A Goodbye to Galvano

Under The Hood

Mornings in the Florida Senate the past couple weeks have been partly consumed by farewell videos and well wishes to outgoing Senators. Such a goodbye for Senate President Bill Galvano stretched into the afternoon.

In a special event that included the unveiling of a portrait to hanged permanently on the Senate walls. A video set to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” flicked through a series photos of the Bradenton Republican working within the Florida Senate over the past eight years. Manatee voters know he also worked in the House eight years, holding significant leadership positions in that chamber as well.

The love fest in Senate came from colleagues. But there’s also a mix of well wishes and certain anxiety from locals on the Gulf Coast. State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, captured those fairly well. Gruters was elected to the Chamber in 2018, and has heavily leaned on his high-ranking neighbor.

“I probably had the most successful freshman senate take out of the budget in the history of Senate,” Gruters jokes. “So many projects had my name— but they weren’t really under my name. They were under Bill Galvano's name.” As Senate President, Galvano doesn’t carry local spending bill— but everyone knows his priorities. That’s helped bring everything from transit dollars to millions for red tide research at Mote Marine.

“After this year, we are going over a cliff,” Gruters openly fretted to Galvano on the floor. “I don’t now how we will ever pull our nose up and help our area more than you helped our area.”

The local advocacy hasn’t always come as forcefully as some would like. The entire regional delegation found themselves scratching their heads as they forcefully condemned a proposal to strip New College of its independence while Galvano publicly entertained the suggestion. He asserted at the time he had always tried to protect the school, and needed to hear the plan out to see if it in fact would be helpful to merge the school into another. But in the end, Galvano was able to kill the plan with the finality of a gavel smashing a bug. Though of course he did so with signature civility.

In Tallahassee, he’s held in as high regard for his congeniality as any political agenda— though he’s advanced a more conservative than many red meat chewing predecessors could achieve despite leading larger GOP majorities.

But even Democratic colleagues praised the way Galvano led through empowering colleagues. Sen. Audrey Gibson, Senate Democratic Leader, spent most of 2018 trying to win a majority in the chamber and deny Galvano his gavel. The unveiling of a Senate portrait of Galvano was whistful and bittersweet for someone who worked hard to get her own face on the wall but fell short.

“But this could not have happened to a better man than President Galvano,” she said.

Senator from both sides of the aisle testified how Galvano had worked with everyone. President Pro Tem David Simmons, R-Longwood, described a “Golden Age” under Galvano.

“The promise he made to each one of us, he fulfilled,” Simmons said. “That was the opportunity for you to be the senator you desire to be and to fulfill the goals and aspirations you have here in the Senate.”

Galvano has brushed aside questions about his political future.

“I’m playing the hole I’m on,” Galvano told me when I asked before Session began what he would do next. It’s advice his father, golf pro Phil Galvano, used to shell out on the golf course but which the younger Galvano has employed throughout his political career.

But it seems unlikely at 53 years old (Sen. Bill Montford compared the presiden officer to a GQ model) will stay out of politics forever. The question now seems to be what course he plays on next.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.

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