No. 16 on the list of Florida Politicians of the Decade: Bill Galvano

POTD_Bill Galvano
From school safety to toll roads, Galvano has had a lot of wins.

It’s easy to see why Bill Galvano deserves his place among the most influential Florida politicians of the decade. He is, after all, Florida’s last Senate President of the 2010s.

But Galvano’s tenure in the Florida Legislature, and his leadership roles, make him a dynamic politician who sticks by his conviction and leads as the ultimate statesman.

“Bill has played an indispensable role in leading Florida through some of the most difficult challenges facing Florida during the last 10 years, all while keeping his eye on the future needs of our state. He also leads with a great mix of grace, wisdom, and genuine care about people,” said former House Speaker Dean Cannon. “From negotiating the first-ever Seminole gaming compact, through responding to the Parkland tragedy, to crafting a vision for improved transportation corridors for Florida over the next 50 years, Bill combines the wisdom of a statesman, the negotiating skills of a great lawyer, and a deep love for our state and its people.”

Galvano entered his two-year term as Senate President on the heels of former Senate President Joe Negron (No. 17 on the list) who led the upper chamber with an iron fist. Answering that, Galvano pledged to be a “facilitator” in the Senate, empowering individual members to play a vital role in developing the agenda for his tenure.

“Within 90 seconds of meeting Bill Galvano in 2002, I knew he would be a great leader,” said former House Speaker Allan Bense. “I watched him rise to power over the years. He is thoughtful, deliberate, and an overall good person who enjoys the respect of members of both parties.”

That approach has earned Galvano a host of political wins, including one of his biggest recent priorities — school safety.

Galvano was integral in passing a sweeping school safety bill in 2018 that required safety officers in schools, increased mental health services, and funding for school hardening projects.

He led the Legislature again in 2019 to build on the previous year’s bill by expanding the controversial, though popular among his party, school “guardian” program that provides a pathway for qualifying school personnel to be armed. The new bill also put $75 million into school mental health services and strengthened school reporting requirements for threats on campus.

It was a top priority for Galvano and could have lasting implications for school safety procedures for years to come.

Galvano also prioritized toll roads.

His “Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance” proposal passed during the 2019 Legislative Session despite massive pushback from environmental groups that argued the new roads would threaten habitats in the rural areas they would bisect. Despite opposition, the bill received some bipartisan support with Democrats like Sens. Janet Cruz and Darryl Rouson voting in favor.

For supporters, including Galvano, the bill authorizing toll road projects expanding the Suncoast Parkway and Florida’s Turnpike and creating a new corridor between Polk and Collier counties was both an opportunity to encourage economic development and a key transportation enhancement to improve evacuation routes throughout the state as Florida continues to see intense storms during hurricane season that leave highways clogged.

The Polk to Collier County connection was also something of a throwback to former Sen. J.D. Alexander’s (No. 21 on the list) Heartland Parkway priority that had been stalled for years.

In addition to his legislative wins, Galvano also served as a crucial ally for Gov. Ron DeSantis and his first-year agenda, which aligned with Galvano’s school safety and transportation priorities. Galvano also helped DeSantis implement some clean water initiatives that came as a blissful surprise to many Democrats.

Galvano served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2002 until 2010. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and served as Senate Majority Leader from 2014 until 2016.

“Bill Galvano has not only been a friend for the last 20 years, he’s been a partner in championing policies that I believe have shaped Florida for the better,” says Jeb Bush. “He has been a transformative leader from his early days in the House and watching what he has done as Senate President only makes me all the prouder to call him friend. I am grateful for the work he has done to make our beloved state the envy of the country in so many ways.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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