By Jeff Odom
Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was sworn in as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Nov. 20 after serving in the state legislature for more than six years.
Born in Dallas, Weatherford is a former Land O’ Lakes High football player and Jacksonville University graduate. He moved to Florida in 1986, where he married his wife Courtney and became a real estate broker and businessman.
He was first elected to the state House in 2006, replacing longtime representative Ken Littlefield despite Weatherford not having his name — or an opposing candidate — on the ballot.
During his acceptance speech, the gavel was passed to the 32-year-old Weatherford by outgoing speaker Allan Bense.
He said he plans to reach his hand across the aisle to Democrats, which are outnumbered 76-44 in the state House.
“We must work together,” said Weatherford during his acceptance speech. “As I stand before you today, I do not have to make a bold statement or a new commitment to work in a bipartisan manner with the minority party. On this matter, you can expect my future actions to match my prior years of bipartisanship. What I can commit to is that you will always be treated with fairness and respect no matter which party you represent.”
Weatherford wants to see Florida move away from that trend of stalemate between the two major political parties that has plagued Washington, D.C. in recent years. He wants to begin a new one with both the Republicans and Democrats working as one.
He said his main focuses are job creation, education and helping those affected by the housing crisis.
“We are living in a time when the people of Florida expect us to act,” Weatherford said. “Despite our efforts, more than 8 percent of Floridians still cannot find a job. Half of Florida’s homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. More than three and a half million Floridians are on food stamps. One third of all Florida high school students do not graduate. … Florida must take the reins and determine our own destiny.”
Weatherford gave each member of the House a countdown clock to display the time left until Election Day 2014. He said it’s a reminder that those serving are there for their constituents and that they can easily be removed from office if the state isn’t back on track.
“I welcome and value the spirited debate and the clash of ideas,” Weatherford said. “It is good and healthy for this process, and it produces better solutions. What we all have to understand is that our enemies are not sitting in this chamber or down the hall across the rotunda. Our enemies are real and they are worthy of the fight. Our enemies are unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, broken systems, broken government and burdensome regulation. These are the enemies that are wreaking havoc on our people and on our state.
“We have no excuse,” he continued. “We will need a clear focus, a collaborative purpose and a leadership of conscience that is willing to do what is right. Our time is short. The clock is ticking. Let us make the most of every single second. There are people who are counting on us. I am counting on you. So that when that clock runs out may it be said of us that we were bold, we served with a purpose and we fulfilled our promise to Florida.”
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