At only 38, Seth McKeel has already risen quickly up the Florida political ladder and is looking at moving even higher as a future bid for statewide office could be coming down the road.
McKeel ranks as one of the heavyweights in the Florida House. He chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee and he leads the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. The Polk County legislator will have a major say in crafting the state budget next year.
But McKeel has his sights on a bigger target. This week, reports emerged that McKeel is looking at running for state CFO in 2018 when Jeff Atwater faces term limits.
Its easy to see McKeel in the position. While he doesnt have the business leadership credentials of Atwater or Alex Sink, he clearly knows the budget process and how Tallahassee works. McKeel does have some experience in real estate which does impact a good part of the Florida economy. He also has deep ties to the business community in Lakeland.
But, if its easy to see him as CFO, its tough to see how McKeel remains in the public eye for four years as he waits for 2018. He faces term limits in 2014 and there are few viable options for him to remain in the public eye. If Rick Scott wins a second term next year, McKeel could get an appointment but that would take him away from his Polk County base. Fellow Republican Kelli Stargel blocks his rise to the Florida Senate and a congressional bid seems unlikely.
Still, McKeel has made a living out of defying the political odds. He was elected to the Lakeland City Commission back in 2000 when he was only 24. In 2006, McKeel was elected to the Florida House and, despite his youth, he has ascended through the Republican ranks serving as deputy GOP leader before taking over Appropriations.
While he currently represents only Polk County, McKeel used to represent part of Hillsborough County before redistricting early last year. With ties to the Tampa Bay area as well as Polk County, McKeel has a solid base which should come in handy come 2014. McKeel has also established himself as a proven fundraiser. If he runs for CFO in 2018, money shouldnt be a problem for McKeel.
McKeels certainly proven himself capable in Tallahassee and he is well-versed in state fiscal matters. McKeel has risen quickly and has proven himself a talented politician who is poised to shape Florida for decades to come. Still, it appears McKeels political talents will be put to the test as he looks to vault from the Florida House to statewide office after four years off the political stage.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.