Tallahassee Headquarters located at:
117 South Gadsden Street,
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Copyright © SalterMitchell PR 2021. All rights reserved.
SalterMitchell PR President Heidi Otway speaks with Florida Secretary of Commerce Jamal Sowell, a sixth-generation Floridian. During their conversation, he explains how his faith, family, and overseas military experience prepared him to serve as the state’s Florida Secretary of Commerce.
Chris Cate: Welcome to the Fluent in Floridian podcast, featuring the Sunshine State’s brightest leaders talking about the issues most important to the people of Florida and its millions of weekly visitors. In this episode created by SalterMitchell PR, our executive producer Heidi Otway, the president of SalterMitchell PR, talks to Florida Secretary of Commerce and President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, Jamal Sowell
Heidi Otway: Secretary Sowell, it is so great to have you as a guest on the Fluent in Floridian podcast. Thank you for being our guest today.
Jamal Sowell: No problem, thanks for having me. Glad I’m here.
Heidi Otway: So let’s dive in. There are so many news stories about you and your rise to your current position, but I want to talk a little bit about your life and what got you to this position. And you’re a sixth-generation Floridian, talk about your family history. And as we like to say in the South, who are you people?
Jamal Sowell: So that’s always exciting to talk about because in Florida, not a lot of people who are in Florida are from Florida. So I was born and raised in Orlando, but my parents are from small towns. My dad’s from Hamilton County, Florida, the City of Jasper, Florida. My mom is from Leesburg, Florida, Lake County, but she was born in Ocala, but her family originated from Jackson County. My grandmother was born in Bascom, Florida and raised in Two Egg and then I’ve met my grandfather-
Heidi Otway: Two Egg?
Jamal Sowell: Yeah, exactly. So just really a small town, Florida and that’s kind of what I grew up around. So for us, my parents went to Florida A&M University, and then they graduated in 1968. That’s where they met and got married and my dad then went to Vietnam after that. Served in the Army for four years, then got out to the reserves and went to law school at a UF in Gainesville. So essentially, he became one of the first 10 black graduates at UF Law School, graduated in 1974. Then from there, he then moved to Orlando because one of our uncles then got him a job in Orlando and he was the first black to be a public defender in Orange County. So that’s why I was born in Orlando a few years later, the youngest of several siblings. For me, to be a Floridian is unique because in a state where you have only about 35% of the state is from Florida, everybody else is from the Northeast, the Midwest, the islands. So to find somebody born in Florida has really shaped me because I had a Southern perspective, but also a global perspective because everybody in Florida was from around the world. So, when people would ask me where I was from, they would ask me whether I was Haitian or Jamaican or Trinidadian and I would say, “No, I was born in Orlando.” And they were like, “Well, where are you really from?” I said, “Well, my parents are from the backwoods and back Orange doors of Florida.” So they would just say, “Are you just black?” It was always interesting. So that really shaped my experience in a positive way and it really made me want to see the world eventually.
Heidi Otway: That’s wonderful. I get the same thing. People ask me, “You were born in Florida? Where are your people from?” I do have family from the Caribbean and also born in Florida. So I totally get what that experience that you have. What was it like growing up in your family, having known that they’ve lived in all these parts of Florida, your parents having gone to FAMU and your life, is it still safe to say a military brat?
Jamal Sowell: Yeah, So what happened was that my father’s first job at of law school was as a public defender and then he did that from 1975 to about ’83. I was born in ’82. So then, he was still in the reserves. He got back in the Army active duty during the cold world buildup. During that time, what he did was he then went for active duty and then I was born in Orlando, October ’82. Then we moved to Atlanta to Fort McPherson that January of 1983. From there, we were there for several years, about five years, and then from there, he got stationed at The Pentagon, and then that’s where he retired out of there. So, I came back to Florida when I was in sixth grade and then we came back to Orlando. So, I had a drastically different experience growing up for a portion in Northern Virginia and in Georgia, then coming back to Florida to really have a full circle, but that experience living as a kid in Washington D.C. area from first grade until sixth grade, really shaped my perspective, whether it was within politics, whether it was within church or civic activities and that is a longer story, but it’s shaped it for a very positive reason because we went to a Southern Baptist school from first grade to sixth grade and the pastor of this building, Patrick David Rodenhiser was a mentee of Jerry Falwell. So for us just to see that, was amazing because it really instilled in me, a global knowledge in politics that really kind of keeps me till this day when it comes to how I interact, how I work with people and really just, it exposed me to so much at a young age.
