TAMPA — Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring wasn't being modest Monday when he told supporters at the University Club downtown that making him Florida's chief financial officer could change the world.
The 46-year-old Democrat from Margate was one of the first staffers at Yahoo and saw how the 20-somethings he worked alongside in Silicon Valley went on to create media giants such as WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Nextdoor and GoFundMe.
Now Ring, who represented Broward County from 2006 to 2016, said he wants to become chief financial officer so he can help create a state economy primed to usher the next Amazon.com into the world instead of the next Amazon fulfillment center.
"Florida doesn't need a CFO that pays the bills and promises the state he'll create jobs," Ring said. "We need to create a whole economy that invests in our business incubators, in universities like (the University of South Florida), and a school system that builds a future where our kids don't grow up wanting to be a home builder or a land-use attorney, but the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg like the kids growing up in Silicon Valley."
Ring is the first official candidate in the race and was in Tampa to drum up support after filing to run last week.
Incumbent CFO Jeff Atwater will step down in the coming weeks for a job at Florida Atlantic University, which means Ring likely will face whomever Gov. Rick Scott appoints to finish his term.
Ring said his goals aren't partisan. He wants an insurance environment with stable rates, businesses that self-regulate and a Legislature that values traditional equity investing instead of incentives.
Few names have been floated as potential Republican candidates for the job, but Ring said his background places him in a unique position to market the state to minds like his.
He also now knows what he stands to lose.
In 2011, Ring nearly died from complications during open-heart surgery on his aortic valve. He was a state senator at the time, and often found himself wondering whether he made the right choice when he left Silicon Valley.
"I would think about what could have happened, where I would be, if I had stayed in that business of world-changing, and when I had to face my own death and everything I stood to lose, I realized I needed to filter out the white noise and prioritize what was really important in my own life," he said. "For me, this job is about building a state where it's possible to go to work and change the world."
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