- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli are beginning their first legislative session as their chambers’ leaders with a unified front and much in common.

Both are conservative Republicans with business backgrounds who list faith and family among their highest values. Gardiner is considered “old Orlando” - where his family has lived since World War I ended. Crisafulli’s family is old Florida, having ranched and farmed here for decades before air conditioning and mosquito control led to the state’s population boom.

To show they planned to approach the session with a spirit of cooperation, they recently appeared together to talk with reporters about their shared priorities, including water resource issues, tax cuts and helping families with special needs children, a topic that’s dear to Gardiner and his wife Camille, who have a son with Down syndrome.

The Associated Press interviewed each separately about their backgrounds, priorities, personalities and leadership styles. Here’s what they had to say:


What do you want Floridians to know about you?

Crisafulli: “First and foremost I want them to know I have a great interest in the state because of the history of my family and the contributions they’ve made before me. I think the least I can do in this role is to continue to work to better our state. My family has been here for many a generation. I’m seventh generation and we’ve been here for eight now with my kids.”

Gardiner: “I’ve done this since 2000, so I’ve seen a lot of styles. I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in leadership and what works and what doesn’t. I want to enjoy this. For me this is it. I’m going home after this and looking forward to going home. So I want to try to do my best and walk out the door and say, ‘You know what, I gave it my all and members did what they thought was the right thing to do.”


What is the one bill you are most proud of passing?

Crisafulli said a 2010 bill that allows the House speaker or Senate president to request additional cost/benefit analysis of pending legislation. “It put into play a business approach to the appropriations process.”

Gardiner said a 2013 bill that requires schools to involve parents in the development of individual education plans for special needs students and to have them sign-off on the plan. It also requires more inclusion in regular classroom activity. “They have to be included in as much of that classroom as you possibly can. You can’t have them at a separate location and bring in that child with a disability for art and then send them back.”


What are your 2015 priorities?

Crisafulli listed water resources, implementing Amendment 1, which requires the state to spend money on the environment, and streamlining business regulations. “It’s making sure that government isn’t the intrusion into business and what’s keeping them from being successful, which is ultimately what brought me here … realizing I was spending more time solving problems for our business in government offices than I was in my own.”

Gardiner listed implementing Amendment 1, tax cuts and helping families with special needs children. “If I can leave here where we have laid out a playbook for every family that’s on that journey, whether it’s a severe ability issue or just speech therapy or whatever it is. Hey Mom and Dad or child - if you just do all this stuff, the state’s your partner. We’re going to work with you.”


Describe your leadership style.

Crisafulli: “I believe that you’re only as good as the people that work for you in business, and in this business you’re only as good as the members that you sit with. Working with our members to have a member-driven process is more so my approach to this position.”

Gardiner: “I’d like to think I have a pretty healthy respect for the process and the members and letting the members drive this. I talk a lot to my colleagues about servant leadership and empowering others.”


What’s your favorite place in Florida outside your district?

Crisafulli: “The mid-Keys. Fishing, being on the water. Somewhere quiet. Key West is not my style.”

Gardiner: “Anything on the coast. We enjoy the beaches. New Smyrna Beach - we go there to see my mom and dad. They have a little place there. That was always the beach we went to when I grew up.”


Who’s your favorite author?

Crisafulli: “Patrick Smith, ‘A Land Remembered.’ It just kind of reminds me of my family and more so just the way they had to grow up in this state. It was a tough place to farm, it was a tough place to bring your families up in. I think that book captures the essence of the history of Florida.”

Gardiner: “I’ve always enjoyed the David McCullough books. The historical perspective has always been real good.” He said his favorite fiction author is Vince Flynn.


Who is your favorite musician or band?

Crisafulli: “Michael Buble. If you asked me this in high school it was New Order or Nine Inch Nails.”

Gardiner: “Frank Sinatra. I love older music. Camille and I actually saw Frank Sinatra in concert when we were dating. My XM radio choices and things like that tend to be the Forties station and older music but I like a little bit of everything.”

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