President Donald Trump’s inner circle is suddenly flush with advisers who have roots in the Tampa area.
Tampa native Kayleigh McEnany will soon take over as White House press secretary, according to multiple reports. McEnany moves into the high-profile role after serving as the spokesperson for Trump’s re-election campaign. She replaces Stephanie Grisham, who lasted nine months in the job.
McEnany, 31, grew up in Tampa and attended Academy of the Holy Names before pursuing a career in Republican politics. She owns a home on Davis Islands with her husband, Sean Gilmartin, a relief pitcher recently acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Having Sean in Tampa means a lot more trips back to our permanent residence and the city I’ve always known and loved," McEnany recently told the Tampa Bay Times.
McEnany has been one of the president’s top defenders on television. In a February interview on Fox Business that later went viral, McEnany confidently declared, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here."
There are now more than 368,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 11,000 people have died from the disease, including nearly 300 people in Florida.
Shifting McEnany from the campaign to the official side is part of the latest shakeup inside the White House as Trump retools his top team amid the coronavirus pandemic. And she’s not the only one with local ties to find a place in the administration. Former Rep. Mark Meadows, Trump’s new chief of staff, also grew up in the Tampa area.
Meadows, who until recently represented North Carolina in Congress, was born in a U.S. Army hospital in France but spent his childhood in east Hillsborough County and attended Brandon High School. Meadows also attended University of South Florida and received an associate of arts degree from the Tampa campus in 1980.
Trump named Meadows as the replacement for interim chief of staff Mick Mulvaney last month.
At one point, Meadows’ congressional biography claimed he had earned a four-year degree from USF, an inaccuracy that was also repeated in his Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia entry was mysteriously updated in December 2018 -- days after reports first surfaced that Meadows was a finalist for Trump’s chief of staff, the Tampa Bay Times reported at the time. His congressional biography, maintained by the Office of the Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, was updated after the Times inquired about the inaccuracy.
Meadows has said little about his upbringing in the Tampa area. In October 2012, he told the Smoky Mountain News that he grew up poor, the son of a draftsman and a nurse.
He later worked for Tampa Electric Co. in the 1980s, according to multiple reports from that time in the Tampa Tribune.
Tampa is also the longtime home of another Trump confidante: Pam Bondi. The former Florida Attorney General was an early backer of the president and recently served on Trump’s impeachment defense. She rejoined the firm of Brian Ballard, a powerful Florida and Washington lobbyist close to the president, after Trump was acquitted.
Another local, Kirstjen Nielsen, previously served as Secretary of Homeland Security, where she was the architect of controversial family separation policy for migrants entering the country. Nielsen graduated from Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa and her classmates sent an open letter in 2018 denouncing her actions.