Heidi Otway: So, what caused you to pursue a degree in religion in school, having had all these experiences and politics and such? What led you to study religion in college?
Jamal Sowell: So for us though, my family was not political whatsoever, very civic. My dad was in the Army, so very nonpolitical, but also they were still very conservative, very involved in the church and community activities, family activities. So for us, my mom really raised us to be in the Christian ministry. So my brothers till this day, are still involved in the Christian ministry, very heavily, preaching, singing evangelizing. So for me, that’s what I knew. That’s what I was accustomed to. My life revolved around faith and also it revolved around the military because my grandfather served in World War II. My father served in Vietnam and my brother served in Iraq, where he became 100% disabled and retired out of Kansas. So for us, that was really our main thing. So even when I applied to colleges, all the schools that I applied to were around those things, whether it was West Point, I applied to Morehouse, UCF as a backup and now to UF. For me, going to UF was something that my mom really wanted to push because my brother was there a year above me. So rather than going to West Point or Morehouse, she guided me to go to school in Gainesville and that really made a big difference. But the faith aspect in terms of religion, wanting to be a pastor, because all my friends who were my age, they were preaching at 13, 14, 15 years old. So when you’re raised around it, that is something that you’re accustomed to and almost your comfort zone. So on Friday nights, it’s kids. Rather than going out to a football game, we were going to church for Bibles, youth inventions, youth camps. And for those who understand that world, it sounds odd to some, but for us, that was our social circles. So I knew kids from different high schools, all around the state, all around the county, all because of church activities.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. My kids actually grew up like that as well and they’re so rooted and so thoughtful because of that experience that they had. So, I’m sure that has shaped you in many, many ways.
Jamal Sowell: It did, but it also shaped me in a way to learn more. So in college, I studied Orthodox Judaism because I was very intrigued with the church but also with its origins. So, I studied some Hebrew, and a semester in Israel and I said, “Well, this is where it started.” So for me, I really wanted to expand and learn something that I was not customed to. So as a freshman, sophomore in college, I stopped by the Hillel and met a guy named Keith Dvorchik who was the Hillel director and he taught me so much about the Jewish culture and Jewish faith and then from taking classes on Orthodox Judaism, learning about Hasidic Jews and all that. Really fast forward, it shaped me years later when I led a trade mission along with the guidance of the governor to Israel. There was some great success that we’ll talk about soon, but having that background in religion allowed me to understand cultures, understand people, but to also understand the world.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. What happened when you graduated from University of Florida? What was your next step after that?
Jamal Sowell: So for me, once I realized that I was more of a background person when it came to Christian ministry and church and all that, I wanted to then music civically. So I always wanted to serve in the military because my father in that history. So I then went to grad school in Massachusetts and it was amazing experience because I never lived outside the South. So that was definitely interesting and different.
Heidi Otway: Tell me about that.
Jamal Sowell: I think when you’re raised in the Bible belt and you see certain churches, where the churches are denominations, whether it’s Catholics, Baptist, Protestant, all types Episcopal, for example, I never really heard of Congregational Church and that’s a very nice sized domination in the Northeast and had never really seen it. Having that experience outside of the Bible belt, my first month in school, I saw so many protests and yes, we do have protests in Florida in college on campus, but these were a lot different than anything that I have seen. So for me, it was an intellectual immersion into something that I was not accustomed to when it came to the interactions with people, when it came to even the term diversity. It means something different when you go to different regions of the US and in Florida, we are an international hub and diversity means so many different things. But when you travel to other places in the country, it means something drastically different based on where you are in the USA.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. So what happened after you left Massachusetts?
