It was a fitting end to two days of full-court press in Tallahassee.
Here was Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach, saying of Wilton Simpson, the Senate president, leading candidate to become next agriculture commissioner:
“He is Citrus County’s political sugar daddy.”
The two laughed and hugged like friends, which they are, and everyone in the room felt like Citrus County was a part of something, which it is.
While I had attended the annual Citrus County Legislative Days as a Chronicle reporter for many years, this was Just Wright Citrus’s debut. And what fun it was.
The perspective was totally different. No longer on the hook for story angles, I instead just took a look around to see what was going on.
And let me tell you something, this is a tremendous idea.
I took a bunch of notes but honestly there’s no need to get into all that. The group, a combination of business and political leaders, and the current Leadership Citrus class, heard Thursday from various agency directors or top assistants, and that was all very interesting.
But the true benefit of Citrus County Legislative Days is the networking that occurs between legislators, agency higher-ups and Citrus folks who made the trip.
Simpson, Rep. Ralph Massullo and lobbyist Gene McGee all said the same thing: Citrus makes its presence known in Tallahassee.
“People know Citrus County,” McGee said. “They know we are very involved and we care.”
Look, I can’t explain the magic of how this whole thing works. I just know it does. Citrus County sends elected officials, business leaders and ordinary folks to the state Legislature during session. They scatter for two days, meeting with decision-makers, proving their case.
And the legislators respond. A senator from South Florida who’s never visited Citrus County in his life is eager to approve millions of dollars each year for Lyngbya restoration projects in the Crystal and Homosassa rivers. Those commitments start with networking during trips such as Citrus County Legislative Days.
Props to the chamber of commerce for pulling this off. If you wonder what the chamber does all day, they’re advocating for Citrus County businesses and residents. Legislative Days is designed for that and more. Accolades are nice but muck isn’t scooped from King’s Bay for free.
The relationships Citrus Countians have built with Simpson, Massullo and agency directors who walk into a room and know chamber members by name pay off big time. I don’t need to know the details of how all that happens. I just know it does.
So one other thing about Legislative Days. On my drive to Tallahassee on Wednesday, I was interviewed by phone for Sunrise, a Florida Politics podcast hosted by Craig Kopp.
Here’s the link. The fun stuff starts at 5:38.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.