cha•ris•ma (n.) : a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (such as a political leader).

If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes with State House District 61 Representative Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), you probably already like him, regardless of your political views or leanings. The fact is that Rep. Weatherford, 31, will soon be the youngest Speaker of the House this great state has ever had. Will also will be the first Speaker from Pasco County in the last 100 or so years.

In other words, the oldest of nine children raised in Land O’Lakes, all of whom played competitive sports at the highest collegiate level, is (to use a sports cliché that just happens to ring true) a game-changer. He’s the type of fiscally conservative Republican and entrenched, genuine family man that even Democrats can at least embrace personally. And, Will is smart enough and sure enough of himself to be able to engage in lively debates with people who disagree with his politics without either side losing his or her temper.

So, when this coalition-building, rising young state legislator was the guest speaker on August 2 at the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce (WCCC)’s monthly business breakfast at a packed Saddlebrook Resort ballroom, there seemed to be a little bit of magic in the air.

Will talked about taxes and jobs and pensions, about Florida’s future and our country’s future. My favorite line of Will’s at the event was about the U.S. Legislature’s last-minute agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling:

“If we had defaulted…and the government stopped working…how could you tell the difference?,” he quipped.


Redistricting A Big Issue

But, Will also is the chairman of Florida’s House Redistricting Committee and the fact is that his District 61 is one that could undergo some changes — although Will didn’t let on at the Chamber meeting if he already knew what those changes might be. He said his committee is still conducting public meetings (like the one held on July 26 at Wiregrass Ranch High, which I was unable to attend) to get as much public input as possible on all of Florida’s legislative districts before beginning the process of trying to implement any boundary changes.

District 61 is an interesting case, because most of Weatherford’s constituents live in Pasco County, although most of “northeastern” New Tampa also is in his District.

The bottom line he mentioned during the Chamber meeting was that at the meeting held at Wiregrass Ranch High the previous week, there was some call from the speakers at the meeting, which received enthusiastic response from many in the audience, for Pasco to have at least one legislative district of its own. If so, District 61 would be a more logical choice to be “all Pasco” than District 44 (which is primarily a Hernando County district that includes some of northern Pasco), or District 45 (mainly Pinellas, but with some of western Pasco).

But, with the State House’s Republican majority and the committee’s charismatic Republican leader (Weatherford), the redistricting decisions are likely to be made to best optimize Republican chances in races that will be contested at the same time as the 2012 presidential election. That is in no way a jab at Will, it’s a fact of partisan politics in this country. The party in charge basically gets to re-draw those lines. The bottom line is that we will just have to wait the process out and see.

September is a great month to get involved with the Chamber. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, Lisa Stoessel of the American Cancer Society will be the featured breakfast speaker at Saddlebrook and the Chamber’s annual Awards Banquet (see pg. 9) will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10, also at Saddlebrook.

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