Thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself to those of you who may not know of me. I am State Senator Gayle Harrell and I am pleased to represent District 25, which encompasses all of St. Lucie County and Martin County and a small portion of western Palm Beach County. I have been a resident of the Treasure Coast for almost 50 years. Having lived in Florida for the vast majority of my life and having traveled throughout all parts of it, I appreciate our unique geography and the opportunities that our almost 1,400 miles of beautiful coastline and 15 public ports give us.
As I begin my third year in the Florida Senate, I was delighted when Senate President Simpson appointed me as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. Having spent most of my legislative career in the healthcare and social services arena, I am somewhat intimidated but extremely excited to take on this new endeavor and look forward to learning more about all the responsibilities and opportunities this entails. I especially look forward to working with all our private and public sector partners to assure that our very important transportation infrastructure including our roads, bridges, airports and seaports continue to be among the best in the country. They are an extremely important part of the economic engine that allows our state to flourish.
As some of you may recall, I have served previously in the Florida House from 2000-2008 and then from 2010-2018. I was very pleased to work with Governor Bush and your leadership on the original Seaport Security Legislation (HB 1663/SB 978) which I sponsored in the House. It established the original protocols for security on our ports and were put in place to address the drug cartels and the importation of cocaine through our ports. Following 9/11, the federal government used these protocols as model legislation to be implemented across the country to protect our ports from terrorist threats.
Following the passage of that legislation, I had the opportunity to tour almost all our very diverse ports, from Port Everglades, to Port of JAXPORT, to the Port of Tampa, to Port Canaveral and many others. I meet with many of your Port Directors and continued to work with them to improve the security of our ports and fund improvements to their infrastructure. Each port is unique and I learned rapidly that when you have seen one port in Florida, you’ve seen one port! (To quote Mike Rubin)
I recently had the opportunity to tour at my home port; The Port of Fort Pierce. Exciting things are happening there with Derektor Yachts developing their mega yacht facility at The Port of Fort Pierce. They are revitalizing the over 100 year old Port and will be operating a 1,500 ton boat hoist, the largest of its kind in the U.S. This will have an enormous economic impact on the Treasure Coast.