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Jeanette Nuñez is not only the 20th Lieutenant Governor of Florida, she’s also the state’s first female Cuban-American to hold the title, a mother of three, and a daughter of immigrants. She describes the start of her career in politics as somewhat of a fluke, but nonetheless has had quite a successful run, having previously served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives and Speaker Pro Tem.
In our 80th episode, SalterMitchell PR CEO April Salter and Lieutenant Governor Nuñez discuss her South Florida upbringing, her education at Florida International University, and life outside of the office. Nuñez’s love for the Sunshine State and its people display what it truly means to be fluent in Floridian.
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 April Salter, the CEO of SalterMitchell PR, talks to Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez.
April Salter: Good morning, Lieutenant Governor. We’re so happy to have you on Fluent in Floridian this morning.
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Good morning. How are you?
April Salter: Terrific. Well, welcome to the show. I’m excited to have this time with you today. So let’s get started really talking about your life and your Florida experience, and talk a little bit about where you grew up. I went to high school at Miramar High School, down in Broward County, very close to, I think, where you grew up. And you grew up just a couple of miles from Miami International Airport and Florida International University. So tell us a little bit about that.
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Sure. I was born and raised here in Miami-Dade County, in a little neighborhood, it’s not an incorporated area, but it’s a little neighborhood known as Village Green. So my parents still live in the house where I was raised. It’s a great little enclave of a lot of people that have spent pretty much their entire adult lives there. So really a unique little neighborhood, and proud to be a product of Village Green.
I grew up there, I went to school at Westwood Christian School. It’s a very small private school, still exist today. I went there K through 12, had just a wonderful experience. Met my husband there, actually, in sixth grade, believe it or not. So those that say that high school sweethearts don’t make it, I’m living proof that sometimes, with a lot of work, they do.
April Salter: Yeah, absolutely. So when you think back on your childhood growing up there, are there special memories of things that you would do in Miami that might be different than people in other areas?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Sure. Well, that area really was the western fringe, if you will, of the county. It has since, as you know, has exploded with development and growth. But at the time, and my mom recalls that when she told her boss at the time that she was going to purchase a house there, he told her, “You’re crazy. That’s like the Everglades.” And so it’s funny how that has become middle of the county, if you will, and a lot more growth out west.
Growing up, my mom loved the beach, so we would go often to an area affectionately known as [foreign language 00:02:44] the lighthouse, if you will. And it’s really Crandon Park. They have a great beach there, and we would do a lot of barbecues, and just had a great childhood. Blessed to have wonderful parents. I have two older sisters. There was quite a bit of an age gap in between me and my sisters. My oldest sister is 12 years older than me, and my middle sister is five years older than me, but nonetheless just had a great childhood. And the beach was obviously one of those highlights, especially living in such a wonderful community and having access to beautiful beaches and parks. It’s always a blessing when you can enjoy the wonderful nature that we have here in Florida.
April Salter: Absolutely. We’re so blessed by our coastlines and just all the exciting things that there are to do. So your family came from Cuba, yet you were born here in Florida. Can you talk to us a little bit about their immigration story?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Sure. So correct, my parents were born in Cuba. They married there. They had my oldest sister, as I mentioned, she’s about 12 years older than me. And right about the time that she was born, she was born in 1960, things started to get very challenging in the Island of Cuba. Fidel Castro had taken over, clearly he was taking the country in towards a path that my parents were vehemently opposed to. My dad… many people thought that Castro was going to be a good alternative to the prior dictator. My dad was never one of those. He always felt like he did not support the ideals that Castro was espousing. So he was someone that they had their eye on, if you will. A friend of his had shared with him that he was likely going to be put under house arrest.
So my dad made the difficult decision to go ahead and leave the country. He went first. My mom stayed behind with her mom and her family. She has siblings, extended siblings. So she stayed with my sister. He went first to settle things and hopefully reunite. I can only imagine having to make that difficult decision to leave your wife and small child behind. So my mom actually tells me the story that she had to pretend that he had abandoned her so that she wouldn’t be viewed as an outcast. And so, she went around telling people, yes, how sad her husband had left her, all the while making plans to reunite with him. And she was lucky to be able to do that just a few short months afterwards, in 1961.
