But others credit Pruitt’s easygoing manner and ability to build consensus for
part of the session’s success.
“Power does not make someone. Power unmasks them,’’ says Charlie Sembler,
who served in the House with Pruitt from 1990 to 2000 and is now Indian River
County tax collector. “The power Ken has now is virtually enormous. But if you
look at Ken, he’s stayed the same old Ken.’’
Except for stints as president of the St. Lucie County Chamber and the county
planning board, Pruitt had little political experience when he first ran for state
House of Representatives in 1990. But he won handily and held a seat in the
House until 2000, when he was elected to the Senate.
Patricia Christensen, mayor of Port St. Lucie, remembers the friendliness and
confidence Pruitt exuded when he first ran for office in 1990. Christensen herself
was making her first electoral bid to a seat
on the Port St. Lucie City Council that
year. Specifically, she remembers the
advice Pruitt gave her when she gave her
first stump speech at a meeting of the Port
St. Lucie Homeowners Association.
“He came up to me and said you did
great, but you’re nervous,’’ she says. “He
said, “Find a point at the back of the wall
and pretend like that’s your audience. You
may be looking over people’s heads but
they’ll think you’re talking to them.’’
Good advice, and both candidates won.
Christensen is impressed by what Pruitt
has done for Port St. Lucie and the counties
he represents. His district represents
all of Martin and stretches 100 miles
through parts of St. Lucie, Indian River,
Okeechobee and Palm Beach counties.
“For so many years, nobody knew who
Port St. Lucie and the Treasure Coast were
or where,’’ Christensen says. “He basically
put us on the map and made Florida
know about the Treasure Coast.’’
POWER DOES NOT
THEM. THE POWER
KEN HAS NOW
IS VIRTUALLY ENORMOUS.
BUT IF YOU
LOOK AT KEN, HE’S
STAYED THE SAME
— Charlie Sembler
From left, Senator Steve Wise, President Ken Pruitt and Senator Don Gaetz have a laugh before the
start of a Senate committee chairmen meeting in the Knott Building next to the capitol in
Tallahassee on Jan. 11. Opposite page, Pruitt stands in front of the old capitol, with the new capitol
in the background. Below, Pruitt addresses fellow senators during the meeting for committee chairs.