Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Longtime Florida Agriculture Commissioner Doyle Conner dies at 83

TALLAHASSEE — Doyle Conner, the youngest state House speaker in Florida history who went on to spend 30 years as the state's agriculture commissioner, died Sunday. He was 83.

Conner, who had been in poor health in recent years, died Sunday morning at the Cross Landing Nursing Home in Monticello. The Bevis Funeral Home in Tallahassee said it had received his body and was handling funeral arrangements. Conner would have been 84 today.

"Our state has lost a great Floridian with the passing of Doyle Conner," said current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. "Doyle was a mentor to me and defined the role of Commissioner of Agriculture for all others to follow. My prayers are with his family and the thoughts of the entire department are on him at this time."

Florida's agriculture sales increased from $900 million when Conner was elected commissioner in 1960 to $6.2 billion by the time he left the post. Hog cholera was eradicated during the same period, and Florida developed a method for detecting the Mediterranean fruit fly that became the worldwide standard.

He also created the Office of Consumer Services, now an official part of the agency formally known as the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Born Dec. 17, 1928, in the North Florida town of Starke, Conner was elected to the Florida House in 1950 at the age of 21 during his sophomore year at the University of Florida, after getting his start in politics as the state president of Future Farmers of America.

A Democrat at the time, his party held a virtual stranglehold on Florida, Conner won re-election to subsequent terms and was selected speaker in 1957 at the age of 28.

After five terms in the House, he was elected agriculture commissioner shortly before his 32nd birthday. Conner handily won re-election until his retirement in January 1991.

"These past 30 years have been mostly exhilarating, sometimes disappointing, but never, ever dull," Conner said upon leaving office.

The agency has widespread responsibilities, ranging from inspecting red meat, poultry and dairy products to testing the accuracy of fuel pumps at Florida's service stations and ensuring the safety of the state's citrus crop.

When Conner first took office, the department also supervised the state prisons system and managed public land matters — responsibilities reassigned after its reorganization in 1969.

Conner's management style engendered lifetime loyalties from former associates.

"In all the time I worked for him, he had a policy that anytime any employee wanted to come to visit him they could have a 15-minute appointment to talk about whatever they wanted," said Lee Hinkle, a former vice president at Florida State University who worked for Conner for eight years. "He was principled, a gentleman and understood the true politics of the South: Respect for people of both parties and respect for the process."

During his college days, Conner was president of UF's agriculture club and a member of Florida Blue Key. He was later president of the university's national alumni association.

Conner, who grew up raising livestock and farming on 400 acres, retired to country life near Lloyd in Jefferson County after leaving his Cabinet post.

Comments
American Social tries to draw a young Tampa crowd with New York prices

American Social tries to draw a young Tampa crowd with New York prices

TAMPAPaul Greenberg and Rick Mijares believe something. They believe that millennials are nostalgic for a time they didn’t live through. American Social, the long-anticipated waterside restaurant adjacent to Jackson’s on Harbour Island, reads like a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

CLEARWATER — A Palm Harbor woman was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding with her husband and 10-year-old daughter in a Nissan Sentra late Sunday, police said.Elizabeth Rosado, 30, was in the front passenger seat of the sedan, which was headed...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Just in time for one of the busiest travel periods of the year, gas prices across Florida are back down to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels. Tampa Bay gas hit $2.30 per gallon today, while state prices averaged $2.37 per gallon, according to AAA, The Auto...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

ATLANTA — While power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were gro...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road closed after crash involving motorcycle

TAMPA — A portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road is closed in northwest Hillsborough County following a crash involving a motorcycleHillsborough County deputies say the roadway is expected to be closed between Sunlake Boulevard and Cypress Green Drive for th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

ST. PETERSBURG -- For more than a decade, Gerald Rittinger’s dog kept him alive.The Air Force veteran died on Dec. 3 at age 77. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne, who said she would have lost him 14 years earlier if not for their yellow Labrador, Ze...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

The announcement was rolled out to the world as a pledge. A promise.In March 2016 SeaWorld declared it would end killer whale breeding, making the orcas in its care in the United States and abroad its last generation to live in captivity.Later that y...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

For decades, Americans were told that Area 51 didn’t really exist and that the U.S. government had no official interest in aliens or UFOs. Statements to the contrary, official-sounding people cautioned, were probably the musings of crackpots in tinfo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Jon Gruden will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor tonight, but could it be more than just that as the Glazers may be looking for a new head coach come January? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether Gruden would coac...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Missing Child Alert canceled for Homestead boy, 13

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 13-year-old Homestead boy.According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, John Noble-Sinclair had last seen Sunday in the area of 300 block of Southwest 4th Avenue.The case has been resolv...
Updated: 3 hours ago