Meet Mike Hill: Florida's Newest Legislator, 'Free-Market Capitalist Zealot'

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: June 17, 2013 5:37 AM


Mike Hill and family

Mike Hill (second from right) and his family

Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola

Date of Birth: June 2, 1958
Birthplace: Scott Air Force Base
Residence: Pensacola
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 egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116. 

Comments (5)

6:25PM JUN 17TH 2013
I don't know what he can do as a Florida legislator, but as the founder and head of the Northwest Florida Tea Party, I'd love to see him take on sugar subsidies, as well as stopping the government from buying their surplus to keep the prices up so they can pay back their government loans. Nothing free market about that business at all and here in Florida, sugar farmers are destroying the livelihoods of others by polluting the water they depend on to make their living as well as hurting the property values of waterfront homeowners.
12:24PM JUN 17TH 2013
great to see a Republican like Mike Hill fighting for us in Tallahassee!
10:13AM JUN 17TH 2013
Another rentier class pretending to love the "free market" so long as the laws require the purchase of his product. Then that thing about having been in the service a long time thus being paid by the taxpayers who also no doubt paid for his mis education.
12:43PM JUN 17TH 2013
What 'laws' has he proposed that requires citizens to purchase 'his product'. That would be Obama and Obamacare.

Nice dig at his military service. I find that particularly appalling, esp since I am a Mom of a Marine. We have an all volunteer military. Did you chose to serve or just a coward who likes others to be on the front line so you can enjoy the 1st Amendment and spew your hate?
10:26PM JUN 17TH 2013
Why yes Insurance agents are all of the rentier class. They have made sure legislation of all kinds including Obamacare/ACA does de jure or de facto compel you to buy their product and moreover that the terms of the contract for those services are to their favor.If you are going to wave the bloody rag you should at least have a clue. I did not serve in the active duty military. I did in the past keep one and likely 2 Marines from being shot by a third Marine in an off base, off duty altercation. One of the 2 was a good friend going back to High School and the other was his best friend from basic and through Vietnam and afterward. Between the 2 of them 2 Silver Stars, 2 Bronze Stars and 5 Purple Hearts. They both told me they would not have had the balls to do what I did to get them out of their tight. My friend went on to 24 years active duty over a 30 year period with hot duty in Somalia and Gulf War 1 as well as joint exercises with over 20 Allied and not quite Allied, Pakistan as an example , forces and thus some off the record firefights along the way.Both of them received service connected disability payments and both constantly schemed , as well as many of their compatriots, to get higher disability certification. They would get really pissed when I pointed out that the military was the most socialist aspect of American government and the Marines the most socialist of the bunch with the no sign of rank in combat being an obvious indicator. I would also remind them a lot of the physical ailments they claimed in trying to up their disabilty were the same ones I had which in both cases were at least far more age and active lifestyle related rather than preponderately service related and I was not getting nor was I trying to get any sort of disabilty certification. Happy your son chose, there is that magic word, to serve and hope he did not or does not end up with any adverse consequences from his service.

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