April Salter: And how did they actually make that trip?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: They flew over. My dad flew over. He was able to settle things here. He had a cousin that was living in Miami, so he was able to work through all the ins and outs of that process. And my mom and my sister were able to join them. And then slowly but surely, they went through the tedious process of bringing both my grandmothers, the siblings that my mom had. And so my parents really were the pioneers. They were the ones that first stepped foot here in Florida. They settled, they did all the things that they needed to do. They sacrificed. My mom frequently tells the story of… My sister was very small. She was a baby. And so she would say that their ironing board was their dining room table.
Yeah. But a lot of things. And another funny story that I haven’t really shared too much out in public, my dad, again, at the time, difficult to find work. He was fortunate that he spoke a little bit of English, but of course, obviously not as fluent as someone that had been born and raised here. But my dad was fortunate enough to try to find work. And at one point, he had been offered a job in Nebraska, and he had made the decision that that was probably going to be the best place for them financially. So they were in the throes of planning a relocation to Nebraska.
Now my dad loves cold weather. My mom, not so much. So she wasn’t really happy about that, but nonetheless, they were making plans to go to Nebraska. And at the last second, the cousin that I referenced earlier that he had here, that was living here, was able to help him find a job. And so they ended up staying. Otherwise, I might’ve been a Cornhusker.
April Salter: And what was his profession?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: So my dad ended up working at Sears for basically his entire adult life. He, for many years, worked in Coral Gables and sold furniture. Then he briefly retired for probably about a year when I had my first child, but retirement really wasn’t for him. So he went back to Sears and probably spent another 17, 18 years in the appliances department in various stores. And then he, unfortunately, retired when they obviously went bankrupt.
April Salter: Yeah. And so, as you think about your own family’s immigration story, obviously immigration has become a big issue in our country, and it’s something that we’ll continue to face, moving forward. What are some of your thoughts about what we should be looking for in a good immigration policy?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Oh, that is the perennial question. That’s something that I know Congress has failed to do over the course of many decades. For my parents, they are firm believers that this is a wonderful country. They imparted those values in me. They love this country dearly. In fact, many Cuban Americans that came to this country early on, they didn’t have expectations of staying. They thought they were just going to come here, wait for things to settle, and then go back. I don’t really think that was my parents’ intention. I think my father really loved this country from the minute he stepped foot on it. And I think that he was very content to stay, even if the situation in Cuba had improved.
Immigration is a complex issue. It’s one of those that, obviously, you see things, and you hear headlines, and they really tear at the heartstrings, but we are a country of laws. And I think they do need to fix the legal immigration system, make it less cumbersome. Unfortunately, government in all facets has an ability, an uncanny ability, really, to make things so complicated and so burdensome and so onerous that it really frustrates those that are trying to do the right thing.
So I think the most important thing that they can do is, of course, create a seamless, more efficient legal immigration system. But obviously, we simply can’t afford to be all things to all people. So I think the most important thing, the most valuable thing that we could do as a country, is to make sure that our legal system is working. I think, obviously, that’s going to be a quandary of an issue to deal with at the federal level for quite some time.
April Salter: You grew up in the middle of a lot of political debate and discussion related to Cuba. Is that what drew you to politics? Were you interested in it at a young age? Were there political debates around your dining room table? What led you into this career?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: So the short answer is no, we didn’t have a lot of political discussions around the dining room table. Quite the contrary. When I shared with my parents that I was going to run for public office, when I first ran in 2010 for state representative, they were dismayed. They were like, “Oh, no, politics is such an ugly, dirty industry. And there’s no privacy.” And so they were really surprised, I think. So there was no family history of politicians. No real… Obviously, they cared about politics because, I often tell this to my own children, just because you don’t care about politics doesn’t mean politics won’t care about you, but they weren’t really hyper political.
