Will Weatherford, first Tampa Bay speaker in a decade, ready to take reins of Florida House
Although he's not yet speaker, many consider him the most powerful lawmaker in Tallahassee.
Consider the 2012 session that ended Friday.
In the face of a fierce budget battle, many Tampa Bay interests were protected. There was the cigarette tax revenue lawmakers approved for the expansion of Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. A new heart research center at the University of South Florida got $6.9 million. A bill eliminating local control of a Tampa toll road authority was gutted. And USF got back $6 million for its pharmacy school after it had been stripped away by Senate budget chairman JD Alexander.
Those involved say the lawmaker instrumental in closing those deals was incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford. At 32, he will become the youngest speaker in modern Florida history this fall, edging Marco Rubio by three years.
"Even though he's young, he has a level of experience that most incoming speakers don't have," said lobbyist Ron Book. "It's like he's skipping from the first grade to 12th grade he's so advanced."