Andy Gardiner's official portrait unveiled in Senate ceremony
The Senate paused Monday afternoon to unveil Senate President Andy Gardiner's official portrait that will hang on the wall of the Senate chamber for the next hundred years or so.
Gardiner's predecessor as president, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, jokingly called the ceremony "the hanging of the president." Gardiner's wife Camille and their three children were on hand, along with Gardiner's parents and a delegation of hometown friends from Orlando.
Gardiner, 47, is a former legislative aide who was first elected in the history-making year of 2000 when term limits gave the House 63 new members who immediately faced the unprecedented Bush-Gore presidential recount. He became the Legislature's leading advocate for adults and children with unique abilities and championed Medicaid expansion in the face of opposition from the House and Gov. Rick Scott.
An Orlando native and a hospital executive, he's one of more than a dozen senators who's leaving office next fall because of term limits or to seek another office. He says he's eager to return home and has no plans to seek another office.
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, recalled sitting next to Gardiner when they were both House members and liking him, even though they often voted differently. "It's been a remarkable pleasure to watch your kids grow and see what a beautiful family you have," Detert said.
"His heart is in the right place," said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne.
To make room for Gardiner's portrait, the Senate took down the portrait of John Johnson of Live Oak, who was Senate president in the early part of the 20th century and latrer served as attorney general and a judge.