So I often recount my journey into politics is what I would describe as somewhat as a fluke. When I graduated high school, I went to college, I went to FIU, and was planning on studying business. I had to take an elective of sorts. And so I picked whatever was available. Back then… Kids don’t know how easy they have it now. Back then, you had to call, and they would kick you out of the system. And as a freshman, you’re last on the totem pole, trying to get in to get to your classes. And you never had a great schedule. So you might have a class at 7:00 in the morning and one at seven o’clock at night. But I picked the first one I found, which was intro to international relations. And I really enjoyed it. I don’t know how and when I made the decision to just switch from business to political science and international relations.
Again, never really expecting to work in politics. I don’t even quite know what I was going to do with that degree. I toyed with the idea of law school early during my bachelor’s. I spoke to a professor who I really liked and I took a few classes with, and she dissuaded me from a career in law. And it’s funny because she was a lawyer. So at that point, I put that on pause, didn’t really think much of it.
And so I graduated from FIU. I’m looking for a job, I’m applying everywhere I can find. And of course, no experience, a political science degree, and most jobs declined me politely. So there was an opening for a state representative, and I didn’t really want to work there, but I said, well, at least there’s a nexus, and I might have a better shot of getting this job. So indeed, I got a position working for a state representative.
My husband, now my husband, he and I were in the process of trying to map out our future. He was graduating with a business degree. I was graduating. So I figured I needed a job if we were to get married and have to pay all the bills that we have to pay. So I took that position. And again, it was one of those things I thought, well, I’ll just get some experience, and then it’s easier to get another job. And I ended up working there for nine years.
Still at that time, had no interest whatsoever in running for office or being involved on the public facing side. So I continued to work there, and then I took another position after that, working for Jackson Memorial Hospital. I was their government affairs person, was promoted to their vice president of government affairs, had a great learning experience, both on the healthcare side and the political side, really.
And it was somewhere there that I got the crazy idea to run for office, but I can tell you, growing up as a young child and even in college, I was actually extraordinarily shy. So again, speaking in public was something I did not enjoy, hated when I had to do a presentation in school. So it wasn’t a natural path for me, and I honestly believe… I’m a woman of faith. I honestly believe it was God’s plan for me.
April Salter: Such a great segue to my next question. As I look through your career, it seems like no matter what you do, you’re constantly rising to the top among your peers, whether you’re winning big from your election, where you really… your election to the House, you just swept through that, really swamping your opponents, and then becoming Speaker pro tem in what must’ve been a very competitive environment. And then of course now, being selected as Lieutenant Governor. So there must be something about you that is extremely competitive and maybe perfectionist, that desires to really win at these things. So what is that about you? Where do you think you got that spirit?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: I think obviously, my parents, again, imparted in me a lot important values, and one of those was hard work and education. So I mentioned my dad worked up until which time Sears went bankrupt. My mom, who’s 84, she still works today. Now with COVID, obviously, she’s working from home, but she has been such an important mentor in my life, from a professional standpoint. She was a pioneer of sorts, really and truly.
So I think, obviously, whenever I do something, whether it’s personal, professional, political, I always like to do it to the best of my ability. I never like to go into things halfway. I’m either all in or I’m not.
And so, when I made the decision to join Ron DeSantis on the ticket, it actually took me some time to get there. Because as you mentioned, I had spent eight years in the House, traveling back and forth to Tallahassee, very hectic environment, a lot of back and forth, a lot of stress, really. I don’t think the average person… Politicians have a bad rap, if you will, and people roll their eyes, and I’ve often said, “Well, no one’s shedding any tears for me.” I’m blessed. I really am, but it’s a tough job. It’s a tough job. And you’re out there, you exposed yourself, your family. And I will tell you, I often talk about these keyboard cowboys that I referred to, that they’re quick to berate you and insult you and sometimes even threaten you on social media. But we’ve lost civility in politics, really in everything.
So, having three children, it was difficult. I had a lot of help from both my parents and my in-laws, and so I was able to make it work. But when I decided that I was going to take a little break from politics, when I reached eight years that we’re term limited here in Florida, I felt like I needed that break. And my husband obviously wanted me to be home more. And so it was difficult for me to say yes to Ron at the time, not because I didn’t believe in his vision, not because I didn’t think he was going to be an amazing governor, but it takes a toll on the family. And so, I always try to balance, again, personal, professional, political, and sometimes I don’t always succeed, but I always try to keep that front and center.
