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Haridopolos bids farewell to Senate 'I'll miss being in the arena'




Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R- Merritt Island, shows a smile Thursday on the floor of Senate before his official portrait was unveiled. 

 The Florida Senate unveiled the portrait of President Mike Haridopolos Thursday after 90-minute tribute that included laudatory speeches from members of both sides of the aisle. 

In the audience was Haridopolos’ wife and three children as well as former Senate president and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, former Senate presidents Ken Pruitt and Jim Scott, John Vogt, now all lobbyists, and former House Speaker Tom Feeney, also now a lobbyist. Gov. Rick Scott made a brief appearance. 

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who will succeed Haridopolos as Senate president next year, apologized for asking Haridopolos not to run for Congress. He predicted Haridopolos would have “been on an escalator to leadership” to continue to serve instead in the state Senate. He said that under his leadership “life was protected, our sovereignty was affirmed and our freedoms were upheld" and commended his accomplishments of Medicaid reform, the proposed revenue cap constitutional amendment and shrinking government.

"I'll miss being in the arena,'' Haridopolos said. "I'll miss some of you but I'll love being home...It's not 60 days. It's not 90 days. It's a full-time job if you're going to do a good job for the people you represent."

The Merritt Island Republican said he would "sacrifice anything to come back to the arena" and others, including Gov. Scott, hinted that he will have a political future. Haridopolos said he brought the Senate to "the most open and transparent budgeting process'' ever allowed. He said he tried to end the "arrogance" of the Senate -- an allegation that several others have used against his leadership team --

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich commended Haridopolos’ wife, Stephanie, who helped to “educate” her husband about funding issues such as Healthy Kids. 

“When I first began as the leader, I had a little trepidation,’’ said Rich of Weston. “I have to tell you that my concerns were quickly allayed…I kind of like what Jeb Bush said. We have a bunch of corps beliefs. We have different corps beliefs and you respected the difference in the corps beliefs.” 

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto echoed what many said, noting that while Haridopolos was not always on the winning side of controversial issues, he lost votes but “won on principle.”

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, thanked Haridopolos for respecting the minority party and despite their ideological differences he believed that “your word has been your bond…and that has meant a lot to me.”

She noted that Haridopolos had changed since he first sought the Senate presidency. “Haridopolos that I met in 2009 is not the Haridopolos of 2012,” she said.

Each senator gave $170 to buy Haridopolos a membership at a golf club valued at $6,630.


Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R- Merritt Island, gets a kiss from his wife, Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos, as his children Alexis, left, Hayden, center, and Reagan, right, look on during his official portrait unveiling.



Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R- Merritt Island, holds his daughter Reagan, as he is honored with farewell speeches in the Senate.  In the background is his son Hayden.  [Photos by Scott Keeler | Times]

[Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:23pm]


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