After six years in the Florida Senate, Sen. George Gainer won’t seek re-election to Senate District 2.
The Panama City Republican, who was first elected to the Senate in 2016, announced his decision Monday on Panama City’s WMBB TV station, partially citing health reasons. His retirement will bring to a close a career of public service that spanned seven decades.
Gainer will turn 80 in August, three days ahead of his would-be Primary Election date. He also missed much of the first part of the 2022 Legislative Session for back surgery.
“It was just time,” Gainer told WMBB. “I need to spend a little time with family and with my friends and stuff that I enjoy doing, and there are a lot of very qualified, good people out there in the Second District.”
Gainer is eligible for one more term, which would have given him a total of 10 consecutive years in the Senate. Four more years would’ve been too much for him physically, he said.
“I may have a little separation anxiety, but it all comes back down to I know it’s the right thing,” he continued.
SD 2 currently covers Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties and part of Okaloosa County. With new district maps approved by lawmakers, inland Okaloosa County will join the neighboring Senate District 1, currently held by Gulf Breeze Republican Sen. Doug Broxson.
As a Senator, Gainer played a key role in advocating for his district after Hurricane Michael made landfall near Tyndall Air Force Base, just southeast of Panama City, in October 2018.
In 1968 at the age of 24, Gainer became the youngest person ever elected to the Bay County Board of Commissioners. He later returned to the Board of Commissioners in 2002.
“I knew this day would come one day,” Gainer told WJHG when he left the Board of Commissioners for the Senate. “I didn’t know if they’d carry me out feet first or if I’d walk out, but it has certainly been the thrill of my life and the reward of my life to serve all you fine people.”
Gainer ran unopposed in the SD 2 Primary and General Election in 2016. In 2018, he defeated Fort Walton Beach Democrat Mary Jeanne “Gigi” Gibson 75%-25% in the heavily Republican-leaning district.
House Appropriations Chairman Jay Trumbull, a fellow Panama City Republican, announced early Tuesday that he will run for Gainer’s seat.
Upon news of Gainer’s retirement, the tributes to his service began to ring out.
“(Senator Gainer) has a legacy of leadership and is a champion for Bay County and the Panhandle. I am honored to call him a mentor and friend. Every elected official in our region will continue to seek his counsel on issues important to Florida,” Trumbull tweeted.
Chief among them was from Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis:
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) June 6, 2022
Gov. Ron DeSantis followed suit Tuesday morning, bidding Gainer farewell and endorsing Trumbull:
Thanks to @SenatorGainer for years of outstanding service to the people of NW Florida. From business to politics, George Gainer has made big contributions to our state. Fair Winds and Following Seas!
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) June 7, 2022