April Salter: In Florida, there’s been so many different roles and relationships between governors and lieutenant governors, with some lieutenant governors being very active and very visible, and others not so much. I know you’ve been very active around numerous issues, from the census to human trafficking and certainly COVID, I’ve seen you out quite a bit on that issue. Tell me more about your role and how you work with the governor and his staff.
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: That’s a great question because that was one of the discussion points that I had with the governor, prior to my accepting being part of the ticket. I wouldn’t be content, like I said, I’m either all in or I’m not. I wouldn’t be content to just be on the back burner, ceremonial lieutenant governor, because technically in Florida… The other states are different, but technically in Florida, the lieutenant governor doesn’t have any constitutional duties or any statutory rules that are outlined. So I really wanted to make sure that if I was going to do this, if I was going to sacrifice my time, from time with my family and all of those things, that it was going to be something valuable, not just for me, but for Floridians. I think they expect lieutenant governors to be involved and to be engaged.
So I think the governor was totally in alignment with that thought. And I think he’s shown it throughout the course of our first term. Immediately, he tasked me with overseeing the department of health. I never, ever envisioned us being in a global pandemic, but nonetheless given my health background, I think it was a good fit. He tasked me with overseeing Space Florida, which is the state entity that oversees all aspects of the state’s growing aerospace industry. So that’s been something really exciting, really a bright spot throughout even this pandemic, the economy, all of those things. Because as you know, we’re a heavy tourism, heavy agriculture, but I’m trying to make the case that we’re also heavy in the tech sectors. And so space is one of those where we have a number of private sector companies that are relocating to Florida, re-investing in Florida, everything from Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos.
So a lot of excitement going on, not just in the Space Coast, because obviously that’s where you have a lot of that activity, but really throughout the state. And then he also asked me to chair the Centennial commission of women’s suffrage. So really excited about that. We would have liked to have had a lot more grandiose events around the celebration of women’s suffrage. But obviously, again, with the restrictions, it’s been a little bit more challenging. We’ve had to do a lot of things virtually.
And then actually, the legislature asked me to chair the state cyber security task force. So we are in the throes of meeting with the… We have a lot of private sector and public sector individuals on the task force. So we’re in the throes of trying to develop a good set of recommendations, to make sure that our cyber security is obviously keeping with the times.
So a lot of those different things I’m involved with, and working with the governor’s staff, I have a very good relationship with everyone on staff. It’s very seamless. We try to act like a team. Obviously, he’s busy, he’s running around, he’s flying all over the place in Florida, trying to make sure that he’s talking to individuals, especially during this pandemic. But obviously, we’ve had a very busy agenda from the very beginning. The governor wanted to invest, obviously, in the environment, and we’ve done that. Now this past session, he was focused on teacher pay. So a lot of different things that we’ve been working on, and so we try to work as a team.
April Salter: That’s great. Let me ask you about our electorate. Florida is such a divided state. We have 5.1 million registered Democrats, Republicans have just a smidge less than that. And then we have this growing NPA, no party affiliation group, that now has over three million registrations. I think to people outside of politics, they would assume that that would mean that the parties would work together even more closely because they need each other. What do you see, in terms of that ability to work together, and what do you think is needed in order for state government to be even more effective?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Sure. Well, I can tell you from the perspective of dealing with the federal level. So obviously, I have to deal with the federal level in my current role, but even before, when I was in healthcare, having to work with the federal government, I would argue that state government is way more efficient, way more efficient than DC. So a lot of people, again, have this negative connotation of elected officials. I think that’s partly because of the DC drama, if you will, and seeing that nothing ever gets done there, hence the phrase, an act of Congress when you’re referring to something that’s almost impossible to accomplish.