Jamal Sowell: So right after I graduated college, I then did a summer internship at Texas A&M University, which is an amazing experience because I was able to work with at Texas A&M with a school very much like the University of Florida – land-grant, large school, did that for a summer, met some great people, some great friends and a mentor of mine was the chief of staff to president Dr. Robert Gates, who was the former secretary of defense and also a CIA director in his career. So, that time allowed me to see Texas and I really enjoyed it, then obviously going to grad school, Massachusetts, and then in grad school, I then joined the Marine Corps. I enlisted out of a unit in Chicopee, Massachusetts, that was a combat engineering unit and I enlisted as a private first class. So rather than do an internship in grad school after my first year, I then went to boot camp at Paris Island. So, I went from academia to Paris Island and I made so many good friends there. When I was there at Paris Island, I actually had the chance to meet Florida State, Senator Ken Pruitt. His son was in my boot camp company and I walked up to him the day of graduation and said, “You don’t know who I am, but I’ve seen you before.” Until this day, we still talk about that experience. So I did boot camp summer of ’06 and then from there, I went back to grad school in Massachusetts, then I graduated, but I really enjoyed the reserves. I was at a reserve unit and I enjoyed it so much, I said, “Well, let me go ahead and go active duty.” So I went active duty as an officer. I then went to OCS, Officer Candidate School summer of ’07, and then the rest is history. Full-time active duty, then I was stationed in Quantico, Virginia, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, Fort Bliss, Texas, Camp Pen in California.
Heidi Otway: How many years? How long was your years of active duty?
Jamal Sowell: So, active duty is usually around four years and then I was in the reserves about a year and a half prior to that and after that too. So when I got done with active duty, I joined an anti-tank unit based out of Hialeah. It was just a great experience. I had friends around the world, whether it was friends who are now overseas, friends in California and Texas, it’s just an amazing experience because for me, I wanted as a kid, to be like James Bond. I want it to be a renaissance man and I wanted to have experiences because when you’re from Florida, it was almost the intrigue of something different when you’re from somewhere else. So because I was from Florida, I didn’t have the option to go back to the islands, go back to the Midwest, Northeast. This was home for me. So I really had the desire to see the world and really bring that knowledge back home one day and that’s what I’m doing now, in my role as the secretary of commerce.
Heidi Otway: Can we talk a little bit about your tour of duty in Afghanistan?
Jamal Sowell: Yes.
Heidi Otway: What was that like?
Jamal Sowell: It was phenomenal because when you are young in your 20s, daring, I would volunteer for everything and my dad would write me. He said, “Jamal, stop volunteering,” because for me, it was just a starting experience because we were in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and I wanted to be a motivator for those young Marines who had wife and kids at home because I wasn’t married nor did I have kids. For me, it was important to make sure that they knew I had their best interests, they knew I would be there right with them because they had another level of stress because of worrying about family back home. So for me, I was always adamant about doing everything I could, taking on any bill that I could, be involved in everything, whether it was, a mission or a patrol, I really wanted to be engaged. For me, it was exciting because I made some good friends. I just saw one of them from my time in Afghanistan. I saw him in West Palm Beach the other week for a funeral and we were just talking about times being in the middle of the desert, having conversations at midnight while we were on patrol, or just talking about what was going on in the world. It was great to talk with him and also catch up just about what was going on. His name is Destiny Davis and he was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps. And for me, those friendships made over there were built from really us to counter-insurgency operations. So you kind of start to see operations is not the traditional thing that you may see on TV, it’s getting to know the culture, getting to know the region, because we want to get information about the area in order to stop terrorist cells, terrorist groups. So for us to do that, you really had to be immersed in the culture with the people and getting to know them. And that’s really what I do now in the state of Florida with selling the state about how marketable it is to the entire world, about why we are so special, why we are so unique, but it took, and it takes, me to understand New York, California, Massachusetts, the Midwest, where I also lived in Indiana, the West Coast, where I lived, it took me to use those experiences to tell them why Florida is the premier place for business and why they should relocate their companies to Florida and move out of those high tax code and high regulated states.
