You may not know Mark Pudlow, but you've probably heard or read about him over the past couple of months.
The spokesman for Florida’s largest teachers union was a constant presence in the Capitol and in the news as he fought to defeat SB 6, which would have authorized teacher performance pay at public schools had it not been vetoed.
Pudlow set aside a few minutes to answer questions from Sunshine State News about his job and life.
What’s your title? Spokesman for the Florida Education Association
How old are you? 55
Where are you from and where do you live now? I live in Havana, Florida. I was born in Gary, Indiana, and I was raised in Miami.
Where did you go to college? I went to college at the University of Florida; graduated in the summer of 1976.
What was your major? Political science.
What did you do for a living before your current job? I worked for 16 years as, most of the time, the news editor of The Tallahassee Democrat. Between 1980 and 1996 … I never had to learn how to write a press release. I’d read hundreds of them by the time I got here.
What is the biggest success you’ve had in this job? For the last dozen or so years, we [the FEA] have been playing defense as much as anything. There’s been aggressive attempts to change public schools in Florida. I think the intention is good, to make sure that Florida kind of grows a little bit as far as public schools are concerned, but we haven’t always agreed with the methods.
As far as successes are concerned, I think the biggest success is in helping people understand the challenges that are in public education.
Most of the other successes we’ve had have been with blocking things. The voucher ruling that was in the courts a few years back, getting the veto of SB 6.
Those kinds of things are defensive successes. We wish there was more cooperation. Like the working group that is right now still working on Race to the Top applications.
Have you ever said something that put the FEA in a bad light? I’ve got to knock on wood here. I don’t believe I have. I worry about that every day. But I’ve got to tell you, I think I’ve been very, very fairly treated by the media.
I hear some of my colleagues sometimes talk about being misquoted. I’ve never been misquoted. Everything that’s ever been written about me has been something I said. Now, I’ve had situations where I wished that a reporter dealt with my main point, instead of the side point they did.
What was the best advice you’ve ever received about how to do your job? Return phone calls. Be available. Be honest. And I think just to try to do the best to help reporters do their job and to get the message out to the public.
Who is the person you most admire, dead or alive? Nelson Mandela. I‘ve always been fascinated by [apartheid] in South Africa; its parallels to our own development as a country. I think that he handled himself with incredible dignity, was able to keep himself together in prison. And when he came out, the way he led the country was, I thought, inspired.
I had a chance to see him. Right after he got out of prison, he came and he did a little tour of the United States. And we went up to Atlanta to see him, and it was really an amazing event.
What are your interests outside of work? I love music. Love music. So, every chance we try to go out and see shows.
There are very few forms of music I don’t like ... I always loved Springsteen. I’m a big fan of Marcus Roberts, a local piano player. I just think he’s tremendous.
We live out in the woods, 13 acres of hardwood forest in Gadsden County. So, I really just like sitting in the woods.
What was your most embarrassing moment in the capital? When I’m at home, watching television, when I’m watching Chris Matthews or whoever’s out there, I talk to the television.
And I find myself in the Capitol, feeling comfortable, I guess, to feel like I was at home. This session, somebody said something during the SB 6 debate, and I made a comment out loud. Thankfully, I was in the back of the room. I didn’t say it loud.