Florida Rep. Rouson narrowly won a caucus vote Feb. 20 in Tallahassee to become the leader of House Democrats in 2014. In the unlikely event Democrats unseat Republicans as the majority party in next year's general election, Rouson, a lawyer and former Republican, would become speaker. Rouson, 58, was born in New Orleans, grew up in St. Petersburg and graduated from what was then known as Bishop Barry High School (now St. Petersburg Catholic). After receiving an undergraduate degree from Xavier University in Louisiana, he went on to earn a law degree at the University of Florida. Rouson, who has publicly struggled with drug addiction, is also a former president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP.
What's on your nightstand?
I have three books that I'm reading right now. I'm halfway through a book on Obama's leadership, Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him by Richard Miniter. I've got Home by Toni Morrison because it was the last book my mom read before she died Dec. 10. She really enjoyed it, and I told myself I'd read it. The third book is The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis. The premise is that people see (Parks) as a nice lady, a lady who was simply tired and didn't want to give up her seat, but really what she did on the bus was a demonstration of what she did in other areas of her life.
But this didn't surprise you, did it?
As for the Obama book, what did you take away from reading it?
It talked about different leadership styles. Some people lead and pull others reluctantly along, and other people react to the circle around them. I like to be a combination, where you sometimes need to pull others in a direction that you believe in with your heart and mind is the right direction to go in, however reluctant they might be, but I also want to be a leader that listens.
What about Obama's style of leadership?
I believe his is more information gathering, trying to let others around him come to a decision, and then he stamps it with his approval. The book mentions him being aloof and solitary in his leadership decisions.
What book would you hope other Floridians have on their bookshelves?
Recently I bought 35 copies of From Yellow Dog Democrats to Red State Republicans by David Colburn, who runs the Askew Institute at University of Florida, and I mailed them to all the Democratic representatives in the House. In my new role as minority leader, I need to increase the number of Democrats and to create a powerful, relevant Democratic caucus. I recommend the book because it chronicles how the Democratic party lost its weight in terms of being the political machine in the state and how the Republicans took over. It talks about the prescription of what we might have to do to bring back the power. It's interesting how registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, yet Republicans control the House, the Senate and up into the governor's mansion. But, Democrats are diverse and the big tent party, and therein lies the strength for all that is beautiful for Democrats, and therein lies the weakness of the other party.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer