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State workers make the most of extra days off

Some state employees might think it a given to spend Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve away from work each year.

But the reality is Florida government workers normally get nine holidays: New Year’s, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving and the Friday after, as well as Christmas.

Gov. Rick Scott this year made that number 11, allowing state employees to stay home or travel on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

We asked state personnel — from communications professionals to full-time secretaries — what they plan to do with the additional time this holiday season.

Precious Ichite, a secretary at the Florida Commission on Offender Review, said she’s a relatively new hire. She always planned on spending Dec. 24 and 31 away from the office, and said she’ll use the time to kick back and “just relax.”

Meanwhile, Fernanne Andris, a government specialist at the state Department of Health, said the two more holidays are a welcome surprise, one that will help her get a jump on home improvement plans.

“I’m going to remodel my bathroom,” a chuckling Andris, who lives in Tallahassee, said.

Cameron Wilkins, who helps out with IT services at the Public Service Commission, said he hadn’t expected to spend more time at home during the holidays.

“I didn’t request any of those days off, so it was good to have it thrown in there,” Wilkins said. “It’s something that I do appreciate.”

Wilkins, also of Tallahassee, will stay local through the holidays, “spending time with my family.”

State employees who serve chief roles for state leaders also weighed in.

Two top communications professionals, Whitney Ray and Valerie Wickboldt, plan on spending the time at home with their loved ones — and soon-to-be new family members.

“My wife and I will be sitting beside the Christmas tree, keeping our two-year-old Elijah from breaking all the ornaments he can reach and waiting on baby-bear Isaiah to make his world debut,” said Ray, who serves as the communications director for Attorney General Pam Bondi. (Ray’s wife, Elizabeth, is expecting.)

Wickboldt, the communications director at the state Department of Revenue, said she’d be “taking time to enjoy our growing family, laughing at our silly boys and preparing for our already beloved baby girl, Phoebe.”

“Mom and dad will be toasting with hot cocoa now that the multiple Elves on the Shelf have hitched a ride back to the North Pole with Santa,” added Wickboldt. “I will definitely be using the pregnancy as an excuse for guilt-free holiday feasting!”

Anna Alexopoulos Farrar, who handles communications for Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and will soon assume a Deputy CFO position inside the office, said she’d be “spending even more time with my family, enjoying what matters most.

“Thank you Gov. Scott!”

State House Speaker Jose Oliva’s always-accessible communications director Fred Piccolo, meanwhile, will be using his the additional time to enjoy a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the Legislature — “a few more days of calm before the storm, a chance to spend time with family and remind yourself what is important in this life.” 

He also plans to “avoid Twitter for a few days and eat more than the surgeon general recommends.”

Written By

Danny McAuliffe is a Tallahassee correspondent for Florida Politics. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. He is a lifelong Floridian and indulges in swimming, hiking, running and memes when the news cycle permits. Reach him at dmcauliffe500@gmail.com.

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