Senator Passidomo to Serve as Senate President for the 2022-2024 Legislative Term
The Republican Caucus of the Florida Senate today unanimously selected Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) as the President-Designate for the 2022-2024 Legislative Term. Senator Passidomo’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.
Members, thank you so much for placing your trust in me to lead this Chamber. I am honored, humbled and almost speechless. As I look around this Chamber, it’s a lot to take in.
Thank you, President Simpson. I have incredibly big shoes to fill. You have been leading this Chamber with heart, conscience and a steady hand, mixed in with your special brand of humor and humility. I’m proud to be a member of your leadership team. It has been an amazing journey to serve with you and learn from you. And because of that, I’m a better Senator, a better leader and a better person.
Thank you, Senator Harrell and Senator Mayfield for your nominations. Your support is so meaningful to me, not only as you both are strong advocates for your community and leaders for our state, but more importantly, I’m proud to call you colleagues and friends.
Speaker Sprowls, thank you for being here today. It has been a privilege to work with you on a number of critical pieces of legislation over the last several years. I appreciate your willingness to listen to my oftentimes vigorous points of view with thoughtfulness and deliberation.
Speaker-Designate Renner, thank you, too, for coming today. It has been a joy to get to know you and discuss with you our shared view on the roles we are about to undertake. Every day I hear from Members of both Chambers that they believe we will make a great team. Of that I am confident. We share the same values and political philosophy. Your quiet wisdom will serve us well as we face as yet unknown challenges in the years ahead. Together, we’re going to accomplish great things for the state we know and love.
Thank you, Governor DeSantis. You are a strong leader in challenging times. And the Sunshine State is lucky to have you when we need you the most. I am constantly amazed at your laser focus on issues before you when distractions swirl around you. In the face of some very loud, politically motivated criticism, you stood firm and kept our state open. Now, we are well on the way to recovery. You are a force to be reckoned with, and I’m proud to serve with you.
Lt. Gov. Nunez, General Moody, CFO Patronis, former Presidents and former House and Senate colleagues who took the time to celebrate with us today, thank you so much for being here.
My team: Becky, Sandy, Sheri and Paul, I am so grateful for each of you. We have quite an operation, and one that I am really proud of. No call goes unanswered, no letter unresponded, no constituent issue unresolved. Thank you for all you do to serve District 28.
My law office team: My partners Chuck Kelly, Kyle Kelly and the entire staff are foregoing billable hours to share the day with me. I can’t thank you enough for everything you do to make me and our firm successful.
The gallery is full of many friends from my District who made the six and a half hour trek to Tallahassee to join us today. Thank you so much for coming.
Last, but not least, my family. Most of whom were unable to join us today, but I know are glued to their laptops on the Florida Channel to catch a glimpse of my dad, Alfonse Cinotti, who will be 99 in three months. Dad is the most vibrant, creative person I know. He taught me that the keys to success are working hard and giving back to our community. Both he and my mom, after whom I was named, taught me at an early age that the most important assets I would ever have are my reputation and my integrity… and that I must always keep my sense of humor. Those are the principles I live by and will continue to honor during my Senate Presidency.
My mom passed away last year, and she would have done anything to be here today, but she lives on through me… and my three daughters, Catarina, Francesca and Gabriella, who keep me grounded and often remind me that every life event can be found in a Seinfeld episode.
And to the love of my life, my husband and my best friend: John. He likes to say he is my biggest supporter and at the same time my biggest critic. We’ve been married 42 years, and I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else. Thank you for making it possible for me to serve this great state.
Humbled. There’s no better word to describe how I feel today. Members, I’m incredibly humbled to have earned your support and to be designated Florida’s next Senate President.
I’m also inspired to take on this new role. I’m inspired by the women who have led the Senate before me, President Gwen Margolis and President Toni Jennings.
President Jennings is unable to be here today, but she’s here with me in spirit. Last week, she sent me the beautiful Liberty Eagle pin I’m wearing today, the same pin she’s wearing in her portrait that now hangs in this chamber. This patriotic symbol has been worn by many women in leadership roles, First Ladies, Ambassadors, Senators and Congresswomen. I’m proud to honor President Jennings and join the ranks of the women leaders who have worn this symbol before me. I also want to thank President Jennings for her words of wisdom to me over the last several months. I’m honored that she is willing to share her perspective on her role as Senate President more than 20 years ago.
Leader Book: We came to the Senate together in 2016 and have built a strong relationship over the years. I am looking forward to working with you and the members of your Democratic caucus.
Members of the Republican caucus, thank you for your confidence in me. I will always have your back, and I’m ready to take on the challenge of leading this chamber in 2023 and 2024.