Chris Cate: The Fluent in Floridian podcast is brought to you by SalterMitchellPR, a communications consultancy focused on helping good causes win. We provide strategic insight and guidance to organizations seeking to make an impact in the nation’s third most populous state. Learn more at SMPRFlorida.com. Now back to Heidi Otway’s interview with Florida Commerce Secretary Jamal Sowell.
Heidi Otway: So you’re entering into your third year in this position. What do you see as your biggest accomplishments in that time? There’s a lot of stories out there about your key thing was you wanted stability in this position because several people have had it. So what do you say is one of your big highlights in your position, your career?
Jamal Sowell: The biggest highlight is to really promote the agenda of a governor who is young, who is ambitious. If you think about it, he’s the first Florida governor born in the state in almost 25 years, because Governor Charlie Crist was not born in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush was not born in Florida, Governor Rick Scott was not born in Florida, and that is what makes Florida so unique. Any other Southern state you go to Alabama, South Carolina, or even Texas, you can’t even get on the ballot unless you are an eighth-generation native. That makes Florida unique because you don’t have to join the right country clubs, you don’t have to always be part of the right groups. If you have an idea, if you have a vision, if you want to start a business, you can come to Florida and do that. So in terms of the past few years, part of the success was actually found during a difficult time, which was 2020. My father died in August of 2020 from a stroke and for me to carry on his legacy, it’s just important to recognize rural Florida, where he was from, the areas that are forgotten. In 2019, the governor and I would go on trade missions and business development missions to Chicago, New York several times, and other places and tell them why Florida was so special and we really reaped a lot of those benefits in 2020 and those companies followed up and said, “Well, we liked your message. We liked what you were saying, and you are open for business.” New York is not, California is not and even Chicago. We have our restrictions though. They said “Our workers can work anywhere. We want to relocate to the state of Florida,” and a lot of that was because of the land work that we did in 2019. I point to the Israel praying mission that the governor led, which was phenomenal because that allowed us to really talk with companies and show that Florida is the most pro-Israel state in the nation and we have the most pro-Israel governor in the nation, and I was able to tie that to my experiences from doing a semester there, from my major in religion and even from being involved in APAC over the years.
Heidi Otway: I just read recently that the stock exchange was looking to relocate to Florida.
Jamal Sowell: Yeah, as I said, in 2020, we’ve had a vast amount of companies from the Northeast, from around the world come to Florida, whether it was City Group in Tampa or Blackstone having a tech hub in Miami. There were countless stories of people now coming to Florida during a hard time because they realized that the state that they were in specifically the Northeast and the West Coast were not conducive for them for business, were not conducive to their employees, not conducive to the cost of living that we have in Florida compared to them. So whether it’s the New York stock exchange or others, we want them to come here. We’re constantly making the sell every single day.
Heidi Otway: Where do you see the state going from here? We’re still in the midst of the pandemic. We’re seeing companies come to Florida. I read the business journals every day and I’m seeing more and more startups and companies that are growing in the state of Florida. Where do you see our economy going from here?
Jamal Sowell: So my focus is diversifying the economy. Historically, we were known as a tourism and agriculture area and when we come in economic hard times such as this, it show the need to have a diversified economy. So now, we’re really focused on financial services, aviation, aerospace, manufacturing, and obviously healthcare with the history of our state, and all of that has pushed me to think about different ways. Florida as a state is not an incentive having state like New York, Texas, or California, but we are really focusing on talent and workforce in our pipeline because when companies come, they want to know that they have the right talent. So my focus has always been, from my background, veterans, they are a specific talent base that have been trained, have been tested, and proven to be great workers. So when we tell these companies, “Hey, we have a talent for you. Not only do we have the veterans here from our over two dozen military installation in the state, we have a world-class state university system that is public with several top 100 schools, several amazing HBCUs, many great private schools, and even a world-class state college system.” So as the governor focuses on that, we’re looking at the holistic approach when it comes to economic development, not just incentives, but it’s focused on the judicial system with having courts and judges and justices that are business-friendly, having a great environment, such as the waterways, beaches, and our air quality, and also having a world-class education system. So with that three-step approach that has been successful. We will continue to hone in on that as the governor makes the sale about why we need to stay open for business, but why that is conducive to those companies who are seeking to leave other states.