And really, that’s not the case in Tallahassee. And I think that’s partly because in Tallahassee you have a limited window, a 60 day session. So there is no time for drawn out discussions on a bill. You can’t debate a bill to death. We have a very structured process in Tallahassee on the legislative side. I also think that people like to, whether it’s the media, how they report, or what people just are drawn to on social media, people like the drama, they like the hyper-partisan discussions. And then I think that’s what perhaps those that register NPA feel like, “Oh, that party doesn’t represent my values, or this one is just way too left or way too right.”
What I will tell you, as a legislator, the vast majority of things that we work on in the legislature, in the House where I was, are overwhelmingly if not unanimously approved. There are of course, every session, a handful of issues that are always going to be divided around partisan lines, but even… I’ll take one of those issues as an example, school choice. The ability of parents to be able to send their children, to whether a charter school or avail themselves of a scholarship. We’ve seen the pendulum swing on that issue even a little bit more over time. And I think that’s because we’ve seen a lot of parents, especially minority parents, recognize the value of being able to make those choices that best suited for their children. It might not work for every child, even within a certain family. And so what we saw this time around was quite a few Democrats supported a Republican legislature, a Republican governor’s priorities, because it benefits their constituents.
And so when you’re able to separate that you have a party, obviously, the party has platforms, and they have philosophies that they subscribe to. But when you’re able to separate that and look at the benefit to your constituency, then I think that you’re able to make those deals across the aisle, reaching across the aisle, voting with your colleagues from another party.
And honestly, I think that there is, unfortunately, there’s not a lot of discussion around bills and opportunities, to discuss issues in a way that transcends politics. So my experience is different. Now, I know sometimes, and it happens on both sides, I know sometimes when the lights come on, and the cameras are on, and the mics are on, people will grandstand, if you will. And they will share things in a bombastic way, that when you talk to them one-on-one, they’re like, eh, that’s just [inaudible 00:25:01]. Apart from that, I would say people should really not be discouraged by what they see, because that’s just a snippet of what really goes on. And I would tell you that there’s a lot that goes on in Tallahassee that is bipartisan, that is common sense. And I think ultimately, that’s what voters expect.
April Salter: Lieutenant Governor, when I served in government as well, I was appointed as Governor Charles’ communications director while I was actually on maternity leave from the Department of Environmental Protection. So I know it isn’t easy to juggle work and family life, especially when you’re in such a high pressure environment as the governor’s office. At the same time, I also think that my kids benefited from my leadership and my experiences in a lot of different ways. In what ways do you think your experience, as both a mom and a leader, has impacted your kids and you?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Sure. So I have three, as I mentioned. My oldest, my daughter is 21, and my boys are 19 and 14. So obviously, they have been with me in office for the past 10 years. So they were much smaller when I first got elected. But even before that, I was always traveling back and forth to Tallahassee for my prior positions in both state government and outside of state government. So they’re accustomed to me having to travel for work. At the time, my husband also traveled for work. So it was really challenging, trying to coordinate schedules. And like I said, I had a lot of help from both sets grandparents.
So I think each of my children they’re very different. So my daughter does not really love politics. She obviously was very annoyed as a child and even now, that my travel and my erratic schedules sometimes doesn’t fit with her schedule. She’s a little bit of a prima donna. I love her, but she always wants Mom to be available 24/7, and so I’m mindful of that.
Then my middle one, my son, my older son, he is a political guru. He loves politics. He has always loved it. He was so proud when I ran the first time. I think he might’ve been in fourth grade. I don’t know, I haven’t done the math in my head lately, but he was definitely in elementary school. And so I had a bunch of campaign tee shirts left over from my campaign, and he took them all to his class, and he handed them out to his [inaudible 00:27:35]. They all wore Jeanette Nunez for state representative tee shirts that day at school. And so he loves it. And he’s actually very, very knowledgeable. So you could have a conversation with him, and he will tell you everything that you could possibly imagine, which a lot of adults wouldn’t even be as knowledgeable. And so I’m really proud that he has the passion. I don’t know that he wants to necessarily follow my footsteps, but he definitely loves politics.
The youngest one doesn’t really care one way or the other. He certainly is a teenager and starting high school. And so I think for him, he’s been, I guess, the one that, he’s okay. Take it, leave it, doesn’t matter to him.
