SARASOTA - She's a woman who aimed for the stars and never took no for an answer. And now, against all odds, she sits near the top of state government.
Jennifer Carroll is the first female elected Lt. Governor of Florida, and the first African American elected state-wide. On a visit to Sarasota to speak at the United Negro College Fund banquet, ABC 7 sat down with her to discuss her hopes and plans for the state and for our young people on the Suncoast.
Lt. Governor Carroll has quite a background. She served in the Navy, retiring after 20 years, as a part of her duties as Lt. Governor, she helps the Governor with economic development, oversees the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Military Affairs, and is chai person of Space Florida. She's also married and has three children.
The young women in the audience were wondering how she did it. "Luckily I had a very supportive husband, and my parents were also supportive as well. As a matter of fact, when I started going on deployment, my parents moved from New York to come to Florida to help us out in taking care of the kids."
After she retired from the Navy, she served as a Florida legislator for 7 years and was director of veteran’s affairs.
She says at that point she started taking her kids with her. "I included my kids in the campaigning, I included them with my volunteer work.”
She says she's very proud of what she and Governor Rick Scott have achieved in the last two years. “What we've done is streamline the government, reduced the cost of living, reduced taxes for both businesses and homeowner. We have also reduced regulations, making it easier for businesses to open up and expand and come to the state of Florida."
She says two years ago Florida was ranked by CEO Magazine as the 6th-best state to do business in. Now it's ranked #2. She says what scares her now is the federal government. "All these great things we are doing – creating jobs, reducing the cost of living, improving education -- if the federal government turns around and says we have a burden for you of more taxes, more regulations, that could impede the great results that we're seeing in the state of Florida."
As she told the students at the United Negro College fundraiser, plans are in the works to stop Florida's brain drain and make sure good jobs are waiting for young people in the state when they finish their education.
And she says don't count out manufacturing. "I was just at a plant in the Orlando area where they make devices for testing diabetes. Everything is done there. These are clean manufacturing jobs with $70,000, $80,000 a year salaries with good benefits."
As for the recent ruling to allowing women to serve on the front lines in battle, she thinks the decision makers jumped the gun. She says nobody asked the women on active duty how they felt about it.
And the transition to house women on ships and submarines is going to be extremely costly for taxpayers.
She's come a long way for a kid who was born in the West Indies and first came to this country as a child. "My advice to anyone is be prepared, get an education, never stop learning, never stop advancing, because when the opportunity comes, you want to be able to walk through the door."
"She gives me hope to follow my dreams, and she gives me hope, and she is a living testimony that you can do anything you put your mind to," said USF grad Stehante Randall.