Wife of former lawmaker Baxter Troutman catches the political bug

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Former Republican state Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven left politics in 2010, but politics didn’t leave him. Still mentioned as a potential state Senate candidate when a likely vacancy opens in four years, Troutman is taking a back seat to his wife Rebecca, whom he proposed to on the floor of the Florida House while it was in session.

Rebecca Troutman, who her husband said was not comfortable with politics when they were first married, has announced her campaign for the Polk County School Board against a sitting incumbent and three other challengers.

“I remember when we were driving to Tallahassee when I was in the Legislature and Becky would get frustrated because I was on the phone with this or that person and she wanted to have a conversation. In eight years and with what is happening in education she has changed her opinion on politics,” Troutman said.

The Polk County School Board has been under fire from a scandal this year when an administrator accused the superintendent of sexual harassment and then learned the accuser was fired from the University of Florida for alleged sexual indiscretions with subordinates. Some critics said the board took too long to resolve the issues as with others in the past and accused various elected board members of behaving as if they work for their appointed-school superintendent.

Rebecca Troutman is one of four challengers of school board member, Dick Mullenax for the nonpartisan job. A former teacher and manager of her husband’s temporary employment agencies, she is scheduled to receive her certification as a school psychologist in June.

“None of the stakeholders are happy,” she said. “Children aren’t happy, parents are not satisfied and teachers are not happy. One of the largest pieces that needs to be in place is to improve communication. People in transportation are good at communicating within the transportation department; people in classroom with each other, but that communication needs to go across the system.

“And we aren’t giving children a full range of opportunities,” she said.

The Troutmans have a daughter in kindergarten.

Baxter Troutman is the grandson of the late citrus magnate Ben Hill Griffin, a millionaire supporter of University of Florida football and of then-many Democratic Party politicians. He once ran for the party’s nomination for governor himself. Troutman’s cousin is former state Senate Budget Chairman JD ALexander. The two have been at odds over politics and corporate business for decades.

But Rebecca Troutman is the one member of the extended, if not always amicable, family currently active in politics.

Former Ledger of Lakeland columnist Bill Rufty is Central Florida political correspondent for SaintPetersBlog and Florida Politics. Rufty had been with the Ledger from 1985-2015, where, as political editor, he covered a wide range of beats, including local and state politics, the Lakeland City Commission, and the Florida Legislature. Ledger editor Lenore Devore said about Rufty’s 30-year career: “[He is] a man full of knowledge, a polling expert and a war history buff … who has a steel trap in his brain, remembering details most of us have long since forgotten.”