Meet Mike Hill: Florida's Newest Legislator, 'Free-Market Capitalist Zealot'
Around the State
Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola
Date of Birth: June 2, 1958
Birthplace: Scott Air Force Base
Education: University of West Florida, Master of Business Administration
Occupation: Insurance Agent, Consultant
Previous Public Office: None.
Family: Wife, three children
Did you know? Was a former heavy-weight boxer while in the Air Force: "My record was 8-1; my only loss was to the heavyweight champion; the next year we had a re-match, and that was the only loss of his career."
When Pensacola's Mike Hill soared to an easy electoral victory in Tuesday night's special election to replace the late Rep. Clay Ford, he did more than become Florida's newest legislator: he made history, becoming the Panhandle's first black Republican elected to the Legislature in 126 years.
“Of course it's an honor to be able to make history, but for me it really is a non-issue,” Hill tells Sunshine State News, in his first post-election interview. “I like to instead be thought of, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, not for the color of my skin but the content of my character. I was elected because the people saw someone who was committed to the conservative values of limited government, lower taxes, personal freedom, and individual responsibility.”
Convincing the conservative voters of House District 2, which includes parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, that he was the best man to represent those values in Tallahassee was key to Hill's hard-fought primary campaign, noted for Hill's meteoric rise in the face of five Republican challengers, a couple of them entrenched in the local political establishment and enjoying much wider name recognition than his.
“My constituents wanted someone with the courage to want to stand up for good public policy, even if it means you're flying in the face of special interests, and then to have that character that is based on a foundation of the Bible,” Hill says. “I truly believe that's why the constituents here voted for me, not because of the color of my skin.”
Hill cites the example of his father, who served for 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, as a formative influence on him. Hill himself served in the Air Force for 10 years, from 1980 to 1990, voluntarily parting company with an honorable discharge to start his own State Farm Insurance business in Fort Walton Beach. In 1995, State Farm offered to purchase his business and hire him on as a consultant; he accepted, and has lived in Pensacola ever since.
The first person in his family to take an interest in politics, he's spent the last several years founding and heading the Northwest Florida Tea Party and serving on the boards of Integrity Florida (a bipartisan government accountability watchdog) and the Florida chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.
“Honestly, I just see it as a continuation of my wanting to serve my country,” Hill says, when asked what motivated him to run for office. “I served [my country] as a military officer, and I consider my State Farm agency as a service – every customer whom I helped with a policy. ... I see politics as just another extension of that, to be able to serve even more people in my district; and now, being a state representative, I actually get to serve the people throughout the state of Florida. I just consider it an extension of being a servant-leader. That's been my heart's desire as long as I can remember.”
It's impossible to speak with Hill for any considerable length without him referring – always gently and matter-of-factly – to his deep religious faith, a devotion he unabashedly admits underpins everything he approaches, including politics.
“I was raised a Christian by my parents for as long as I could remember ... I was at a very young age, 13, when I came to know Jesus as my personal savior,” he recounts in a tone both fond and solemn. “That's my foundation for every decision that I make; the decisions I make are based on the principles of the Christian faith.”
The 2014 legislative session many be nearly a year away, but Hill's wasted no time outlining his agenda: repealing as many taxes and regulations as he humanly can.
“I am a free-market capitalist zealot,” he proudly exclaims. “It has been proven, in the crucible of world history, that when free-market capitalism is allowed to operate, then that community, that people, that country prospers.”
With that in mind, he plans to introduce legislation reducing various state fees – e.g., vehicle registrations, driver's license and plate renewals – to what they were before 2009.
“I want to repeal that, take it back to where it was before, cut those rates in half, and now, immediately, across the state every Floridian has a tax break and more money that they can keep in their pockets,” he tells SSN. “I'm going to go through the books and see what I can get rid of.”
He also wants to eliminate all regulations that impose price controls on the business community.
“There is some need for regulation, to make sure that contracts are honored, to make sure there's no fraud, to make sure people are treated properly,” he says. “However, when it gets beyond that, into the transactions between the customer and the company itself, that's where I think the state needs to get out of the way.
“We have proven in our own history that price-fixing does not work; we saw it in the railroad industry, we saw it in the airline industry, we saw it in the gas industry,” he continues. “Wherever you have price-fixing, eventually you create a shortage, and eventually that drives prices up. That's Economics 101.”
More generally, Hill says he hopes to live up to the legacy left by his predecessor in office, the late Rep, Clay Ford, the staunch conservative whose passing in March paved the way for the special election that launched his successor's political career. Hill became much better acquainted with Ford in the months shortly before he passed away: they met at a mutual friend's wedding, enjoyed "quite a bit" of conversation, and Ford even invited Hill to dinner for his home: "He and I prayed together on couple of occasions," Hill warmly recounts.
Asked if he considers his public service a continuation of Ford's, Hill balks at the comparison.
"Those are big shoes to fill; If I can only do a portion, a measure of what he did, that would be outstanding," he tells SSN. "My desire is to serve in the capacity that he did and at least try to match it . . . but those are big shoes to fill."
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (954) 235-9116.