So I often say that it was house divided when I was making the decision to go and be part of the ticket. It was obviously, my daughter was against it, my husband wasn’t too thrilled, my middle son was all about it. I was obviously wanting to do it. And so I often chalk up my youngest, his ambivalence, to okay, well, that’s a yes. So that’s how I got to the three out of the five.
But it has been both, I think, rewarding and also a sacrifice for them as well. So they’ve been exposed to things and to people and to topics, again, that, like I said, when I was growing up, it really wasn’t discussion around my dining room table. But we talk a lot about, oh, did you hear about this? Oh, did you see that? And of course, social media, they always let me know when… They affectionately tell me that I’m being roasted on Twitter, which is not a good [inaudible 00:29:16] but I think ultimately, they’re very proud. Obviously, it’s one of those things that I don’t know that they fully appreciate at this point in their lives, because they’re obviously consumed with school and their friends and all the things that they got going on. So I think one day, they’ll look back and obviously they’ll be able to reflect on this time as something of a tremendous unique opportunity.
April Salter: Yeah, I think you’re right. I know from my experience, my kids are all grown now. And my daughter, for her college applications, she said that she learned to look people in the eye and shake hands when she was four years old. And my kids all went to receptions with me and did a lot of events because I had no choice.
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Exactly.
April Salter: But they do learn a lot. And I think it will come back to them as a positive for them. So what do you think is next for you?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: People ask me that often. It’s a pretty regular question. And I always say, I’m not trying to be coy because I’m not. I never would have imagined I’d be sitting here talking to you as lieutenant governor. Because again, it was really not something that I aspired to. And you mentioned lieutenant governors and whether they’re ceremonial or they’re not. And so that was just something for me that didn’t really interest me. I did have intentions of running for the state senate, actually right now, I would have been running. So I would have taken a break in 2018. And then my thoughts were, my plans were to run in the state senate district in which I live. So right now, if things hadn’t panned out with the 2018 election, I would probably be campaigning as we speak for state senate.
Because I really do love the legislative process. It’s something that I’m passionate about. I’ve never really been interested in local government. God bless those that run, and I know it’s often very challenging. It’s the government closest to the people, so obviously, it’s the one that you got to fix the potholes and make sure that things are working in the communities and the neighborhoods that you represent. So never really had an interest in local, and really never had an interest in federal because of the tenor and really the toxicity of DC, if you will.
So people ask, “Are you going to run for governor when the governor is done with his time in the governor’s office?” And while I would say it’s something that I really don’t give it a lot of thought, I would say I’ve not ruled it out, or I’ve not considered it, truly. Because it is, again, it is a sacrifice. If I think that they come after me, and they threaten me ,and they say all kinds of nasty things about me as lieutenant governor, I can only imagine the can of worms that will be unleashed.
And really, it’s something that I don’t know where I’ll be at that stage in my life. I don’t know where my kids will be, will they be married, will they have kids of their own? So all those things, especially the uncertainty of the environment and how everything is playing out these days, I just really like to live in the here and now. And people don’t believe me when I say that, but it is the honest truth.
April Salter: If you hadn’t gotten involved in politics, is there some other career or opportunity that you think, “Gosh, that would be so fascinating?”
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: I mentioned that I toyed with the idea law school when I was in undergrad. And then I actually toyed with it again a little bit more seriously. So I took the LSAT, I filled out my application. I had all my letters of recommendation, everything ready to go. It was right when Florida International University had opened up their law school. So I was ready to apply. It wasn’t even accredited yet, so I was going to be taking a gamble, assuming that they would be accredited, but I’m a proud FIU grad. And so I know everything they do, they do it with excellence in mind. So I wasn’t really worried about the accreditation.
But I had just had my second. So I had two children, two and under, and so at the last minute, I got cold feet. So I often regret not having gone to law school, but apart from that, I had the opportunity to teach a class at FIU. It was probably 2008, maybe 2007, 2008. And I absolutely loved the experience. So I think I would not like to be a K through 12 teacher. I don’t know that I have the patience for that, or at least that’s what my own children tell me, but I would have loved to have been a college professor.