To all the members of the Florida Senate, I commit to you that every opportunity we take and every decision we make will be in the best interest of the people of Florida. If we do that, act in the best interest of the people of Florida, then we will have accomplished a great deal for our state.
Our state is at a critical moment in time. We’ve endured almost two years of a global pandemic. During the last two years, we’ve experienced great hardships and heartbreaking losses. Despite the challenges, hardships and losses, we’re well on our way to recovery. Florida remains open. Floridians are at work. Students are in the classroom. In Florida, we are far better off than other states across the nation. That’s because of the strong conservative leadership of Governor DeSantis, President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls. Florida’s leaders have been faced with unprecedented challenges during the last two years, and we were forced to make some difficult decisions. Doing what is right and what is in the best interest of our state is not always easy. But no one takes on a job like this because they think it will be easy. It’s hard work to balance the priorities of our state, meet the needs of our residents and preserve and protect what makes Florida so special.
Recently, my daughter, Catarina, shared with me a letter written by Kentuckian Lucian Beckner, during his visit to Naples, Florida, in 1889. It was re-printed last year in the Kentucky Explorer.
Beckner’s letter details his observations of my hometown nearly 150 years ago.
He said: “Everything grows finer, larger and longer than anywhere of which I have heard.”
“The woods are full of vegetables and game: cabbage palms, bananas, deer, turkey, quail, wildcats, bears, etc.”
“The Gulf was black with jack fish as far as one could see. People caught enough to last them a week.”
“The surf here is grand. I roll into the Gulf of Mexico whenever I feel like it and find the swimming very exhilarating.”
“We have quite a cultivated set of people at Naples. Three schools, a Sunday school, and a library.”
“This is a good place,” he said.
Many of his observations ring true today. Here in the Sunshine State, we are blessed. People still visit our state and write home about the beauty and wonder they observed.
Today, Florida is still home to world class beaches; now named the Fishing Capital of the World; the nation’s winter salad bowl, where farmers grow fresh food and produce that families across America will enjoy at their Thanksgiving tables; and, we are home to wonderful people. We’re a melting pot of cultures, ideas and innovations.
Today’s Florida offers even more than what Beckner observed more than 100 years ago. Today, Florida is: full of jobs and opportunity; the “go to” state for business relocation; a preeminent tourist destination; home to 20 major military installations and the most veteran friendly state in the nation; where students can get an excellent education and the opportunity for school choice; where homes and business can depend on affordable and reliable power; and where families can access high quality health care.
Like Beckner said, “this is a good place.” In my opinion, it’s the best place. The best place to visit, live, work, raise a family and retire.
An article I read recently also captured my attention. The July issue of The Atlantic ran a headline “The California Dream is Dying.” The author, Conor Friedersdorf, is a resident of California, and he wrote about the land that once inspired awe, but he believes now betrays the promise of the California Dream.
He assigns blame to the state’s leaders and residents who shut the door on economic opportunity.
“Millions of people lack adequate housing, education or jobs.”
“College-educated Millennials can’t afford homes of their own.”
“Poverty-stricken Californians dwell in growing tent cities.”
And there’s concrete evidence to support his observations. California K-12 public schools are ranked 40th in the country. Farmers have more land that is fallow than planted because they don’t have the water to irrigate it. California homes and businesses went in and out of the dark last summer due to lack of sufficient power supply, and many of California’s small businesses are closed and shuttered. CEOs have ranked California the worst state for businesses.
This is the tale of two states. Both offered natural beauty, plentiful food and the promise of great opportunities. For 100 years, people flocked to these two states to find a better life, to build a better career and to provide a better future for their children.
But in California, something went terribly wrong. No one fought to protect the California Dream. No one balanced the priorities of the state and worked to meet the needs of its residents, while preserving and protecting what made it special.
Here in Florida, the Florida Dream is alive and well. But we cannot take that for granted. We have to fight for the Florida Dream. We must foster economic growth so that there are jobs and opportunity. We must continue to strengthen our schools, colleges and universities, and the choices for families to pursue when it comes to education, so that our students have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
We must keep energy affordable and reliable. We must support our farmers, for they produce the food we eat and the nutrients we drink. We must demand affordable housing so that our workforce has a safe place to rest at night and care for their families. We must ensure that our health care system can care for the sick and injured. We must protect the vulnerable from bad actors who prey on them. And we must do all of this while protecting and preserving what makes Florida so special – its beauty, its land, its water and its wildlife. To do all of this – on a balanced budget – is hard work. It takes courage and collaboration. The Florida Dream is alive and well, and we’re going to fight to protect it. But we need to do it together.
I look forward to working with each and every one of you in the years ahead. I’m grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me. I will not let you or our state down. Thank you.