Jason Shoaf freely acknowledged he’s had little taste for politics and politicians.
But, he added, both he and his wife, Ashley, had grown tired of his complaints from the sideline.
Shoaf announced last week his entry into the race for the Florida House of Representatives District 7, which sprawls across North Florida and includes Gulf County.
The seat is currently occupied by Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello).
Last week incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped Beshears to head the Department of Business and Professional Regulations in the new administration.
A special election to choose a successor has yet to be called, though at least one other Republican is in the race.
Mike Watkins was already looking toward a 2020 run when Beshears would have been term-limited out of his seat.
A Wakulla County commissioner is also said to be entering the race.
The path for Shoaf, a fourth-generation Port St. Joe businessman, to a House seat began revealing itself during his tenure earlier this decade on the Port St. Joe Port Authority board.
He saw up-close various approaches to economic development in rural communities, sifting out what worked from what did not.
“You can’t just put up a sign ‘Open for Business’ or build it and they will come,” Shoaf said. “You have to approach it holistically; I came to realize we were focused on the wrong things.”
A particular focus became workforce development, an issue with nearly every proposed tenant of the Port of Port St. Joe, including Eastern Shipbuilding.
That interest on the workforce carried over into Shoaf’s appointment to the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., the legislatively-established non-profit charged with disbursing more than $1 billion to eight Northwest Florida counties over the next 15 years.
During his time on the Triumph board, Shoaf has championed the cause for workforce development projects in public school districts in several counties, including Gulf.
“My thoughts were solidified when I got on the Triumph board and I was able to see the bigger picture,” Shoaf said. “In the Florida House I would have access to a much larger tool box.
“I want to work toward bringing high-paying jobs to the district. I want to expand vocational opportunities not only to help keep kids off drugs and alcohol, but also so they won’t have to leave (to pursue a career).”
Much of the necessary training for public service, Shoaf said, came from his upbringing, in a small town as part of several family businesses.
Shoaf is vice-president of St. Joe Gas and also owns storage and property management companies.
The values, the work ethic that has surrounded him has shaped him, he said.
“I think I bring morals and principles that won’t be tarnished in Tallahassee,” Shoaf said. “Growing up shaped me to be a problem-solver; when you are in a small town with limited resources, you learn to get more done with less.”
Shoaf hoped the decision and date on a special election will be made by outgoing Gov. Rick Scott or DeSantis sooner than later.
With the annual legislative session beginning in March, and committee meetings starting up next month, the district needs a voice in the Florida House, Shoaf said.
A special election, with mailing of oversea ballot and early-voting mandates, would require 30-45 days, at minimum.
“Our area was the hardest hit (by Hurricane Michael),” Shoaf said. “We need someone who experienced that first-hand to understand what it is going to take (to rebuild).
“There are short-term and long-term things we need to do to rebuild. Somebody who doesn’t live in the district can’t understand that.”
In addition to focusing on hurricane recovery, workforce development and education, Shoaf said he shares the same vision as Beshears regarding the health of local beaches.
“Keeping our beaches healthy and restored is the first line of defense in protecting our economy,” Shoaf said, adding it not just a local but a statewide issue.
“It’s the canary in the coal mine for the state’s tourism industry.”