The Interview: Jennifer Carroll

As Florida voters prepare for another interesting Governor’s race this year, one only wonders if the results will be as historic as 2010. Jennifer Carroll, a three-term Republican State Legislator became the first African American since reconstruction to win a state wide election. Carroll recently shared about how it happened, and what brought her term to an end after just 26-months in office.

“I thought it was because of the strengths that I brought to the ticket being a woman, being a minority, working in the legislature, being a business owner, having the experiences that I felt would have a been a plus to the ticket,” Carroll reflected.

Jennifer Carroll was a part of Florida’s winning ticket in 2010. She headed to Tallahassee as the first female and African-American elected Lieutenant Governor.

Carroll credits her parents and the values they instilled during her childhood in New York.

“My parents were very hard workers and they were laborers, my father was a masonry. He worked at the Navy Yard as a welder.   He went to school and learned how to be a dental technician. He did a lot of odd jobs, to being a mechanic. They instilled in me great values, to do what’s right, to be a good community steward and to live biblical principles,” remembered Carroll.

She joined the Navy after high school.

“That was a good way to work and gain a skill,” Carroll said.

Carroll became a trailblazer in a changing military.

“The aviation community in the late 70′s had just opened up to females. My Chief Petty Officer saw some leadership abilities in me and managerial abilities in me. At a young rank, he put me in charge of the line shift night check supervisor position,” Carroll shared.

She later pursued her dream of being a Navy Officer.

“I submitted my application and was selected for the Officer Enlisted Commissioning Officer program. I came to school here in Pensacola to Aviation Maintenance Officer school,” Carroll stated.

In 1999, she retired as a Lieutenant Commander and turned her sights to politics.

“I saw a need in our community where someone can make a difference. I thought that with my skills, my compassion, and my vision, I wanted to make that difference. Before we even campaigned I was ready to go to work,” Carroll reflected.

Two losses as a Republican in elections for Congress led to another opportunity.

“Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush appointed me as the Executive Director of Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. I was successful in getting a couple of veterans cemeteries here, veterans nursing homes here and helped veterans receive retroactive compensation, claims and benefits in a tune of over 60 million dollars,” Carroll said.

Carroll ran again in 2003.

“I didn’t have much support I had grassroots people that helped me out in the previous campaign that believed in me. I was the first female Black Republican elected to the Florida Legislature. I went out and did town hall meetings and my offices always had a standing order never turn away anyone and we’ll follow through,” Carroll stated.

Rick Scott, Florida’s current Governor, called Carroll the embodiment of the American dream. In 2010, Scott named the four-term republican state legislator as his running mate.

“The Lieutenant Governor in the state of Florida does not have a definitive role. It’s whatever the governor allows you to do, specifically the Chairperson of Space Florida, which I embraced with my aviation background. To assist him with economic development, our main objective was to bring jobs to the state of Florida. You have to work well with the legislature. I was in an office to create access to people that would normally not have access. I was instrumental in getting jobs created and expanding our military operations,” Carroll said.

Just 26-months in office, Lieutenant Governor Carroll resigned in March 2013. This, after a sweepstakes company her public relations firm once represented, was accused of federal gambling racketeering charges.

“As a public relations person you’re not running the company, I didn’t deal with any of their finances. The courtesy review that Florida Department of Law Enforcement shared, stated that I had no criminal activity whatsoever,” Carroll stated.

She says Governor Scott’s Chief of Staff asked her to step down.

“I have yet to speak with the Governor. As your second in command you don’t send a subordinate in to ask me for my resignation. The Governor, when he came out to give his press conference the following day didn’t say he asked for my resignation. It was not my decision I had no reason to resign, I was not culpable, I didn’t do anything at all. To come out and infer that I chose to resign that was very disheartening and disingenuous,” Carroll said.

Carroll did not share her future political plans, but she is writing a book about her life and historic achievements. She would also like an apology from Governor Scott.

“I’m still waiting, I’m still waiting. I love serving the public, I love serving the community, I love making a difference. The Lord has a plan in a different direction for you, you just have to be obedient and follow it.” Carroll stated.

Carroll’s book is due to be released in just a few weeks.

 

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