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For Chris Sprowls, shot at leadership means an opportunity be as “bold as possible”

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It’s easy to call Chris Sprowls tough.

He beat cancer as a teenager; made a name for himself prosecuting violent offenders; and has become one of the go-to guys to get things done in the Florida House.

Friends, though, say Sprowls is also a genuinely nice person who cares deeply about his community and the state of Florida as a whole. Those traits will serve him well if he becomes Speaker of the House in the coming years.

“He’s a selfless leader,” Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran said.“He’s exactly what the class needs.”

Sprowls appeared to clinch the 2021-22 speakership race this month when two more Republicans — Jacksonville Rep. Paul Renner and Orlando Rep. Mike Miller — switched their support from Rep. Eric Eisnaugle to Sprowls.

The two men mark the latest in a series of defections that could propel Sprowls to the Speaker’s Office. POLITICO Florida reported Sprowls has a 2-to-1 lead in the vote count, and he was quickly embraced as the eventual leader. He is among the lawmakers expected to headline a House and Senate Majority fundraiser in April.

But for his part, the 32-year-old Palm Harbor Republican is hesitant to talk about his rise to leadership. He said he wants to focus on helping his constituents, saying lawmakers are “really fortunate” to work for Floridians.

“I think we have a really talented group of freshman House members,” he said in an interview last week. “We all came to Tallahassee to do big things for our constituents.”

Sprowls said lawmakers should focus on wide-sweeping legislation and bold reforms while in Tallahassee. Each year they leave home, giving up time from their families and jobs, and Sprowls said he doesn’t give up “a lot of precious memories to go up there and trim around the edges.”

“One of the things you’re seeing is people are frustrated that (lawmakers) go to Washington, D.C., they go to Tallahassee, and they don’t do what’s promised,” he said, before going on to say lawmakers should be “as bold as possible.”

It is that mindset that makes him well-suited for the position, said Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican who has known Sprowls for decades. Corcoran said Sprowls cares “more about the front of the jersey” than the name on the back.

Since taking office in 2014, Sprowls has been focused on issues like education and health care. This year lawmakers passed an omnibus education bill that included the language from Sprowls’ popular public school choice bill. The provision allows students to attend any public school in the state that isn’t at capacity.

“The school choice bill is a great bill. It really highlights that we have great public schools,” Sprowls said. “I’m super pleased. We achieved all of the goals.”

Only a portion of Sprowls life revolves around Tallahassee. He’s a lawyer by trade who became an assistant state attorney representing Pasco and Pinellas counties after he graduated law school. He’s married with one son, and a second on the way.

“He’s just extremely successful,” said Mike Fasano, the Pasco County Tax Collector and a former state lawmaker. “I am so proud of him and of what he’s accomplished over the years.”

But Fasano said people aren’t just drawn to Sprowls because of his accomplishments. Fasano said he is sincerely a nice guy from a good family who has spent years helping his community.

“He has learned along the way how to … help people, work with people, and he had a great instinct of being able to reach out and get individuals on his team,” said Fasano, who has known Sprowls for more than a dozen years. “I hear nothing but good things about Chris Sprowls.”

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