Heidi Otway: So we’re seeing a lot of those companies that are coming into Florida and going to the bigger hubs, South Florida, Central Florida, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, what are you doing for the rural communities, most notably here in North Florida? I’m based in Tallahassee, and we’re always talking about how to generate private sector companies to come to Tallahassee. What are your efforts to help the smaller communities and the rural communities?
Jamal Sowell: So in 2019, I hired a rural director named Eric Anderson, who’s been great because of our focus on rural Florida, and the governor has a focus on that. So we have rolled out several grant programs that we just did last month, that we’ve done over the past two years because we want to make sure that rural Florida is empowered. I also want to let people know that rural Florida is so vast and diverse because people say rural Florida, they think the Panhandle, but people also have to remember that rural Florida isn’t just the Panhandle. You have the Okeechobee area, you have rural Northeast Florida with Hamilton County, Baker County, Columbia County. The areas that tend to not get put on the map when people think about rural Florida. So that has really been a focus of mine where there’s Hendry County and those areas that really want economic development in their area and they have so much to offer. For example, there is an area that people know as The Muck and that’s also in rural Florida, where there is the Okeechobee area, Pahokee, South Bay, Belle Glade, those areas also want economic development and they’re rural Florida areas that are prime for development and prime for business and they want the world to know that they are opening and want companies to come. So that’s the sell that I constantly make as we head to New York and other places, but the governor definitely makes the sale and very adamant and I’m the one who follows up on that. So, it’s never dull to promote rural Florida because there’s so many resources that are historic and rich, and also ties back to my background where my parents moved from rural Florida.
Heidi Otway: Yeah, what you’re doing must be working because Amazon is coming to, what is it? Jackson County?
Jamal Sowell: Yeah. So essentially, well Jackson County, they had been tirelessly fighting for resources when it comes to companies who want to come, they’ve been saying, “Hey, here’s what we have to offer. Here are the great things that we have going on in Jackson County,” and one of my board members at Enterprise, whose name is David Melvin, great leader who is doing so much there to ensure that Jackson County is on the map for the world to see.
Heidi Otway: That’s awesome. So you’ve served in a number of positions, economic advisor to the governor, the chief of staff for the Port of Tampa Bay, your current position at Enterprise Florida. So where do you see yourself going? I’ve been around you a lot of times at different events from TaxWatch to the Chamber of Commerce. People are gravitating toward you in so many ways, and your experience is just par none and that you’re a black male is great, you’re a role model for a lot of people. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Jamal Sowell: So for me, there is a quote and the Thamud, which is a historic text that those of the Jewish faith read and study. And it says, “Who is a wise man, he who learns evolvement.” For me, that quote is something that I learned in undergrad because I wanted to really learn the world, learn people, whether it was people in the backwoods of Florida or those in the urban hubs of South Florida, Orlando or Tampa, and all of that has allowed me to shape myself as a leader. For me, in regards to government and business, that’s really my passion. I worked in higher ed also, and I love education. I love higher ed, I love trade and business and commerce and having two mentors who’ve specifically gotten me down that path. One was President Bernie Machen of the UF, and also a Paul Anderson who had the same career path of working in government and policy circles in business and those two gentlemen really guided me in regards to experiences that I may not have had, if not for them. Granted, I had a great father who was an amazing role model and because of him, I went to law school because of him, I joined the military and saw the world, but having those mentors professionally allowed me to see a different side of things. I was really connected to them through people who they know in their networks because I met Paul Anderson through Jeb Bush, our former governor, who also became a mentor of mine years ago when I became student body president, and I met Governor Bush through a woman named Wendy Grant who passed in 2018, introduced me to her network of the Jeb Bush Alumni, who she worked for and that really made a difference. The mentorship piece for me is big. So as I work in government and business here at Enterprise Florida, I really want to mentor the young leaders of tomorrow because right now I’m 38, but when I was 18, 19 years old, the fact that I was able to meet with the governor and his office was shocking to me because I was just a student at the University of Florida. Having those mentors allowed me to understand the bigger picture, the importance of business, the importance of having leaders who know things outside of government in order to make it better.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. Now, do you mentor yourself? You talked about mentoring the young people. How far does that go? Are you mentoring younger people like the 10 and 12-year-olds? I remember meeting my favorite anchor in Miami, who said, “Heidi, you can be whatever you want to be. If you want to be a reporter, you can be a reporter.” And that stuck with me and I did eventually become a reporter. So, how are you inspiring the generation, two generations from you?
