The pinnacle is in sight for Sen. Wilton Simpson, the Senate President-designate who will guide the body through what will be interesting times after the 2020 election.
Simpson, a Trilby Republican, represents a unique version of the Old Florida statesman.
A millionaire many times over from egg farming and asbestos removal (two seemingly disparate industries), Simpson understands how the state works in the ways a self-made capitalist does.
Soon after an opening prayer from a Baptist preacher and a national anthem crooned by the Bellamy Brothers, and a slew of introductions, the event began in earnest, with two prospective Senate Presidents lauding him in succession.
Sen. Travis Hutson, nominating Simpson, noted he was the first farmer to be Senate President.
Hutson worked a Paul Harvey routine, reworking the former radio personality’s “God Made a Farmer” script to fit Simpson.
“We are so grateful God gave us a humble, hardworking farmer to lead this chamber,” the Northeast Florida Republican extolled.
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, Hutson’s competition for the Senate Presidency down the road, seconded Hutson’s nomination of what she expects to be an “incredible” and “exceptional” Senate President.
“In all his life, it’s never been about Wilton Simpson,” Passidomo said. “It’s always been about his constituents, his employees, and his community.”
After the requisite unanimous vote and standing ovation, the President-designate took the mic.
Simpson noted he came to the Senate with “no governmental experience”: “I’m not a politician— I’m a farmer and entrepreneur.”
Farmers, Simpson added, “understand the lay of the land.”
And, he added, the land brings some blessings: “A strong economy … invested billions annually in our education, roads, and environment.
“… We are stewards of fields that have been planted and worked and harvested before,” Simpson noted.
There are expectations: The Pasco County Republican will be pro-business and will drive debate in a more conservative direction.
Moreover, a strong relationship with House Speaker-designate Rep. Chris Sprowls could drive an inter-chamber synergy.
Simpson noted that he bonded with Sprowls on the Enterprise Florida trip to Israel, where they signed an “MOU (memorandum of agreement) … on the back of a napkin.”
“We’ll get a lot more done if everyone comes to the table focusing on our agreements,” Simpson said, “which far outweigh our differences.”
While Simpson expects “feisty debates” between the chambers, he wasn’t too worried when asked by reporters after the speech that those debates would impede progress.
Worth noting: Simpson and Sprowls will lead their respective chambers during the redistricting process, which can certainly make “feisty” debates even feistier.
Simpson’s speech made no reference to that, however.
The Senate President-designate intends to work on “natural resources, children stuck in the foster care system, helping at-risk youth, and the economy.”
One natural resources proposal will come with a price tag: A ramp-up of the “septic to sewer program.”
That, combined with completing the Northern Everglades storage project, and work toward “capturing and using reclaimed water,” will be among the environmental proposals pushed.