Left, Pruitt, left, chats with Sen. Daniel Webster, center,
and Kathy Mears, Pruitt's assistant, in his office at the
capitol. Above, Pruitt’s wife, Aileen, whom he married
in 1982. Below, Pruitt laughs with his friend Sen. Jim
King during a breakfast before the start of a Senate
committee chair meeting in the Knott Building in
Despite her misgivings, she accepted his offer to go out.
“On our first date, he told me the slogan of his life, which he
used in his campaigns. He said it’s “Pruitt can do it.’’ When I
asked him what that meant he said, ‘You can do anything you
set your mind to as long as you’re willing to work for it.’ ’’
Aileen says she was also impressed by how Ken interacted
with his son, Ken Jr., now 28, from a previous marriage. “I
learned so much from him as a parent,’’ she says.
Pruitt proposed a month after their first date and Aileen
accepted. They married in 1982 after her graduation from UF
and had four children: Steven, 19, Ashley, 17, Michelle, 16,
and Mark, 13.
Pruitt became a well-known businessman before his start
in politics. As the owner of his own water treatment and well
drilling business, he had several high profile contracts,
including the irrigation systems at the Mets training facility
in St. Lucie West and the former Orange Blossom Mall in
Fort Pierce. He sold the company in 1995.
WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT
From 1990 to 2000 during Pruitt’s service in the House, the
Pruitt family enjoyed a life of stability. Then came 2000. After
Pruitt won the primary for the Senate, he and Aileen were
notified of her diagnosis with breast cancer. They decided to
continue with the race.
“Every time he has run, we’ve talked about it,’’ says
Aileen, 46. “He did not make those decisions without asking
me how I felt about it. As long as he was happy doing it —
and to me he was making a difference for the community
and the state — I supported him.’’
The first day of Aileen’s chemotherapy treatment, on Nov.
27, the Pruitts also got word that her father had died of cancer.
Though Aileen had a recurrence in 2004, today she is in
remission. Asked of his biggest regret in Tallahassee, Pruitt
says it’s the impact his career has had on his family. “The
missed soccer games, track meets, cross-country meets. Not
being there when my wife had breast cancer and a recurrence.
Not being there to hold my wife’s hand when she
needed me the most.’’
In his time in office, dozens of ethics complaints have been
filed against Pruitt, with none of them ever reaching the
probable cause stage, meaning investigators found no proof
to substantiate the claims. Aileen says she simply doesn’t
read newspapers and Pruitt says he only reads one, the
hometown Port St. Lucie News.
“To me, I just had to get to the point of shielding myself,’’
Aileen says. “I had to protect myself emotionally. How many
times do you have to turn the other cheek before you say,
ouch, that hurts, and so I protect myself by not reading it.
Right or wrong, that’s what I do.’’
Aileen deflects any talk about the sacrifices she made.
“I’m not the one who made the sacrifices, it was Ken. I got
to go to the honor roll assemblies and the soccer games.
That’s the sacrifice he paid.’’
Pruitt says his wife’s fight with cancer has played a big
part in his decision to get out of politics when his Senate
“It’s made me step back and reflect on what’s truly important,’’
Pruitt says of his wife’s illness.
“We’ve always been a close family. What we do in
Tallahassee is important, but what happens at home is a lot