The House pulled out all the stops Monday to honor teary-eyed Sergeant at Arms Earnest "Ernie" Sumner, who will retire this summer after a long career in the Legislature.
Speaker Dan Webster appointed Sumner, 61, to the post in 1998. He started working for the House in 1971.
The recognition on the House floor was marked by no fewer than four standing ovations, with members approving a resolution and playing a video highlighting his accomplishments. Finally, Speaker Will Weatherford announced that a House meeting room, Room 404, will be named Sumner Hall. Sumner dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief as he stood inside the doors he has guarded for decades.
The resolution honors Sumner for serving through 138 legislative sessions, during which he oversaw renovations, office reorganizations and travel logistics, among other tasks that kept the House moving smoothly.
Not long after the recognition Monday, Sumner and his staff had to quiet a group of protesters who had arrived from Miami to rally in support of Medicaid expansion.
A crop of former and current legislators gathered on the House floor to pay tribute to Sumner, including former Speaker Dean Cannon, Rep. Dale Patchett, Rep. Ron Saunders and Senate President Don Gaetz. Sumner's family watched from the gallery, including wife Janice, who sung with him in his old band Purple Passion. Daughter Hannah Causseaux works in Gov. Rick Scott's office as director of appointments.
Sumner's last day is June 28.