Commentary: From Ponte Vedra to Tallahassee: A local perspective of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ inauguration

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                When the former mayor of Jacksonville, John Peyton, called me in 2012 and asked me to meet with a young candidate running for Congress in my district in the primary, I said yes.

             I asked Ron DeSantis if he would meet me in my home, and after a few hours talking about his beliefs at my dining room table, I was on board. Ron DeSantis was elected in 2012 to Congress and in six years represented us admirably.

            I never could have envisioned that in 2012, this young man would in just seven years become the youngest governor of Florida in more than a century and the first governor elected from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

            On Jan. 8, I, along with many supporters from Ponte Vedra Beach and Jacksonville, attended the swearing in of Gov. Ron DeSantis. So many people throughout our state helped make this happen. Campaign manager Susie Wiles, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, brought the candidate home to a great win in a contest of ideas amid a robust effort on both sides.

            “It was an honor to lead a fine group of talented, hardworking people who worked hard to elect Ron DeSantis and Jeanette Nunez,” Wiles said. “They will do Florida Proud!”

            It is important to note that Susie Wiles helped lead the victory of underdog Rick Scott when he first ran for governor and Donald Trump for president as the campaign manager for Florida.

            Cindy Graves, former chair of the Duval County Republican Party and Republican Women Club president, was the invited speaker on Monday, Jan. 7 as part of the inauguration events honoring women at a breakfast titled, “Women Transforming Florida: A Tribute Breakfast.” Cindy energized the audience and praised the women around our state who accepted the call to volunteer during the campaign.

            Nancy McGowan, state chairwomen of Women for Ron and fundraiser for DeSantis, organized the Ponte Vedra/Jacksonville contingent and helped arrange our reservations at the Governors Inn and organized a dinner she and her husband Ted hosted the evening before the inauguration.

            The Governors Inn, located a half a block from the Capitol, was the perfect location! Our group was not the only people who thought so. Upon arriving on Sunday, I met the entire Jeanette Nunez clan, who were in Tallahassee for the inauguration of Florida’s first Hispanic female lieutenant governor. It was wonderful to see this beautiful family celebrate this historic occasion.

            The celebration of the McGowan’s pre-inaugural dinner began with a group photo with Mr. & Mrs. DeSantis (the governor elect’s parents) who were also staying at the Governors Inn.  The dinner followed with an invite extended by Ponte Vedra Plastic surgeon Dr. Cayce Rumsey to watch his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide in the championship game at the Governors Inn with an afterparty.

            On Jan. 8 at 11 a.m., we all convened at the State Capitol for the swearing in of Florida’s 45th Governor Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and their cabinet. Our new First lady Casey DeSantis, holding 8-month-old son Mason, stood by her husband’s side as he was sworn in. In attendance that day were over 3,000 supporters and dignitaries and former governors including outgoing Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush, who was greeted by the crowd with a standing ovation as he entered the front lawn of the Capitol.

            The weather was perfect as our new governor delivered his address to the people of Florida. His speech encapsulated the promises DeSantis ran on from his support of the environment to the appointments of conservative jurists to the Supreme Court. His affirmation to protect our cities by denouncing sanctuary status and his commitment to the rule of law was greeted with great applause.

            That evening, the celebration continued at the Florida Ball at the Donald Tucker Civic Center. It was a wonderful evening that celebrated Floridians from all over our state. This beautiful young couple reveled in the joyous celebration first with a thank you from the governor and next with a dance. The first lady’s gown was stunning, and the new governor commented that he hoped he wouldn’t step on it!

            All good things come to an end, and as we returned to the Inn, we posed for one last photo with the lieutenant governor, who was home from the ball ready to get to work the next day!

 

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