Jamal Sowell: That is important for me because the fact that they’re going to be the ones who are going to be in charge 10, 20 years from now and when you mentor somebody, not only does that help them, that helps you with getting to know people who are coming up, whether it’s business leaders, CEOs, or government officials. So as I mentor those who are young men, who may be shy, young women, who may be shy, for me, I was not somebody that people would have said who was a leader in high school or in grade school. I was shy. I did not like to take charge. I did not want to be on camera or in the spotlight because I was very timid. I was a nerd. So for me, it wasn’t cool at that time. I wasn’t a high school sports star. I played sports, but I wasn’t known for that because we like to do church, we liked to do ministry. My brother, John is probably one of my biggest role models as a peer. Josh speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, some Russian, he works at Valencia College in Orlando. John was so unique. He never cared what anybody thought. He was going door to door at seven years old asking people if they knew Jesus Christ as the Lord and savior, seven years old door to door. And because of that, he’s an evangelist now. He preaches overseas, other countries in Spanish and Portuguese, and he never cared. Everybody would think he was odd at times, but he never cared because he knew what his faith was and he stayed strong with that. For me to see that at that age, was important, because he did not do peer pressure, he did not fall by the wayside because of what people said. He never cared. Till this day, he’s one of my biggest peer role models in addition to what I had from my older role models. So that is important as I talk with you and talk with him about daring to be different, doing things on their own, because it may not seem cool or the popular thing to do at that age, but as you get older, people will respect the fact that you had a foundation that you were willing to speak up for even when it was against all odds and not popular.
Heidi Otway: That’s wise, counsel. Well Jamal, it was really great talking with you. We always close our interviews, asking our guests four questions. So I want to ask you these questions. The first question is what Florida person, place, or thing deserves more attention than it’s currently getting.
Jamal Sowell: So for the Florida person, someone who I’ve always admired that doesn’t necessarily go down in the history book, is a fellow named Edward Daniel Davis. He is someone who was a member of my home church in Orlando, Mount Olive Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which is one of the oldest African-American churches in Orlando. He led the Integration Movement of schools in Florida. People always hear about others such as Virgil Hawkins, but he was a state leader, a business man, someone who worked in education as a principal who worked in Ocala, Tampa and Orlando and he died in the late 80s. But in college, when I came home, I would talk to his widow named Lorraine Davis and when I pledged Kappa Alpha Psi in college, she then gave me his Kappa Alpha Psi paraphernalia and I would be so amazed because we have a picture of him in the church inside the dining hall and I was always intrigued, who was this fellow? And as I got older, I read his history. The fact that he led the integration movement in the state of Florida, specifically at the University of Florida, where he led the charge as a state activist and because of that years later, my father was one of the first 10 black graduates of UF Law School. I was one of the first few black student body presidents at UF. And even though I never thought about it when I was younger, seeing that example made me want to achieve more, made me want to do more, made me want to come back home to make those proud, like his widow, Lorraine Davis, who was still alive. So Edward Davis is someone who I always thought should get more recognition because of what he did at a time where it was not popular, but because of his work and his efforts, he really laid the foundation for my father and myself. In regards to places, my favorite spot to go is American beach on Amelia Island over in Nassau County. My aunt has a house there, It’s a very small house, but we always go there for family vacations, family trips. I get to see those there, who it amaze me, whether it was the chief justice of the Supreme court, Leander Shaw when he was alive, he would go there. He had a house there. I still see his son former, State Rep Sean Shaw there-
Heidi Otway: Yeah, Sean Shawn.
