News Service of Florida has: Five questions for Bob Martinez

By Margie Menzel

The News Service of Florida

Martinez appeared before the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee to back a measure (SB 708) allocating $1.5 million for the reburial of bodies removed from the Dozier site and establishing a memorial there.

“I can recall as a youngster that if you misbehaved or disobeyed you’d often hear, ‘You’re going to end up in Marianna,'” the 81-year-old Martinez told lawmakers. “You sort of grew up thinking that must be one hell of a hellhole.”

A senior policy advisor with Holland & Knight, Martinez served as Florida’s governor from 1987 to 1991. Before that, he’d been mayor of Tampa and vice chairman of the Southwest Water Management District. From 1991 to 1993, he was the nation’s second drug czar under then-President George H.W. Bush.

Martinez was the first Florida governor of Hispanic descent and the second Republican in that office since Reconstruction. He continues to serve on corporate boards, and maintains offices in Tampa, Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

The News Service of Florida has five questions for Bob Martinez:

Q: How did you get involved with the Dozier victims?

MARTINEZ: Well, once the school closed in 2011, and some of the surviving members of the class of Dozier started to communicate with one another — because of Facebook and all the other social media that exist now — they formed an organization and said, “Maybe it’s time to take a look at what happened there.”

Then (University of South Florida anthropology professor) Dr. (Erin) Kimmerle surfaces, with her fine work, and began to bring attention to it. So we assisted in the appropriations process, so that Dr. Kimmerle’s work could continue. Now it’s basically concluded — and now, as a next step, what do we do? And so this is a good step. The bill by (Tampa Democrats) Sen. (Arthenia) Joyner and (Rep.) Ed Narain, I think is a good step forward.

The governor and Cabinet as a body is looking at the findings of Dr. Kimmerle, and have to decide about the remains that are there and decide what to do with that property. So it’s all being pushed forward at a nice pace at this time.

Q: You’re working with Democrats on this, even holding your press conference in the Senate Democratic Office. We don’t see much of that these days.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, when the $200,000 were appropriated, it was bipartisan, too. So I think it’s one of those issues that — you know, the issue of rights don’t have partisan politics. And so this is not a public policy issue. This is to try to at least bring closure — and if there’s a remedy to anything, to bring it forth. And of course, I’m very proud that two of my hometown legislators from Hillsborough County, where I’m from, are involved with it. So I thought the committees today did not vote partisan; they voted the right thing.

Q: Given your Spanish ancestry, what do you make of the role of immigrants in the 2016 presidential campaign?

MARTINEZ: No one issue ever dominates an election cycle. Some things sound more like a good bite, so it’s used more than another. But the issue of controlling a country’s borders is not unique to the United States. Every country does that.

It’s a compliment that people want to come here. And our country needs to be sure it always has got the labor force required. But all that has to be done legally. Otherwise you lose control of your border, you lose control of who you are. And we are a nation, we’re called Americans, and that’s what this country is all about.

Q: You secured what was likely the first collective bargaining agreement for teachers in the state, for Hillsborough County. A lot has happened to public education since then — if you could magically fix it, what changes would you make?

MARTINEZ: That’s what happens — someone’s got the magic wand and it doesn’t work. So there will be magic wands in education forevermore. And when it doesn’t work, somebody waves another one. And so it’s really not much new, but you know, times have changed — and with it, everything changes. Institutions change. So what may have worked back in the ’60s and ’70s doesn’t necessarily mean it works in the year 2016. So as a result, evolution takes place, changes take place — some for the better, some for not — but education is a constant state of change. And I guess a formula for perfection is not going to be found.

Q: If you could do anything over from your gubernatorial term, what would it be? Personal services tax? Abortion? What would you do differently?

MARTINEZ: The problem with redoing it — you can never redo just one thing. You have to recycle everything back, and all the other things might not have happened for me. So I never go back. Rear-view mirrors are for those who have nothing else to do. I look forward, always, so there’s nothing much that I would redo.

(Well, then, what are you looking forward to?) Well, obviously, continued good health is the main thing you want. Being able to engage with tomorrow’s issues, deal with today’s problems, be sure that the clients I have at Holland & Knight do well, that all the non-profit boards I sit on do well and continue to prosper and provide services — and that my wife and I will enjoy our next anniversary, which will be our 62nd.