Former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford recently returned from a tour of Israel, where he met with former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Weatherford, who led the Florida House from 2012-2014, visited the Holy Land in early May. There he visited many of the country’s holiest sites, including the Masada Desert Fortress (where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood) and the Garden of Gethsemane (most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus’ crucifixion).
Weatherford said he was struck by the dichotomy of the modernity of Israeli cities, such as Tel Aviv, and the history and “spiritual component” throughout the country.
Weatherford shared details of his tour of the Holy Land with this writer over lunch at Tampa’s Ocean Prime restaurant.
Weatherford was scheduled the next day to begin a vacation abroad with his wife, Courtney. Perhaps that was why he seemed especially relaxed. Or perhaps it is because his legacy as a legislative leader looks better and better each day the Legislature meets in Special Session to hammer out a budget. As different as the two personalities are of Weatherford and former Senate President Don Gaetz, the two men were not only able to agree on a budget, they also were able to accomplish many of the goals they laid out at the beginning of their tenure.
Weatherford would not comment for the record about the current imbroglio gripping the House and Senate, but he was as dialed-in as ever on the state of affairs in Tallahassee. In all my years of interacting with Weatherford, he was as insightful, sharp, and up-to-speed as ever. As another mutual colleague who recently met with the former Speaker described him, “Will Weatherford is a man in full.”
Where this will lead Weatherford is still unclear. He’s most often mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2018. And although Weatherford would not get specific about his plans, he fully understood the lay of the land, including which other candidates may run or who may not.
A visit to Israel, this country’s foremost ally in the Middle East, will do little to tamp down rumors that Weatherford is also interested in running for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Such exposure to foreign policy would go a long way to frame Weatherford as more than just a local pol from Pasco County. Pictured next to Peres, as he is to the right here, Weatherford looks every part the statesman.