Jamal Sowell: … when I go there. Former Board of Trustees chairman, Bill Jennings, who passed. He had a house there. I would see him all the time. I see Federal Judge Brian Davis outside every time I go, just hanging out. So it’s a very small area just walking around, but that history of it being founded in the 1930s by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, who was the first black millionaire in the state of Florida, all just inspired me to want to achieve heights that may not have come naturally for somebody who was shy or may not have come naturally to someone who may feel like they had barriers in front of them but I knew that if I was the best, if I studied hard, if I stayed aware of my foundation and faith and what was instilled in me, there was nothing that was going to hold me back because of the fact that I had such good role models and I knew the Florida history that wanted me to know that there was nothing that I couldn’t do if I stuck to it and put my mind to it.
Heidi Otway: Yeah, that’s good. So a Florida leader from past or present who inspires you, would that also be Edward Daniel Davis? Would that fall into that category or do you have somebody else?
Jamal Sowell: Correct. That was him and everything. I think that just the history of him, somebody who people may not even know about or hear about, but just laid the groundwork for what I am now here in the state of Florida, but also most importantly, my father who died in August of 2020, someone who was very quiet. So I didn’t even know what he did till I got older because he just did not talk that much. He wasn’t very braggadocios or loud. He was just very calm. I never saw him yell, but because he was a Vietnam veteran, he was very stern, great father, great role model. So for me, Attorney James M. Soule Jr. was born in 1946. So my father did not have a chance to go to integrated schools. He went to high school and graduate in 1964. Schools in Florida really did not integrate till the mid to late 60s. So his first time going to integrated schools with law school 1972 at University of Florida.
Heidi Otway: Wow, it must have been life changing for him.
Jamal Sowell: Yeah, but for him, he said, he always let him talk. He never felt awkward because he was confident in his abilities and what he learned in rural Florida at his schools and what he learned in the military. So he said he never felt not confident because he knew that he had a great foundation and he was taught well and he rose to the occasion.
Heidi Otway: That’s great. What’s your favorite sports team?
Jamal Sowell: Gators.
Heidi Otway: I knew you’re going to say that.
Jamal Sowell: I think that going to UF, for me, that was a groundbreaking time for me because when I got in school, I wasn’t loud. I didn’t talk that much. I just knew what I liked. I liked church, Christian ministry. I liked being involved in things, but naturally, I became more engaged and found my lane. My lane was leadership, business policy, but also getting to know people and knowing their issues, and I think that serves me well to this day. I try to also stay humble because, at the end of the day, I tell people a title can be gone tomorrow and people will not always remember the title, but they will remember how you treated them and treating people with respect and kindness that goes a long way. One day not if, but when, the tables are turned, people will remember that and what you did when you had a chance to help them. So I want to use every ability that I have to help minority and small businesses, rural communities, and areas that tend to not traditionally have a voice that they could get overshadowed.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. Secretary Sowell, thank you so much for being a guest. This has been a very enlightening conversation, and I really appreciated this time to talk to you. Thank you.
Jamal Sowell: Thanks so much for having me, appreciate it.
Chris Cate: Thanks for listening to the Fluent in Floridian podcast. This show is executive produced by April Salter, with additional support provided by Heidi Otway and the team at SalterMitchell PR. If you need help telling your Florida story, SalterMitchell PR has you covered by offering issues management, crisis communications, social media, advocacy, and media relations assistance. You can learn more about SalterMitchell PR at saltermitchellpr.com. You can also learn more about the Fluent in Floridian podcast and listen to every episode of the show at fluentinfloridian.com or by searching for the show using your favorite podcast app. Have a great day.
Be notified when new episodes of the Fluent in Floridian Podcast are released and receive public relations, communications and marketing expertise from SalterMitchell PR.
SalterMitchell PR helps good causes win. We are a full service communications consultancy providing strategic insight and guidance to organizations seeking to make an impact in the nation's third most populous state. We know Florida. We understand the diverse landscape of Florida. We are fluent in Floridian.
Tallahassee Headquarters located at:
117 South Gadsden Street,
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Copyright © SalterMitchell PR 2021. All rights reserved.