Update 5:35 p.m.:
As news of former Florida Sen. Greg Evers’ death broke on Thursday, lawmakers and other officials who worked alongside the stalwart Republican expressed shock and grief.
“I’m crushed,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz. “Greg has been my friend for 16 years. Florida lost a great public servant and a champion for our community.”
Evers was killed in a single-vehicle wreck in Okaloosa County on Monday evening, according to Florida Highway Patrol. He was 62.
Evers served in the state House for 10 years from 2000 to 2010, before serving in the state Senate from 2010 to 2016. He represented Florida’s Second District in the Senate, which includes Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Most recently, after a federal court ordered the removal of a 34-foot cross from Pensacola’s Bayview Park, Evers, serving as chair of The Historic Preservation Society Inc., offered to lease the cross from the city to keep in an effort to keep the monument standing.
State Rep. Jayer Williamson said people will remember Evers as “a good man and a good public advocate and servant for northwest Florida.”
“I actually just saw him last month,” said Williamson, who represents District 3, which serves most of Santa Rosa County and north Okaloosa County. “I took the children out to his strawberry farm to pick strawberries. It was good to see him and talk about the session we just had this past year. He will certainly be missed.”
Pensacola attorney and former state Rep. Jim Reeves recalled losing to Evers in an open House race nearly 20 years ago.
“It’s tragic news. When I tried to make my comeback in politics, the guy who whipped my ass was Greg Evers,” Reeves said.
Update 5:20 p.m.:
Sen. Joe Negron, president of the Florida Senate, issued a memo to all senators this afternoon notifying them about the death of former lawmaker, Greg Evers.
The former lawmaker, who represented parts of Northwest Florida, died after authorities said he drove off of Griffith Mill Road in Okaloosa County near Baker sometime late Monday. He was 62.
Evers served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2010, before serving in the Florida State Senate from 2010 to 2016.
“Greg passionately represented his district for many years in both the House and Senate,” the statement reads. “He was especially dedicated to the men and women of his community who were serving or had served in the military, as well as our fellow Floridians across the state who serve as Corrections Officers.”
Evers, the former chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, continued advocating for smart and safe criminal justice reform after his retirement for government.
He supported a work release program in Santa Rosa County, and, in his most recent role as Chief of Political Affairs for South Palafox Group, he spearheaded an effort to create affordable housing for ex-offenders in Pensacola.
Update 5:15 p.m.:
Lt. Eddie Elmore of the Florida Highway Patrol was at the site of the car wreck late Tuesday.
Elmore said it appeared Evers drove off of Griffith Mill Road in Okaloosa County near Baker sometime late Monday.
“It appears he ran off the road after failing to negotiate a curve,” Elmore said.
He said Evers’ car was found submerged in a roadside creek on Tuesday afternoon.
Elmore said it appeared it was a one-vehicle crash and that Evers was the only person in the vehicle.
The family released a statement saying funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.
The statement also reads: “On behalf of the family of former State Senator Greg Evers, it with great sadness that we announce his passing. Senator Evers was involved in a single car accident last night near his home in Baker, Florida. The family asks for your prayers as they deal with this sudden loss.”
Former Florida Senator Greg Evers has died.
Evers’ employer, South Palafox Group, confirmed his passing.
Details at this time are limited, but other media reports indicate Evers may have been killed in a car crash in Okaloosa County.
Florida Highway Patrol is responding to the scene of the wreck.
Evers, a folksy Baker strawberry farmer, served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2010, before serving in the Florida State Senate from 2010 to 2016. A stalwart Republican and a Panhandle fixture, Evers was a heavy supporter of Second Amendment rights and smaller government.
He drew controversy during the 2016 election season by offering up a free AR-15 raffle to citizens who liked his Facebook page.
After news of his death broke late Tuesday afternoon, two Florida senators turned to Twitter to express condolences for Evers’ death.
Sen. George Gainer tweeted that Evers was “a dedicated public servant and an even better friend. He will be greatly missed. Go rest high on that mountain.”
Sen. Jack Latvala, who is running for governor, tweeted a photo of Evers “photobombing” him at a recent event.
Former Senate President Don Gaetz, who served with Evers in the state Senate, said the late lawmaker always looked at issues through the eyes of the average person when he spoke on the floor of the Senate or in committee.
“He and I disagreed sometimes we agreed most but he was always an encouraging friend,” he said. “He was a man’s man. He was tough, he really was a farmer, and if he was your friend, he would do anything for you.”
Gov. Rick Scott also turned to social media to express his condolences, writing on Twitter at 5 p.m. that, “Ann and I are heartbroken to learn of the passing of Senator Greg Evers. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family.”
State Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, said he was “shocked” at the news of Evers’ death.
“I just always thought he did a good job representing the rural communities,” he said. “It’s kind of hard for most of us to understand what it’s like to be a farmer and advocate for agricultural issues, because we never tilled soil or raised cows. But Greg was able to do that. He did it first-hand and that was his job. That will probably be something that is missed in the legislative process.”
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