Ken Pruitt's emotional farewell
Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt-R, Port St. Lucie, and his wife Aileen, watch Senate Sergeant at Arms Donald Severance unveil Pruitt's portrait Thursday in the Senate.
Times Photos By: Scott Keeler
Senators paused Thursday to unveil Senate President Ken Pruitt's official portrait that will hang on the circular chamber's wall for decades to come. With his wife Aileen, a breast cancer survivor, and their children beside him, Pruitt listened as Democrats and Republicans praised him for an open and even-handed leadership style for the past two years.
"There's no project here. There's nothing I had to have," said Pruitt, explaining his goal was to distribute power among senators and nothing more. The Port St. Lucie Republican cried as Democratic Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando thanked him for refusing to buckle to pressure and remove him after Siplin's theft conviction that was overturned on appeal.
In personal terms, Pruitt thanked senators for giving him strength after his son died last year. He apologized to deputy chief of staff Kathy Mears for a "hardship" placed on her because of what he described as a poor relationship with the capital press. He said he looked forward to going on a fishing trip with his sons and his close friend, former Rep. Charlie Sembler. "I don't know how to fish, but I am looking forward to that trip," he said.
Pruitt, a history buff, showed class by paying tribute to the Senate president whose portrait is coming down to make room for his: Frederick Hudson, president in 1909 and ironically the one whose term included creation of St. Lucie County, where Pruitt lives.