4th Floor Files talks with Steve Wise about shoes, spaghetti, and Ronald Reagan

Stephen Wise

Stephen R. Wise served 25 years as a lawmaker, first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1989 and term-limited out of the Senate in 2014. Wise was a skillful lawmaker in the area of education, as chairman of both education appropriation and policy committees he would hold up bills until he thought them ready for debate. He often spiced his floor speeches with stories of his time as a classroom teacher in the mid-1960s.

“I thought I was going to starve, the pay was $300 a month,” he recalled with a laugh.

These days Wise can be seen walking the halls of the Capitol on behalf of the Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living. Here is the file on Stephen R. Wise of Jacksonville.

Significant other? Children? Grandkids?

I have been married for 51 years to Kathy Wise. In our house we have her sister, Patricia, she’s been there for 20 years, and her grandson who is now 20 years old has lived with us for 20 years. So, it’s great to come over to Tallahassee and let them stay there and guard the house.

In 25 words or less, explain what you do.

 I’m working to make systematic changes in programs providing services to people with disabilities

Your hometown and college?

I went to college in Lakeland, Fla., Florida Southern. I got a Bachelor’s Degree there. I got a Master’s from Middle Tennessee State University and a Doctorate from the University of Alabama. I grew up in Canton, Ohio, and moved to Florida the night I graduated from high school in 1959. My father worked for the space center at what was then Cape Canaveral — a rocket mechanic on the moon mission.

If you have one, what is your motto?

Never have time to do it right, but always have time to do it over.

Any last-day-of-Session traditions?

Not really, I’m just glad to get out of here before all that stuff goes on. As soon as they drop the hankie I’m out of here. I have my car packed and ready to go. That’s what I’ve always done. 

What are you most looking forward to during the 2015 Legislative Session?

At the top of my agenda are the issues with disabled adults and the Jimmy Patrick bill — providing wheelchairs and assistance to people with disabilities.

Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not?

No, I got these orthopedic shoes for walking around here. I put in lots of miles.

Other than SaintPetersBlog.com, your reading list includes:

I don’t get a newspaper. I quit the newspaper. I have an email service that gives me all the clips and I get the clips from the state. I read that every morning, first thing. A Sayfie article, but we don’t get a newspaper anymore. I gave it up.

What swear word do you use most often?

Well, we uh, go to hell (said with a laugh).

You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear?

The Senate President (Andy Gardiner): He has a child with a disability and it’s an issue that I have been very involved with — people with disabilities. I would interview him. I would also invite the Speaker of the House (Steve Crisafulli) because they set the policies. And then I would go speak with Sen. (Don) Gaetz because he is the past president of the Senate and a very, very smart person. Then I would go over and talk with Rep. (Erik) Fresen because he handles the money for education.

Favorite movie

Gone with the Wind.

When you pig out, what do you eat?

I pig out on a lot of stuff, but I love my wife’s spaghetti. She’s Italian and I really pig out on her spaghetti. 

If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be?

Ronald Reagan. I would like to talk to him and see how he did things and his experiences as president of the United States.

Image via Palm Beach Post.

James Call


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