Franklin goes from child prodigy to state representative
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
Trying to find an explanation for what drives him to take on all of the demanding responsibilities that he had before being elected, Rep. Gallop Franklin didn’t have to think too long.
His parents who divorced before he was a teenager immediately came to mind as his biggest influencers. He remembers the adversities each of them overcame without giving up on their personal and professional goals.
“The hardest workers I’ve ever seen in my life are my mother and father,” Franklin said, hours after being sworn-in as District 8 representative in the Florida House last Tuesday. “Their work ethic is second to none. Seeing that as an adult is knowing the kind of stock you come from; knowing the expectation and what it takes to be successful.”
Attaining a seat among the state’s lawmakers brings Franking to the high level of public service, something he’s been doing for more than two decades. At age 35 he becomes part of a wave of young politicians in the state that includes Maxwell Frost, who at 25 became the youngest member of the US Congress.
For all that Franklin will be confronted with as a first-term politician, he will have to be precise in emulating his parents. The district he represents is a wide one that includes Gadsden and Leon counties with about 175,000 constituents.
It’s a task that Franklin is convinced he is built for. He didn’t grow up with childhood dreams of wanting to be a fireman or police. Just serving people, he said, insisting that his purpose won’t change.
Not even in a House where Democrats are in the minority, with just 35 members in the House of 120 representatives.
“As a Democrat serving in the state house, I want to be focused on serving people; not focused on politics (or) party,” he said. “Often times you get elected and you get sucked up by your party, but I’m there to serve all of the state of Florida that elected me.”
Franklin got his opportunity to run for the District 8 seat after former Rep. Ramon Alexander, also a Democrat, decided against running as the incumbent because of a sexting scandal.
Gallop won the seat by taking 71.6 percent of the votes (36,376) over Republican Curt Bender (14,844). He ran in a field of six candidates and Bender was the lone Republican in the general election after Franklin eliminated four other Democrats in the primary.
Several of his friends and mentors urged him to enter the race, Franklin said. His mother Margaret and his father Gallop Franklin Sr., became his biggest supporters and first to donate to his campaign.
His backers believed he has the savvy to represent the district, many pointing to his two terms (2009-2011) as president of FAMU’s Student Government Association. He also represented students as a member of the Board of Trustees and also served a stint on the state University System Board of Governors.
“It was a great training ground,” Franklin said. “I learned so much. In student government we don’t have political parties, but we have political differences. There were people who were completely against some stuff and some people were not.”
His election victory came 18 months after he married his longtime friend, Chelsea. Being a full-fledged politicians won’t change their lifestyle, he insisted, adding that he is ready to begin “a brand-new season with more responsibility (and) I’m looking forward to serve.”
Franklin, who was homeschooled through eighth grade before graduating from Leon High School, holds a doctor of pharmacy degree from FAMU. He also works at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare and teaches at FAMU in addition to being involved in real estate.
However, he insists that he will have to apply the same time management strategy as he did when he was a student involved in collegiate politics. He was also involved in karate as a black belt student, while holding down a spot on the FAMU golf team.
“Those times I felt the challenge was a balancing act,” Franklin said. “It’s funny; there are times I look up and I feel like I’m in that same time crunch again.”
Admittedly, Franklin sees this as a different level of politics that will require his negotiating skills and a willingness to make necessary compromises.
“We don’t have anyone that’s trying to tell us what to do or come in and show us the way, but we have people who are willing to be resources,” he said. “I see that as them lending a helping hand to say, ‘hey, we know what you are trying to do and we want to be helpful.’ ”
There won’t be much of a honeymoon period, though. Legislative leaders have called a one-week special session, beginning Dec. 12.
Franklin got to this point by strategically putting together a campaign team, with key members in Gadsden County and Leon County. Annie Berry, who worked the Gadsden County area, described Franklin as being “brilliant in his ideas and his thought process. And, his heart to help people.”
That he ran and was elected is part of divine order, said Berry, director of the faith-based resource agency Redeemed Inc. in Quincy.
“I honestly believe that Galloped has been called and is being equipped by God to do what he has called him to do,” she said. “It wasn’t hard for people from Gadsden County to hear what Gallop had to say because he was saying things that are going to address their needs. A lot of people would like some change.”
Just what Franklin seemingly is willing to bring. More of the state’s $112 billion budget should be spent on his constituents, he insisted.
“So I have to go in there and make sure that Leon and Gadsden counties get our fair share of that budget to invest in infrastructure and schools,” he said. “To do that, I plan on working with Republicans very closely. I believe that we can find common ground to really focus on poverty, job creation, economic development (and) invent in education.”
Franklin is planning to take the right approach, said Deborah Cozart-Hawkins, a former campaign worker who has an extensive background in politics and history. She didn’t hesitate to join Franklin’s team because she has seen his growth, going back to when she was his mother’s nurse following his birth.
“He has a good educational background, great upbringing,” Cozart-Hawkins said. “He was just good all the way around; always want to help people. That how his mother nurtured him to give back and to help others that are less fortunate.
“He is honest and he is going to tell you just like it is; straightforward. He is not going to sugar-coat anything.”