2015 turned out to be a record-breaking year for Neal Communities, with the company selling some 1,107 homes in the region from Hillsborough south through Collier counties. That’s just another feather in the cap for founder Pat Neal, an ex-state senator and major political player in the region as well. 

Photos by Wyatt Kostygan.


Good Luck Jeep In 1972 when I was a kid, I got a 1969 or ’70 Jaguar, and I immediately drove it into a sand pit off 34th Street; the first thing I did was bend the steering rod on a rock. It was a great Jaguar, but I knew then I needed a Jeep. I still have my 2003 “Good Luck Jeep.” It’s been through some hardships, including a collision with a backhoe, my one accident in my life. I was at Forest Creek in 2005 trying to get across a muddy spot, so I revved it up, got it up to 25 or 30 miles per hour and didn’t perceive there was something in the wet spot besides water. There was a trench, and it knocked the front of my Jeep off to one side.

David Behr I have followed Father Behr for years. He has a Bible interpretation every week, and when I read a Bible passage, I make sure to find out how he reads it. There is a huge amount of difference between the King James, the New International Version, etc. There are different ways to read the Bible. He just sends me and six other people his interpretations.

Ben Bernanke's Courage to Act  I’ve given his book to all my team members and written it into my 2018 and 2019 file. I did like the book very much. Bernanke has been criticized for his action, but what surprised me was almost the opposite. It took the entire financial universe almost two years to understand what happened in the recession. Being on the ground in the real estate business it was easy to see what happened.

Florida's Tax Watch My hobby is politics and public policy. There’s nobody else I know in the world who has all 800 pages of Dodd-Frank. I’m head of the state’s TaxWatch, which is Florida’s state tax and budget organization. I have all these big financial opinions. 

Biographies My very favorite thing is to read multiple biographies of the same person.  I must have read half a dozen Kennedy biographies and quite a few on Lyndon Johnson. I have read six books on Don Trump, all to get a different perspective.

Hiking in the Woods I just love every kind of woods. East pine flat woods, walking in wetlands. You just have to be careful. I hardly ever buy a piece of real estate without walking all around it. I usually walk the perimeter. I like the woods almost anywhere: Mount Zirkel National Wilderness Area, Colorado; Walnut Woods or The Ledges State Park in Iowa; Highlands Hammock State Park, Florida; Great Smokey Mountains National Park; Yosemite National Monument in California.

Curtis Peterson I mostly adopt mentors but don’t tell them they are my mentors. My mentor in the Florida Senate’s name was Curtis Peterson. He was solid, and he understood education finance better than anyone in the Florida Senate. 

Nic's Toggery Everything I wear is a suit, and I get the same size in grey or blue from Nic’s Toggery on Monroe Street in Tallahassee. I deal with Nic’s son, Victor Gavalas. I want a size 50—that’s a European size. I say, just pick me a classic blue or a classic gray.

Grandchildren My granddaughter Caitlin at age 7 is so smart. What’s amazing to me is she will take a Lego, look at a picture and assemble something without any guidance. She can put a jigsaw together crackerjack fast. My granddaughter Betsy is 9. When she sees me, she runs at me fast and hard and she jumps. She knows I will catch her, which was easy when she was 5 or 6. Now that she’s 9, it’s harder. 

Sunrise When I bought this building [Neal Communities headquarters] I intentionally took the office that faces east. I’m always here at sunrise, so east is always my favorite exposure. I prefer the mornings. Even though we are in a semi-urban environment, it is a beautiful view. The first flash of sunrise is gorgeous and it remains gorgeous until 11 o’clock. The only time I can find quietude is before the phone starts ringing at a quarter after 6am. I can get my whole day done by 8:30, and I do.