Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis stopped by his hometown of Panama City and then Tallahassee Thursday after spending time in Tampa, where his wife Katie underwent breast cancer surgery at Moffit Cancer Center.
Katie Patronis was diagnosed a few weeks ago, but her diagnosis became public Thursday afternoon.
The couple met in 1998 when Katie's uncle, a friend of the Patronis family, introduced the two. Katie's mother worked at the Patronis family's historic restaurant, Captain Anderson's, and the young couple bumped into one another at local government events. The families also spent time together as friends, hanging out in Panama City and scuba diving.
"My wife is incredibly important to our successes," Patronis said, choking up. "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her."
The couple dated for six years and got married in 2004. They have two sons — Theo, 10, and Johnny, 8.
“We have been together for a long time,” Katie Patronis told the Herald/Times two weeks ago. “He has a good heart.”
Katie Patronis, a real estate agent, was twice appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Gulf Coast College District Board of Trustees in Panama City.
Jimmy Patronis, who is currently in the third position Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to, is on the November ballot to keep his statewide seat. He was appointed as CFO after former CFO Jeff Atwater stepped down in 2017 for a job at Florida Atlantic University.
Patronis' hometown was essentially ground zero for Hurricane Michael's destruction. Images and newscasts from Panama City show flattened homes, overturned boats and blown-out windows. The Category 4 storm made landfall Wednesday, wreaking havoc on the Panhandle and Big Bend areas of the state.
"You're not supposed to see your hometown where you grew up get wiped off the map," Patronis said Thursday during a brief visit to the state emergency operations center. "Now, I really have some empathy for what the folks in Miami-Dade County went through with Hurricane Andrew. It's abnormal to feel this way."
While the physical damage of his hometown is a priority for the CFO, he said he is also focused on finding the people preying on residents desperate for food and housing.
Patronis said he learned a lot from Hurricane Irma, which he once called "a baptism by fire." He said during natural disasters, people take advantage of the most vulnerable by getting between them and their insurance and trying to make a buck.
"I'm being torn apart by my emotions, but I've got a real job to do," he said.