Senate honors Kathleen Passidomo, unveils official portrait and presents special 4-legged gift

President Passidmo Portrait and K9 Birdie
Senators honored Passidomo's work on creating a school canine program with none other than a new yellow lab to protect kids in Lee County Schools.

Senators unveiled the official portrait for outgoing Senate President Kathleen Passidomo during a traditional ceremony bidding farewell to outgoing leaders.

In addition to the official portrait, which will commemorate her time as Senate President, Senators also gifted Passidomo with a safe school canine in honor of her work developing Florida’s statewide Safe School Canine Program.

The gift is largely symbolic. The dog, named Birdie, is a two-year old yellow lab the Lee County Sheriff’s Office received last month who is currently under training. When Birdie completes her training, she will live with a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy and work alongside that deputy in Lee County Public Schools.

“With assistance from the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Senators purchased a safe school canine, making President Passidomo a Safe School Canine Partner,” said Senate Majority Leader Ben Albritton, who presented the gift to Passidomo alongside Senator Democratic Leader Lauren Book.

Birdie was on hand for the presentation along with her trainer, Sgt. Brian Walkowiak, and Florida Sheriff’s Association representative Matt Dunagan.

Passidomo wasn’t the only one to receive parting gifts this Session. The outgoing Senate President presented each Senator with a cookbook entitled, “Capitol Cuisine, Favorite Flavors of the Florida Senate.” It includes a local or family recipe from each Senate as well as personal and family recipes from Passidomo. Passidomo loves cooking and includes tips and tricks along with her own recipes, which have a Florida and Italian flare, in the book.

The Florida Safe Schools Canine Program was established after the 2023 Legislative Session under Passidomo’s leadership. It designates a person, school or business as a Florida Safe Schools Canine Partner who pays for or raises funds for a law enforcement agency to purchase, train or care for a firearm detection dog.

The cost to purchase and train a firearm safety canine runs from $8,000 to $15,000.

Passidomo’s husband, John Passidomo, was on hand for the ceremony, including the portrait unveiling. It will hang in the Senate Chamber for 100 years before being retired to the Historic Capitol and, eventually, the state archives.

Steven Davis of Leon Loard Commissioned Portraits created Passidomo’s portrait. He also completed portraits for Senate Presidents Toni Jennings, Tom Lee, Ken Pruitt, Jeff Atwater, Mike Gaetz, Andy Gardiner, Joe Negron, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson. In her portrait, Passidomo is wearing a liberty eagle lapel pin given to her by Jennings, which the former Senate President wore in her own portrait.

Also during the portrait ceremony, the Senate retired the portrait of former Senate President John Stansel Taylor Sr., who was President for the 1925 Session and is credited for work incorporating the city of Largo and introducing bills encouraging growth in his native Pinellas County. He left the Senate in 1927 and passed away in 1936.

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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