TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Shortly after Trilby Republican Wilton Simpson was formally elected Tuesday as Florida's next Senate president, he characterized himself as a farmer and an entrepreneur --- and not a politician.
And with that introduction, the 53-year-old owner of an egg farm and an environmental-remediation company vowed to tackle Florida's economy with "common-sense, fiscally conservative principles" and to foster a business-friendly environment.
"If you are a Florida business, we will do all we can to keep you here," Simpson said. "If you are a business located in a high-tax, over-regulated, unwelcoming state -- consider moving to Florida where we believe the American Dream and the Florida Dream are one in the same."
Simpson will succeed President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, after the November 2020 elections and will hold one of the most powerful political jobs in Florida. When he takes over the chamber, he will also oversee the Senate's redistricting efforts following the 2020 Census..
Other issues that Simpson said he wants to tackle between 2020 and 2022 will deal with improving the quality of Florida's water resources and helping children who are "stuck in the foster care system" and at-risk youth.
One thing he would like to see fixed in the foster care system is cutting down the waiting time for qualified parents to adopt children. He also wants to keep children from bouncing from foster home to foster home.
While Simpson recognized fixing the problems in the system are likely to be costly, he told reporters on Tuesday, it would be "more expensive not to do it."
To accomplish those goals, he hopes to partner with First Lady Casey DeSantis, who is one of the top advisers to her husband, Gov. Ron DeSantis. This year, she has worked on a number of initiatives aimed at helping Florida children.
"I think she is going to be an outstanding partner," Simpson said, adding that he would let her take the reins on specific initiatives and "welcome her comments and her decisions."
Speaking to Senate Republicans, state leaders and family members, Simpson also addressed water-related issues such as seeing a Northern Everglades water-storage project completed because it "tackles the root cause of many of our water quality and quantity problems in the region."
Waterways such as the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers have been plagued in recent years by toxic algae that stems, at least in part, from polluted water discharged from Lake Okeechobee.
Simpson also pointed to long-discussed efforts to move residents onto sewer systems instead of using septic tanks.
"We also need to get serious about a septic-to-sewer program because it's the root cause of many of our pollution problems around the state," Simpson said. "It is going to take resources. We need to offer incentives to local government for replacing outdated, harmful systems."
When Simpson takes over as president, his counterpart as House speaker will be Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls. Together, Simpson and Sprowls will bring clout for the Tampa Bay region.
In September, when Sprowls was elected as the next House speaker, he said he would like to prioritize fixing "spending problems" in state government.
"We treat the state budget like it's our own private charitable foundation to be used for the naming rights of buildings or programs," Sprowls said. "We need to do better than this."
Simpson vowed to work with the House in partnership, "without gridlock, animosity and stubbornness."
"There'll always be feisty debates. But no, there's not going to be fighting or discord," Simpson told reporters. "We can do all of this without discord."