REFLECTIONS – on my 10 years in public office

Garrett Richterby Senator Garrett Richter (aka Pop Pop)

It was never on my “bucket list” to be elected to public office. As I reflect on the past 10 years, I’m also reflecting back over my lifetime to various meaningful pieces of advice I got from my father. Early on, Dad told me that above all, “be true unto yourself ” …. He told me that I didn’t have a good enough memory to lie. When I got my first job out of high school, a janitor at Mellon Bank, my Dad told me to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” When I returned home from Vietnam, my Dad told me that the windshield is 100 times larger than the rear view mirror.

He was proud of my military service, but he let me know the future was ahead of me, not behind me. He suggested that I glance into the rear view mirror from time to time to see where I’ve been but he encouraged me to focus on the windshield.

And finally, he told me that a great recipe for life is to …“Learn, Earn and Return.”

After the sale of First National Bank of Florida I became obligated to a non-compete agreement. Essentially, I was retired from banking after 36 years. My friend, and a great public servant, Dudley Goodlette was term limited out of the House of Representatives. He suggested I consider running for his seat.

To that end, I consulted with two close and savvy friends about public service. One told me that there are only two reasons people enter politics, they either want to BE SOMETHING or they want to DO SOMETHING. She said, “If you want to be something, go home and rethink it, but if you want to do something, go for it.” Her husband looked at me and said, “It sounds like you’re going to run and I’m confident you’ll be elected, my advice is after you’re elected, don’t drink the KOOL-AID.” Yes, there is a kool-aid stand on every corner in Tallahassee and in Washington. I’ve tried to do my best to not drink the kool-aid.

Learn, Earn and Return …. The learning is a lifelong endeavor, the earning is important and the returning is extremely rewarding.

During my tenure in the legislature, I have met some of the finest people, with values I admire that I otherwise would not have met. My staff, Becky Kokkinos, Sandy Mummert and Michael Nachef are friends that I hold in the highest esteem.

They are compassionate, dependable, caring, smart, hardworking and humble. They always go the extra mile to serve our constituents and to achieve our goals. Their presence in my life is extremely rewarding.

The information I’ve been put in front of is another rewarding aspect of public service.

We never stop learning. Issues from health care to the environment to the economy to property insurance to tort reform and on and on have been introduced to me for understanding.

One of these issues, property insurance received special attention.

In 2007, Governor Crist signed legislation that changed Citizens Property Insurance Company, the state owned (taxpayer owned)
insurer of last resort to become the insurer of first resort. This resulted in Floridians owning a company that had over 1.5 million
policyholders and over $500 billion in disaster exposure. I, along with others, advanced legislation to expand the private market and return this insurance company to its intended role as the last resort insurer. Today, the risk exposure to Floridians is down to $143 billion and the policy count is below 500 thousand.

By law, Citizens levies assessments on Florida policyholders if it exhausts its ability to pay claims. In 2011, Florida policyholders faced a potential assessment of $11.6 billion in the event of a 1-100 year storm. Because of those legislative initiatives, the risk of such an assessment was eliminated in 2015.

As I conclude my reflections on the past 10 years in the Florida legislature, I have many blessings to count. My daughters blessed me with five wonderful, happy, healthy grandchildren. I much prefer to be called “Pop Pop” than I do “Senator.” I am grateful for my wife, Diana.

I’ve been fortunate that Diana has been able to join me on this legislative journey. Diana travelled with me to Tallahassee each
session. She provided her insights on various issues that were up for consideration. She offered sound advice and support on the votes we faced. As we would jump from issue to issue, she was my stabilizer.

She always provided a well thought out response to the tough issues and…She kept me off the KOOL-AID!

Learn, Earn and Return…

what a wonderful recipe for life!


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