Legislators honor reporter retiring political reporter Bill Cotterell

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In the photo above, members of the Capitol Press Corp applaud their colleague Bill Cotterell. The photo above via Rep. Jimmy Patronis.

The House on Wednesday honored Tallahassee Democrat reporter Bill Cotterell, who is retiring after more than 40 years covering government and politics in Georgia, Florida and the South and 42 sessions of the Florida Legislature and 10 Florida governors.

Cotterell, a Marine Corps veteran, started work as a copy boy at the Miami Herald then went to work for UPI, working in Columbia, S.C., Tallahassee and Atlanta. After working as a roving reporter in the South during which time he continued to cover the Florida Legislature and the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter, Cotterell returned to Tallahassee permanently in 1984 and went to work at the Democrat in 1985.  “He was here when Republicans were a rarity, and he’s here when Republicans are everywhere,” said Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. “He’s seen the focus of Florida’s Legislature go from cracking down on livestock wandering on roadways to considering taxing internet services. He’s pounded out stories on manual, portable typewriters and kept readers informed via Twitter. Cotterell, 68, thanked lawmakers and their predecessors for giving him good stories. “It’s been a good 44-year story, and I thank you very much for that,” Cotterell said on the House floor.

From his final column:

…I’ve been lucky to have a front-row seat for an era of major change in the South, from the tail end of the civil rights movement to the dawning of all this new media. In the Old Capitol, we had manual typewriters and House or Senate pages, who carried our two or three stories per day to teletype operators in the sub-basement. Last Wednesday, I sent about 20 “tweets,” Facebook notes and online updates from the Florida Supreme Court in three hours.

As an old print guy, I’m supposed to disdain the superficial, trivial “content providers” that we’ve become. Not me. From hot-lead type to Twitter, I think it’s gotten better, overall.

Since deciding to hand in my papers at the end of March, I’ve often recalled a night when I was 13, growing up in Miami. We went to visit my brother, a Marine at Pensacola, and I remember being awakened to see the state Capitol.

I stared until I couldn’t see it anymore, figuring I’d never see it again. Oddly, I didn’t think of that when I got here 13 years later, as a young reporter. The memory came back just a while ago, driving up Apalachee Parkway.

I’m no longer awed by the Capitol, but I still feel lucky to work there.

Not having to go anywhere in the morning for the first time since 1967 will be weird, at least at first. I hope to keep my building passes and do some writing, maybe continue columnizing.

My retirement plan includes being a grandfather, too. My son in the Navy, and his wife, recently told us they’re expecting in August.

Like I said, I’m a lucky guy.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.