April Salter: Interesting. You obviously broke a barrier when you were elected Florida’s first Cuban lieutenant governor. Does it feel like a major breakthrough, or do you feel like women and Latinas have progressed to the point that it really isn’t that big of a deal?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Yes and no. I think, so many women throughout the country, so many Hispanics throughout the country, have broken those barriers, have taken on leadership roles, whether it’s in the corporate setting or in the political setting. You look at so many female governors and really just for me, I try not to dwell too much in the, I’m the first female Hispanic lieutenant governor, my parents came from Cuba. Obviously ,I was born here. I try not to think of it too much. I also try not to completely disregard it because I know from my community, it is a sense of pride.
And so I wear that on my sleeve, but I don’t constantly talk about it or think about it in those terms, because I think that we, regardless of what our background is, regardless of who we are, it is our responsibility to be the best version of ourselves. We have God-given potential. And so for me, it’s always about trying to excel, not take myself too seriously, and not hone in too much on the details of who I am, but really just be the best version of myself. And I think sometimes people want to strictly talk about the fact that I’m the first female Latino lieutenant governor. And while it’s important and it’s true, it’s not necessarily the thing that defines me, if you will.
April Salter: This has been very interesting and such a pleasure to talk to you. We always wrap up the show with four questions. So let me start. What Florida person, place, or thing do you think deserves more attention than it currently gets?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: I’m going to go with my alma mater, FIU. They’re a great university. They’re one of the largest, in terms of student enrollment, here in Florida. But there’s a lot of discussion, a lot of talk, whether it’s in the halls of Tallahassee or on the football field, the Gators or the Seminoles or the Hurricanes. And I just think FIU, my Golden Panthers… well, they’re Panthers now, they were Golden Panthers back in the day, I think that they deserve a lot more discussion, a lot more attention. And I think that was evident last year when they beat UF.
April Salter: Got to get that in. That’s great. And where is your favorite Florida place to visit, the place that you, maybe you and your husband or you and your family like to go when you just want to get away?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: So I have two places. So our go-to place all the time is in the Florida Keys. We love spending time in the summer in Islamorada. We spend a lot of time there. And so it’s just such a different environment. The minute you cross that bridge, the minute you go down that stretch, you just feel the stress leave your shoulders. And so I love the Florida Keys.
The other place that I particularly love to visit is Seaside, Florida. If you haven’t been there, which I’m sure you probably have, it is breathtaking. It’s such a beautiful area. All those beaches in that area are lovely, but I particularly love Seaside.
April Salter: Who is a Florida leader from the past or the present who really inspires you?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Well, I’m not going to go with a stock canned answer of a politician that may have been stellar because there’s so many of them. And obviously, I don’t want to get sideways with current or future, past leaders, but I’m going to go with someone untraditional. I think Julia Tuttle, obviously being the mother of Miami, if you will, my hometown, the only woman to have founded a major American city. I think the fact that she was willing to come here from Ohio, negotiate with Henry Flagler, who I’m sure was not an easy [inaudible 00:37:53]. I think that what she did really paved the way for Miami to become the metropolis that it is, the gateway to the Americas. So many aspects of Miami, and were not for her and her tenacity, who knows what would have happened?
April Salter: Great. I love that one. Thank you. And finally, what is your favorite Florida sports team?
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Oh, my goodness. I growing up was a huge Dolphins fan. As you know, at that time we didn’t have the Heat or the Marlins. So my mom actually loved watching football, and I grew up watching Dan Marino. So I was a huge Dan Marino fan. As my kids got older and they started playing sports, I can tell you, I was such a huge fan of everything that my kids played. I tried to make it to every game, obviously, my schedule is a little difficult, so I became a high school sports mom. But obviously, it’s always exciting to see any one of our Florida teams do well, but if I had to pick, I’d tell you probably I’m an OG Dolphins fan.
April Salter: Okay. Okay, great. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been great to get to know you a little bit and wish you all the best, as you navigate through what are very challenging times for our state. Thank you so much.
Lieutenant Governor Nuñez: Thank you so very much. It’s been a pleasure.
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.
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