State Senator Kelli Stargel
Doing What is Right for Florida
BY TAMMY SEREBRIN
“It involves time management, setting priorities, sharing responsibilities, multi-tasking. It’s a juggling act.” So says former State Representative and recently elected State Senator Kelli Stargel in response to the question, “How do you do it all?”
Since 2008 when Lakeland resident Kelli Stargel, a District 15 Republican, and mother of five, wife of Tenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge John Stargel, was elected to the Florida House of Representatives; she has had to put the above stated skills into effect.
Sen. Kelli Stargel
When asked what it was that interested her in running for office, she effused, “I love Florida history; I am a history buff; and I have been involved in advocacy issues for a long time.” Since moving to Lakeland in 1991 after her husband graduated from FSU Law School, she became very involved in the Republican Party. Her hard work benefitted many local campaigns, and she was instrumental in helping her husband get elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2002, a position he held for two terms until he became a judge in 2006. Prior to her election to the State House in 2008, Kelli Stargel was involved in helping find people to run for office; she was an ear to which to tell ideas, playing a supporting role.
In 2008 there an “aha moment” for her when she was trying to help find someone to run for the House seat that her husband had held. In 2006, when he was elected as a circuit judge, Representative Dennis Ross moved to District 64, running for John Stargel’s vacant set. Ross was term limited and Kelli Stargel was helping find a strong candidate to run for that seat. All eyes pointed to her and she felt her time had come. She is proud of her run as a representative. “I had one of the best possible rates [of success] of anyone up there. Four of my five bills were passed my first year, which is unusual for a freshman (representative).”
In 2012, when Paula Dockery’s District 15 Senate seat serving parts of Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties became available, Kelli Stargel decided to run for that office. She won the general election on November 6, 2012, becoming 1 of 11 women of 40 total State Senators. “We need more women in this process; we have a different skill set. Women can get it done – multitasking and coming up with the good idea.” She feels that, as a State Senator, she has more say because there are only 40 Senators and the scope of her work will be broader than, and not as pigeon-holed, as when she was a representative. She feels her work will have more impact and influence. She admits that she has to “pinch myself when on the Senate floor. What I do affects the 18,000,000 people in Florida. It is an incredible responsibility.” It’s “not about getting credit. It’s like running a family; you do what you think is right and what you consider best policy.” She feels women are good in public office because they “work together well, dig in to do what is necessary, and getting credit is not as important.”
In an August, 2012, Ledger editorial recommending Stargel for Florida Senator prior to the Republican primaries, she was quoted as saying, “I want to keep the State of Florida a place that we can all live and be able to afford a house, and get a good education for our children – and keep the lifestyle I’ve known and loved as a sixth-generation Floridian.”
So the question still remains, how does she do it all? “All” involves still having two children living at home, managing the family property management business, and her political obligations, in addition to being affiliated with organizations such as the Achievement Academy Advisory Board, Republican Women’s Club of Lakeland, Read Polk Board of Directors, and the University of South Florida Educational Advisory Board. She admits to her house not being maintained as well as she would like, but she said her husband pitches in with the children and other things; her kids come to visit her during spring break when she is in session in Tallahassee, and she comes home on weekends.
Sen. Stargel reading to children
Her 21-year-old son, Robert, is a student at FSU and her 16-year-old daughter, Laura, will be with her during session in March and April attending Florida Virtual High School. Her 28-year old, Rebekah, served in the armed forces and is now a private contractor travelling the world doing military intelligence. Eighteen-year-old daughter Hannah intends to join the army and be involved with human intelligence. Daughter Amanda, 27, does marketing out of her home and is soon to give Senator Stargel an additional title – that of grandmother. She has received many honors and awards in recent years, but most recently (November, 2012), she was honored during a ceremony at New York City’s Carnegie Hall during Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year Awards. Since 1990, the awards ceremony has honored women who are role models in their various fields. She was one of twelve women in politics who were honored this year among the likes of U.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Ethel Kennedy.
Will Senator Stargel ever consider running for federal office? Not necessarily. “I never thought I would be doing what I am doing, so I never say never; but I am not doing this now with that in mind.”
On the Senate Floor