Vanessa Baugh knew whom she was voting for right after Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign.
“We all need to remember this is the first time an American businessman is becoming president,” said Baugh, a Manatee County commissioner. “This election was one of the most important in my lifetime.”
At the ceremony, Baugh’s blue tickets got her and her husband, Don, right onto the Capitol grounds. She said she felt incredibly close to everyone around her, stranger or not.
“We all knew we were there in support of President Trump,” she said. “When he was sworn in, we all cried together. It’s hard to describe the strong feeling everyone was having.”
Like Baugh, state Rep. Joe Gruters has supported the newly sworn-in president since the beginning. Trump’s Florida campaign co-chair sat under a colorless sky and flickers of cold rain Friday to witness the ceremony. He went in with his wife before sunrise, at 7 a.m., to beat the crowds.
“Being able to see Trump go from a disregarded candidate, to frontrunner nominee, then to become our president has been a rollercoaster,” Gruters said.
Despite the chill in the air, the fourth-generation Sarasotan called Trump’s first speech as president a “game changer moment” and praised the grassroots community and “ordinary” Americans for coming out and making it happen.
Both Gruters and Baugh talked about Trump putting America first.
“When he said that America will come first, it was amazing to me,” Baugh said. “My hope is that it doesn’t matter what political party you’re in – he’s going to do the best he can do for everyone.”
Baugh, like Trump, is a business owner. She opened Vanessa Fine Jewelry in 1999, and while it may be on a smaller scale compared to the Trump Organization, she feels her views on the economy line up with those of the corporate chieftain.
“He has already started bringing jobs back into this country and he hasn’t even started (his presidency) yet,” Baugh said.
Trump has taken credit several times – via his Tweets for forcing large corporations like General Motors to invest more on U.S. jobs.
“As a business owner, Trump knows how to make sure we are fiscally responsible again,” Baugh said.
Baugh also attended the Sunshine Ball in Washington, held by Gov. Rick Scott and his wife, Ann Scott. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Palm Beach Gardens and other prominent Republican figures with hundreds more to celebrate the inauguration of the 45th president.
“You can imagine the people in the room,” Baugh said, “laughing, sometimes getting teary-eyed, the emotion of everything that is taking place. It was almost too much sometimes.”
Not to mention, the Beach Boys were there.
“The amazing thing to me was they still sound the same,” Baugh said, “as I recall when I was a young thing in my 20s.”