As this year ends, I want to express my thanks to you, the people of Florida, for giving me the tremendous privilege of serving as your governor, and previously as attorney general, education commissioner and as a state senator from my beloved Tampa Bay. As Abraham Lincoln said, ours is a government "of the people, by the people and for the people." Likewise, one of the greatest joys of public service has been meeting great Floridians throughout our state. I have continually worked to make government as open and transparent to you as possible, and I consider it my highest honor to listen to your concerns and to help people have hope for a brighter future.
I am especially proud of those who have served in our administration. Each day, they have fulfilled their duty to protect and serve the people of Florida — and have done so during incredibly challenging times. No one could imagine four years ago that our economy would change so dramatically, so quickly. Clearly, the economic strain on families and our nation has been a source of great concern for us all.
Yet, in spite of these challenges, we have fought the good fight on behalf of the people of the Sunshine State. We have saved teachers from losing jobs, protected our beaches and tourism industry, and property taxes and property insurance are lower than they were. Florida has its lowest crime rate in almost four decades, and our graduation rates have never been higher. Amazingly, we accomplished these things during some the most difficult times our state has ever seen. In looking back you always long to have done more, but we can say we fought well to protect our state under the most challenging of circumstances.
I have had the privilege of calling on more than 4,000 Floridians to serve on various boards and councils across our state, as well as appointing judges who care about justice and balance to our judiciary. I also received the honor of appointing four Supreme Court justices — a rare opportunity for any governor. Across the board, these appointees represent a broad spectrum of our people, and I am proud they each answered the call to serve our state.
One project I am most proud of is the Everglades land acquisition by the South Florida Water Management District. Although it was scaled down because of our economy, I am pleased with what we have started, and also pleased that we have a tremendous opportunity to acquire additional acreage in the future, should the district desire to do so. This project will make a historic difference for the wildlife of the Everglades, our estuaries, and the people of South Florida who rely on the Everglades ecosystem for drinking water.
While our state has seen challenging times, we have worked to be good stewards of the people's money. To the credit of our tremendous team, we have been able to steer the ship of our state in a consistent way that lowers taxes on families and businesses, protects the most vulnerable, and furthers opportunities for our schoolchildren begun by Gov. Jeb Bush.
I consider myself very blessed and am very grateful to the people of Florida for the opportunity to serve. I am also grateful to my parents, sisters and my wife for their support and encouragement. Throughout my life, my family has inspired me to work together with others for the common good. Four years ago, we set out to bring that spirit of cooperation to Tallahassee, to be reasonable and inclusive, and I believe history will show that we have done so.
In closing, I also want to thank the people of St. Petersburg. This city is my home, and I love it here. Millions of visitors come to St. Pete every year to enjoy our beaches and great climate. Our city offers sports, the arts and business opportunities. As part of our state's High Tech Corridor, we continue to attract medical and information technologies, as well as scientists who are studying our oceans and marine life. I look forward to returning to private life and connecting in new ways with the great people of this city and our state.
Clearly, brighter days are ahead for the Sunshine State. I extend to Gov.-elect Rick Scott my utmost respect and best wishes for his term as governor. I join all who love Florida in praying for his success and hoping for a brighter future for our state.