Politics

Andy Gardiner Officially Named Next Florida Senate President

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: December 10, 2013 6:15 PM
Andy Gardiner

Andy Gardiner

On Tuesday, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, was unanimously chosen by Republicans in the Florida Senate to become the next president of the chamber. Gardiner, who had sealed up the position months ago, will take over from current Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, after the 2014 elections.

Gardiner spoke on Tuesday after being designated the next Senate president and focused on the economy.

“Florida’s economy appears to be on a steady uphill climb,” Gardiner said. “We made many difficult choices to help Florida reach this point and as our economy improves, we must work to set the stage for long-term recovery.

“Recognizing that our economy is linked to tourism, and tourism to our natural resources, it's important that we come together to develop a better strategy to address water management and environmental conservation,” Gardiner added. “Additionally, we must further our work to link education to the realities of the economy for all Floridians by empowering those among us with unique challenges. Whether your personal life journey started with a unique challenge that most others do not face, or includes starting over after coming home from military service, or aging out of foster care, we in public service should not endeavor to carry you on our journey but to clear your path of obstacles. It is my hope, before I leave this great institution, we will provide the funding and a road map to people and families with unique challenges from birth to college and beyond.”

Despite his efforts to ensure Gardiner would not be replacing him as president, Gaetz had kind words for him on Tuesday.

“After joining the Senate, Andy quickly became a central leader within the Republican caucus, exhibiting the leadership skills and personal integrity necessary to handle even the most daunting challenges,” said Gaetz. “He is fiercely dedicated to his constituents and guided by a strong conscience and depth of compassion for others. There is no doubt under his leadership the Senate will continue to make policy choices that keep Florida on the path to economic recovery.”

Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, also had warm words for Gardiner, calling him a “compassionate conservative,” a phrase usually associated with former President George W. Bush.

“For years, Senator Gardiner has been a strong leader in the Florida Legislature,” said Benacquisto. “His compassionate conservative ideology has earned the respect and support of his colleagues and constituents, and I am confident his guidance will empower the Senate to make principled decisions for our great state.”

Gardiner first came to Tallahassee as a member of the House. Rising up to become GOP leader in the House, Gardiner was elected to the Senate in 2008 and moved into that chamber’s leadership as whip and, eventually, Republican leader.

Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is scheduled to lead his chamber during Gardiner’s term as Senate president. Crisafulli praised Gardiner on Tuesday.

“I extend my congratulations and best wishes to my friend and colleague in the Florida Legislature, Senator Andy Gardiner, on his official designation today as the next president of the Florida Senate,” Crisafulli said. “Andy is a proven leader and has remained a strong, principled voice for his constituents throughout his time in the Legislature. Not only do we both represent Brevard County in our districts, most importantly we share the same values and a steadfast commitment to making Florida an even better state for future generations. I look forward to the years we will work together as leaders of this Legislature and to the good public policy we will advance during that time.”

Leaders from the business community also cheered Gardiner’s designation. Noting Gardiner had led the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce, Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, sent out a memo on Tuesday praising the Central Florida Republican.

“As I’ve said before, four out of five jobs will be created by small businesses, and these are the very types of businesses that are members of local and state chambers of commerce,” Wilson wrote. “Senator Gardiner was an impressive local chamber leader, and his knowledge of small businesses and community building has proven to be a perfect background to lead the Florida Senate during 2014-2016.

“For more than 10 years, both in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, I’ve had the privilege of working with Senator Gardiner in support of jobs and job creators,” Wilson continued. “In fact, when Senator Gardiner served as majority leader in the House of Representatives under former Florida Chamber Chair and House Speaker Allan Bense, then Representative Gardiner helped marshal the votes to pass one of Florida’s most sweeping legal reform bills – the repeal of joint and several liability. Senator Gardiner has championed the Florida Chamber’s agenda for jobs throughout his legislative career, and has repeatedly received an ‘A’ on our Legislative Report Card. For his efforts to make Florida more competitive, Florida Chamber members have honored him on multiple occasions with our prestigious Distinguished Advocate award.”

Gardiner said he was “humbled by the vote of confidence today” and promised to spend the next year getting ready to lead the Senate.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and particularly for the chance to use this next year to continue to learn and prepare for the responsibilities of the Senate presidency,” Gardiner said. “I take these responsibilities, as well as my duties to my caucus, very seriously.”



Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.


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