Clovis Watson: Former Bodybuilder to Get Tough on Election Shenanigans, Lying to Police
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Education: Mountain State University, Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies and Public Administration; Northcentral University, Master of Business Administration
Previous Public Office: City Manager of Alachua, 2002-2009
Family: Five adult sons
Did you know? Former bodybuilder and self-styled "cool nerd"; named "Mr. Gainesville" in 1982 and was a finalist for "Mr. Florida" in 1983, the same year he qualified to compete for the title of "Mr. America"; all but one of his sons has continued the tradition.
Alachua and Marion counties' only Democratic representative has filed just two of his own bills for the 2013 session, insisting that being a good legislator is about quality, not quantity.
"My goal is to come to the Legislature and look at creative ways to be effective; just putting in a bill just for the sake of putting in a bill is not going to be my method," freshman Rep. Clovis Watson, D-Alachua, tells Sunshine State News. "There will be times i will file six bills, there will be times I put in only one, and times I might put in two or three.
"I will co-sponsor bills I think will be good and effective, and I will also make sure I vote for bills that I think are good for Florida when I'm on the House floor."
Alachua's city manager from 2002, Watson resigned his seat in 2009 with the express intention of running for the House in 2012, deciding it was time for him to continue his service on the electoral side of politics.
"During my time as a city manager, often I wanted to be in a position to set policy as opposed to implementing policy that's set by other elected officials," he explains. "I've long wanted to run for public office to be in the arena, to address a lot of the important issues that we face in Florida."
Those issues, he says, include addressing the state's unemployment and underemployment rate, and bringing "clean businesses" to Florida which pay employees a "living wage."
"If you want to bring pride to a family, you need to give employees an opportunity to have a living wage, where they can take care of their families and get the appropriate education," he says. "Those two things -- a living wage and a good education -- need to come together if a community is going to thrive."
His HB 723 ("State Employees") partially addresses this, at least where state legislative employees are concerned. The bill would require that state agencies draft rules which give hiring preference to legislative aides and district secretaries whose bosses left office due to death, resignation, loss of election, or term limits.
"Often these particular employees are at the mercy of the elections process," Watson explains. "I just think this provides a fair process, fair because our [legislative] employees are not in control of their fate when it comes to job retention."
His second bill, HB 611 ("False Reports to Law Enforcement Officers"), would increase currently existing criminal penalties for lying to a police officer about information concerning alleged commission of a crime. It's an issue close to Watson's heart, since he's a former police officer himself.
"We're not looking at this as a punitive measure; hopefully, it would just make people think twice before they lie to our officers," he insists, saying he believes most people who lie to police don't do so from malice, but from a lack of appreciation of how seriously their misinformation can disrupt an investigation. "Often, these lies cause time delays that hinder a case and make it much more difficult, and time is very valuable when an investigation is happening, particularly when you're looking for, say, a missing child."
Asked what his other priorities are for the 2013 session, he points to two of the seven bills he is co-sponsoring, one (HJR 139, "Minimum Salaries for New and Experienced Full-Time Teachers in Public Schools") which proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution setting minimum pay standards for new public school teachers, and another (HB 25, "Elections") which would undo the electoral reforms passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature in 2011.
Watson's been elected the vice chairman of the Alachua County state legislative delegation, despite being that body's only Democrat, an appointment he says signals the bipartisan atmosphere currently prevailing in the state Legislature. Saying it is "critical to collaborate," along party lines, he expresses satisfaction that the Senate companion to HB 611 is being sponsored by Republican Charlie Dean of Inverness.
"Hopefully, we can do other nonpartisan bills," he tells SSN. "Like taking care of our teachers, taking care of our public safety personnel and making sure we are a good state for election laws, so that people will see that Florida can get it right."
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (954) 235-9116.