguished career as the Congressman from South Dade County in Florida for approximately 30 years. As such, I had an opportunity to work with him during my legislative service, and it was indeed an honor. The Congressman completed his career with his service as Chairman of the all powerfull House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. Few pieces of legislation affecting Central and South America ever became law without Dante’s imprint. But perhaps his greatest hallmark with his constituents was his abiding service to their needs. I will always consider him a Congressman’s Congressman.
Comptroller Gerald Lewis (D., Miami)*
Gerald Lewis was typical of the bright, well educated, and urban oriented new legislators elected in 1966. Armed with a law degree from Harvard and newly arrived in Miami, he was elected to the House of Representatives along with an extraordinary group of new legislators. Lewis moved on to the Florida Senate in 1970, and took his seat in the Florida Cabinet as Comptrollerfor the state in 1974. The author formed a special bond with the Comptroller by virture of his home state of Alabama, being the same as the author’s wife, Susan. Lewis served the state with distinction and honor–typical of public service during the Golden Years.
Reporter Virginia Ellis of the St. Petersburg Times*
Virginia Ellis was a reporter for The St. Petersburg Times during 1970’s and 1980’s, in Florida’s Capitol Bureau. She was bright and personable, but below that exterior was a strong, tenacious and serious journalist. In my book, The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s, I talk about a significant clandestine political coup, which became known as “The Attack on Entebee.” Because I was directly involved in the incident, Virginia sought me out to discuss the details for several hours. In the book, I have a copy of the article she filed, which was page 1, above the fold, througout the state. I am told she is still serving her profession will skill and acumen in Austin, Texas. I will always remember Virginia as one of the best reporters with whom I worked during my legislative career.
Lobbyist Steve Winn*
Steve Winn and I attended The Florida State Universitytogether in the late 1960s. He was an accomplished politican, even then, having been elected by the student body as Attorney General. Steve went on to become a major lobbyist in the health care industry, and one with whom I worked very closely. Significantly, Steve was the son of Senator Sherman Winn, one of my favorite colleagues and a fellow member of the Dade Delegation. Steve continues to serve with and mentor new and up and coming members of the lobbying community.*Included in The Golden Years
Speaker of the House of Representatives Richard Pettigrew (D., Miami)*
Speaker Dick Pettigrew of Miami, served in the House of Representatives from 1963 to 1972, and as the leader of the House of Representatives from 1970-1972. He also served in the Senate from 1972-1974. His contributions to the state were most significant because he was directly involved in the reorganization of the state through court mandated reapportionment, constitutional revision and a top to bottom reorganization of the three branches of government. The “Golden Years” of Florida government were due, in no small part, to Dick’s extraordinary efforts, talent, and intellect. As pointed out in my book, Dick went on to serve the country with distinction as a senior member of President Jimmy Carter’s staff from 1976-1980.
Senator Scott Kelly (D., Lakeland)*
A two time candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor, State Senator Scott Kelly (D., Lakeland) became one of a hand full of promising legislators in the 1960’s. I had a chance to meet him and even work in one of his campaigns, while as a student at Florida Southern Collegein Lakeland. Senator Kelly was extremely personable, and was considered by many to be a viable alternative to the “big city” political heavy weights like Miami Mayor Robert King High, Senate President Jack Matthews (D., Jacksonville) and State Senator Fred “Bud” Dickinson (D., West Palm Beach). Sadly, after losing his races for Governor, he was voted out of the Senate by long time pork chopper Senator E. C. Rowell(D., Wildwood). He was proud to represent Imperial Polk County in public service.
Florida Governor Claude Kirk (R., Florida)*
There were few public figures as flamboyant as former Florida Governor Claude Kirk. The banker/lawyer burst upon the political scene in 1966 by beating former Miami Mayor Robert King Highin a shocking upset. No Republican had come close to winning a statewideracein the sunshine state in years. Although he had run previously for statewide office and lost, Kirk was still unknown to most of the state upon taking office. His record as Florida governor was mixed, depending on one’s political philosophy–Kirk’s was decidedly conservative, and controversial. This writer, in my book, “The Golden Years…The Florida Legislature, ’70s and ’80s,” had a number of interactions with the Governor during his service as well as while he was campaigning. Governor Kirk was one of a kind–not to be replicated today in our poll driven, scientific selection of politicians.
Lobbyist Harold Lewis*
Harold Lewis was a well known and successful lawyer/lobbyist during the Golden Years. He and I both grew up in Lake Worth, in Palm Beach County (his mother was my favorite teacher in the second grade at North Grade Elementary School). Harold took his law degree at the University of Florida, and served in senior positions on the staff of Comptroller Bud Dickinson and Governor Lawton Chiles. I worked very closely with him during the administration of Senate President W. D. Childers (D., Pensacola).
Congressman Paul Rodgers (D., West Palm Beach)*
Congressman Rodgers followed his father into Congress representing Palm Beach County and South Florida, for many years. His influence was magnified due to the few number of representatives from the sunshine state, during his service, especially compared to today. His hallmarks were in education and social services, although it was not unusual to see him weigh in on the weighty issues of foreign affairs. He remains in the halls of Congress one of the political giants from Florida.
Senate President Jerry Thomas (R., Tequesta)*
Senator Thomas served with great distinction in the ’60s and ’70s in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate, rising to the vaulted position as Senate President from 1970-1972. During his legislative service, he was a conservative Democrat, and as a result of his dissatisfaction with the direction of the national party, switched his political affiliation to Republican in the early ’70s. He went on to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Gerald Ford, and later ran unsuccessfully for Governor as the Republican nominee against his close friend and former Florida State University classmate, Governor Reubin Askew (D., Pensacola) in 1974.
U.S. Senator Claude Pepper (D., Florida)*
Senator Pepper is considered one of America’s great political figures, championing the issues of the elderly, particularly in his later services as a member of the United States House of Representatives from Miami Beach. He was loved and respected by members of congress from both sides of the aisle, and was particularly respected by President Ronald Reagan. In addition to his support of issues affecting the elderly, Senator Pepper is remembered as one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s strongest supporters of the “New Deal”, restoring the country’s economy from the Great Depression of the 1930s.