The new Florida Senate President Don Gaetz hails from a small town in north Florida called Niceville (pop 11,684). Sworn in last week, he gave a forceful speech about the need to correct Florida's abysmal record on holding elections.
"This isn't a third-world country," he said. "America shouldn't have to wait for five days after the polls close to find out how Florida voted."
He was joined in the self-criticism of Florida's record on elections and ethics by newly-named House Speaker Will Weatherford. Weatherford comes from a bigger town, Wesley Chapel (pop. 40,091) in Pasco County, part of the sprawling Tampa urban corridor.
Both leaders signaled things won't be "business as usual" in the next Legislature. They promised to elevate to full committee status Ethics and Elections committees in both chambers.
"If we need to change (election-voting) laws, we'll change them," Gaetz vowed.
This means something coming from the head of the Florida Senate, where gerrymandering, reduced voting hours and restrictions on voter registration drives all were driven by previous Republican leadership.
Gaetz is an usual politician in Florida. He cut his teeth in politics as a school board member and then superintendent in Okaloosa County.
That may ring a bell, because Okaloosa is the school district most often cited by Monroe County School Board member John Dick as a model of efficiency and delivery of dollars to the classroom.
The Senate President announced among his priorities during the upcoming legislative session a renewed focus on ethics and moving away from the divisiveness of political wars waged over the past two years.
"The difference between Tallahassee and Washington is that here, unlike there, the campaign is over. Congress -- both parties -- has an approval rating of 11 percent. Muammar Gaddafi had an approval rating of 14 percent and his people killed him," Gaetz said.
But does it mean anything in the grand scheme of how laws get made in Tallahassee, notorious for excess influence by lobbyists and lawmakers who have conflicts of interest they fail to disclose until caught?
Gaetz said the public's low opinion of politicians can be tied directly to multiple and repeated ethical lapses.
Here's what he shared with Republicans and Democrats after being sworn in as Senate president:
"In my medium-sized north Florida county, a commissioner was just removed for official misconduct, the (tourism development) director committed suicide after he stole bed tax and BP money, the speaker of the House was forced to resign, the tax collector was run out of office, our college president was fired and our sheriff is in federal prison," Gaetz said.
"That's just my county."
Just maybe, things will be different this time. We can only hope.