POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR
P U S ER N N U R E TH
hey guided their communities through good times and bad; donned windbreakers and faced down storms; and were catapulted to the national stage. Some ousted the establishment, while others sailed through to easy victories. And one even mounted a successful comeback. These Florida politicians might not be our Politician of the Year, but it’s fair to say each had an extraordinary 2016.
GOV. RICK SCOTT With just two years left in the Governor’s Mansion, Gov. Rick Scott faced a multitude of challenges in 2016, and handled them all with the poise of a statesman. After a gunman killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub, Scott spent days on end in the community, meeting with families of the victims, attending memorial services, and visiting survivors in the hospital. But the Pulse nightclub shooting wasn’t the only time Scott led the state through a disaster. As Hurricanes Hermine and
134 | INFLUENCE WINTER 2016
Matthew barreled toward the state, Scott hunkered down in the state emergency operations center, urging Floridians to stock up on water and stay safe. And in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Scott saw some of his best approval numbers since taking office, with 45 percent of voters giving him good marks, according to Public Policy Polling. Yet, Scott’s successes weren’t just measured by the way he handled himself during the bad times. The state saw record tourism numbers, despite concerns about bluegreen algae and homegrown Zika. The unemployment rate has remained steady, and the state has announced private-sector jobs gains on a regular basis. The Naples Republican also shot onto the national scene, penning an op-ed praising then-candidate Donald Trump. While he withheld his endorsement until after the Florida primary, Scott became one of Trump’s most vocal supporters. That support scored him a primetime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, and has bolstered speculation he’s considering a 2018 U.S. Senate bid.
BY PETER SCHORSCH
ORLANDO MAYOR BUDDY DYER With all eyes on Orlando this year, Mayor Buddy Dyer stepped up to the plate and represented The City Beautiful — and the state of Florida — with grace. Dyer was a steady voice following the Pulse nightclub attack. He was one of the first people Floridians and Americans heard from after news of the attack hit the airwaves, and he continued to keep his community informed in the days and weeks following the shooting. When victims needed help, Dyer announced the city created the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack and their families. In total, $29.5 million was donated to the fund; and according to the organization, it distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of eligible claims. Despite the tragedy, 2016 marked another year of continued growth in Orlando. The region leads the state in private-sector job gains nearly every month, and the tourism industry continues to boom. In December, Dyer became the city’s longest-serving
PHOTOS: Office of the Governor (Scott); City of Orlando Communications Flickr (Dyer)
of the Year
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