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Aaron Bean puts on his dancing shoes

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

He’s a man who seems to be everywhere these days.

Weighing in on every hot-button issue from Medicaid expansion to Planned Parenthood. Pushing a “cold case” task force.

But this month, Jacksonville state Sen. Aaron Bean is also tripping the light fantastic.

Yes, Bean is one of the North Florida “stars” who will be competing Saturday night in the 2015 First Coast Dancing with the Stars event supporting the Beaches Fine Arts Series.

In case you were wondering, he and his partner, professional dance instructor Krista Thomas, are doing the cha-cha.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” says the amiable Bean about the competition.

“It is much more intense than I ever thought it could be. But I’m competitive, and I want to win. So I’m learning the ‘advanced’ cha-cha!”

Bean, the former state representative who advanced to the upper chamber three years ago after defeating former Clinton administration official Nancy Soderberg, represents Nassau County and part of Duval, and serves on myriad committees. He’s the youngest of nine children. Ironically, his mother runs a dance school in Fernandina Beach (but he never took lessons).

“She’ll be cheering me on at the DWTS event, for sure,” he says.

Leaving aside his smooth moves on the dance floor, Bean is clearly looking to waltz his way to increased influence beyond often-overlooked North Florida, with a possible future run at the Senate’s Appropriations chair position.

“I’d eventually like to have more influence on how Florida’s budget is spent. And we always think more attention should be paid to North Florida.”

He points to the success of a nine-county North Florida legislative delegation that’s had an impact on funding for the St. Johns River Ferry and the creation of an Outer Beltway Commission.

“Look for big things to happen from that delegation.”

Bean has a role model in his quest to seize for his region a bigger place at the table in Tallahassee: the late Jim King. The powerful and popular Jacksonville-based state senator was known for making deals and making sure Jacksonville and its environs weren’t continually overshadowed by the state’s bigger metros.

“He was a role model, a mentor, and showed how you could a) be very effective, and b) have fun and help your region and your constituents,” says Bean.

“He really was larger than life in shepherding the Senate. My desk on the Senate floor is underneath his portrait, so I can look up and see Jim King looking down on the Senate floor whenever I’m there.”

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at m.ross66211@gmail.com.

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