Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is the epitome of energy! Whether it involves a push for energy-related legislation or her own daily energetic schedule, this Capital city area (Leon, Gadsden & Jefferson Counties) legislator knows no limits! See what you think as you check out this week’s Quality Time profile and let us know on our Facebook Page! Enjoy:
Looking back at the 2012 Regular Session, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment?
Persuading Governor Rick Scott and Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Denise Grimsley to continue funding Jefferson Correctional Institute. A small and dedicated group of us were able to work together to prevent what would have been a terrible economic blow to the Jefferson County community. We succeeded in changing their minds by each bringing a different perspective to the Governor and Chairwoman, and we received overwhelming support from the men and women of Jefferson County, proving once again that when a community rallies together in common purpose great things can be accomplished.
What subject do you teach at Tallahassee Community College and what is the most memorable question a student has ever asked you?
I have been a professor of legal studies at Tallahassee Community College for twenty-five years. Teaching has been the privilege of my life, for what could be better than helping to secure a brighter future for our children? Over those twenty-five years, I have had the pleasure of interacting with countless students, each one with a unique perspective and a different life experience. The most memorable thing a student has ever said to me was not a question at all. A blind student came to me and told me something that served as yet another reminder of why I teach: “I love taking your online classes; they have made me much more comfortable than any of the traditional classes. In a classroom, I get nervous, self-conscious, don’t make friends, and feel unbalanced because I don’t know where the voices are coming from in the room. Taking your class online has allowed me to really engage through discussion boards and interact with other students in ways that would never be possible for me in a traditional classroom.”
What is the best advice you have ever received and who gave it to you?
My mother used to say, “Stick to your own convictions.” I have tried my best to live by that that motto every day. When you stick to your own convictions, you can be proud and stand tall after any decision—no matter the outcome or the difficulty—because you acted according to your own deeply held beliefs. My mom’s advice is even more important in elected service. The legislature confronts very complicated and challenging issues during every session. After you have read all of the briefing materials, consulted all of the experts, and spoken to all of the sponsors, you are left with your own personal convictions. Being a legislator is about making tough decisions; it is about doing what you believe is right, not what you know is easy.
You seem to have a large following on Facebook and Twitter. Do you do your own social networking?
I use Facebook and Twitter more and more, particularly to advocate for policy positions or make announcements. Occasionally, my staff will tweet or put an announcement on Facebook, but I try to stay as directly connected with my followers as I can. I have found that social media allows me to reach a much wider group of people that I may not be reaching through more traditional media. Social media use will only grow as the months and years go on, making it a vital part of the communication process.
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Where is your favorite place to hike?
Some of my favorite places to hike are Torreya State Park, here in the Panhandle, or the beaches in Sarasota. My husband Mike and I are very active and enjoy hiking and walking in locations large and small and as diverse as the Highline in New York or the Moors of Devon, England.
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
If I knew I could not fail, I would run for President of the United States.
Read any good books lately?
As an avid reader, I have read many great books. I have particular interest in World War II-era nonfiction. I’m currently reading Before They Were Black Sheep by my good friend Pete Dunbar. The book is a collection of letters that Pete’s dad sent home during WWII. Pete’s editing makes the letters more than just correspondence with family; it connects the reader to the struggle the war-time soldier faced. Before Pete’s book I read Churchill Speaks, a collection of the great Prime Minister’s speeches over sixty-six years, from the beginning of his political career to his twilight years. I also love Under Cover by John Roy Carlson, which was first published in 1943 as an account of the journalist’s work fighting against subversive, anti-American forces working in the United States during the War. More than anything, his true story highlights the public relations efforts that Hitler and the Axis powers launched within our own borders. Finally, I still love Sneeches by Dr. Seuss. The book teaches a universal and ageless lesson: people strive so hard for one thing only to realize that they had everything they wanted and needed already. It reminds all of us, young and old, to stop and take a look around at how blessed we really are.
And last but not least, if you could pass any bill in the Legislature with no interference or opposition; what would it be?
I would push through a truly comprehensive energy package. Florida has all of the tools necessary to be number one in renewable energy production as well as energy conservation and efficiency. If we commit to it, we can level the playing field and truly open the energy market to real and fair competition. Utility rates would fall; our environment would be cleaner and safer; construction on new projects would increase; new companies would create thousands of new jobs. All of this could come from one commitment to a comprehensive strategy in one sector of our economy. Imagine what could happen if we were able to work together to bring the same kinds of policies to other sectors.