Jason Shoaf tallies wins for rural Florida, helped shift higher education policy
Image via Jason Shoaf.

He secured funding for Apalachicola Bay and developed a formula to fund technical centers.

In many rural counties along Florida’s Big Bend, state Rep. Jason Shoaf serves as a House delegation of one. But that didn’t stop him from successfully bringing appropriations back to his communities this Legislative Session.

The Port St. Joe Republican is credited with much success in communities throughout the 11 counties in House District 7. He has little doubt, as the sole Representative for nine of those counties, that he’s hearing what constituents want. But he also communicates with his colleagues and knows what they need to hear.

“I try and make sure my fellow representatives understand and are educated on what life is like and what we face in rural communities,” Shoaf said. “If I do my job, I get broad support for those programs. That’s something I work at and will continue to work at moving forward.”

The Florida Legislature delivered for rural Florida in many ways this year. That included budgeting $100 million for rural broadband expansion. Much of that will help better connect many of Shoaf’s constituents. The region also expects to benefit from millions of rural economic development grants approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Shoaf also feels especially proud of the funding secured for water quality projects in Apalachicola Bay. That Franklin County project will benefit not only constituents in the small Florida county but those relishing seafood across the country.

“That will have a huge impact on the region, and even the nation,” he said. “Apalachicola Bay is an area of critical concern. We’ve seen the oyster population decimated. It’s been impacted by water flow from Georgia and all sorts of issues.”

That single water body once supplied 10% of all oysters consumed nationwide, but populations started to sharply dwindle a decade ago. In 2020, the state outlawed harvesting oysters from the water body and has spent years since seeking ways to replenish the population.

The Legislature this year passed a bill (HB 407) that authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to enter a financial partnership with the City of Apalachicola to clean up the groundwater and surface water. Rather than just approving a one-time budget appropriation, the bill authorizes $5 million in state spending each year through 2028.

Of course, not all the work by Shoaf this year dealt specifically with local challenges. The lawmaker chaired the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee this Session, overseeing the budget for Florida’s colleges and universities. Ultimately, DeSantis signed a budget with $8.4 billion for higher education.

Much of that will benefit Shoaf’s constituents directly. The budget included a number of workforce-focused expenditures to address talent shortages in the economy. For example, Florida suffers from a shortage in trained nurses, a deficit that’s especially acute in rural areas.

Shoaf said he’s personally most excited to fully fund technical centers for colleges and school districts around the state. He worked closely with House Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, on developing a funding formula that would help every center receive 100% of requested resources.

All of this should help his communities build up stronger economies. Support is important in fiscally constrained counties that can’t “tax their way” to prosperity simply because they lack the tax base to do so.

“And in North Florida, you’ve got to remember we are competing with regional competition not just in Florida, but with Georgia and Alabama, constantly,” he said.

Beyond pure dollars, Shoaf also feels the Florida Legislature advanced a “bold education agenda” that guarantees students receive the right knowledge to succeed once they graduate from Florida’s institutions.

“It’s important to my constituents that we don’t teach kids what to think, we teach them how to think,” Shoaf said. “My twin 14-year-olds may decide to go to college in Florida, and I don’t want them to go to a publicly funded school that teaches them this is the ideology you should believe in. I want a school to teach them how to critically think.”

Critics have suggested that under DeSantis, things in fact moved in the opposite direction, as he has outlawed instruction on topics such as critical race theory and taken gender studies out of university curriculums. He’s also pushed college and university leaders to install ideological allies in leadership positions at public universities and colleges.

Shoaf said the controversy is part of shaping public policy.

“In every circumstance of major policy changes, people feel certain things or worry certain things will happen,” Shoaf said. “Let’s watch and let them (Florida’s higher education institutions) do their thing. We made sure they had all the support they needed to be successful. Once they get some road underneath their tires, we’ll see if those critics still have a problem.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Earl Pitts "Political Genetic Scientist" American

    July 17, 2023 at 8:57 am

    Mr. Shoaf is a true man of the people.
    There is another political party, which Jason does not belong to, in which, statistically the best interests of the people are not a top consideration.
    Jason’s Florida House District is in a very good place with Jason “In The House” looking out for all of his constituancy’s best interests regardless of which political party his constituants belong to.
    Fun Fact:
    There are online methods available, not just to polititians, but also to the general public to determine which political party a constituant is registared with.
    I’m wagering that if a constituant requests help from Jason’s office the request is addressed based on “the merit of the request” without first determining which political party the constituant belongs to.
    Full Disclosure:
    Florida did have a rare Democrat politition of great integrity who ran his position of public service in the same honest and correct methodoligy adopted by Jason. But Democratic politicians like Bill Montford have passed the “endangered species” classification and are most likely extinct.
    Is There Any Hope?
    Short answer – Yes:
    There are still urban legends, whispered around campfires, with everyone’s cell phones turned off and placed in a lock-box, that a few honest Democratic politicans have been spotted in the wild lands of some smaller City and County governments located deep in the rural North Florida Panhandle. But no photographic evidence, as of yet, has been collected.
    Public Assistance is Requested:
    If anyone spots an honest Democratic Politition The “Earl Pitts Captive Breeding Initiave Team” requests to be notified. We have a safe and harmless process in place to capture, breed, and humainly release these honest Democratic Politicians in an enviornmentally safe effort to save this rare species which is tetering on the brink of extinction. Our catch and release team has bases in various locations across the Florida Panhandle and can arrive at any location in 37 minutes or less. Just let us know if you spot an honest Democratic Politition – right here at our beloved and benevolant host, F. P ‘s, comment section – and we will roll out immediatly.
    Thank you for your help in this noble cause,
    Earl Pitts, “Political Genetic Scientist” American

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  • MH/Duuuval

    July 17, 2023 at 9:38 am

    Someone should point out to Jason that lawmakers in NC recently approved Medicaid expansion — leaving only 10 states as FREE of expanded health care.

    The solons in NC realized that Medicaid expansion would bring additional funding for RURAL hospitals and medical services.

  • ScienceBLVR

    July 17, 2023 at 10:35 am

    Beyond pure dollars, Shoaf also feels the Florida Legislature advanced a “bold education agenda” that guarantees students receive the right knowledge to succeed once they graduate from Florida’s institutions. You know, I sure don’t want Shoaf or the Moms “against “ Liberty, deciding what the “Right” knowledge is. Seems to this retired educator, the Fl legislatures is doing everything it can to limit knowledge, to only let kids think the “Right” way. And locally as well as globally, it puts our students at an incredible disadvantage for future success.

Comments are closed.


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