Gwen Margolis, Florida’s first female Senate president, dies

By | June 9, 2020


Democrat Gwen Margolis, the first woman to serve as the leader of a state Senate, died early Tuesday. She was 85.

Margolis served 30 years in the Florida Legislature, including three different times in the Senate. She served as Senate president from 1990 to 1992, and was the last Democrat to lead the chamber.

“President Margolis was a wealth of historical and institutional knowledge, and like many of you, I learned so much from her,” said Republican Senate President Bill Galvano in a letter to senators. “She could be fierce, yet loving, and I know those of us who served with President Margolis miss her quick wit in committee and on the Senate floor.”

Margolis served in the House of Representatives from 1974 to 1980. She served in the Senate from 1980 to 1992, 2002 to 2008, and 2010 to 2016. She also served on the Miami-Dade County Commission from 1993 to 2002 and was the commission’s first female chair.

“Today, this community says goodbye to another giant,” said current commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson in a news release. “Senator Margolis wielded power with grace and class. Her remarkable and long-lasting service to this community and State will be forever remembered by those she served, but especially by those that knew and loved her.”

She unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1992, losing to Republican Clay Shaw. She was also inducted into Florida’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

The Women’s Hall of Fame website says Margolis’s “historic achievements in office have paved the way for many other women.”

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo expressed a similar sentiment.

“She was a trailblazer for many Democratic women in our state, including myself,” Rizzo said in a news release. “During these difficult times as a nation, when our country needs exceptional leaders like Gwen Margolis, her passion, commitment, and leadership will be remembered more than ever.”

She was known for championing women’s rights, children’s health issues and an open and ethical government.

While the Capitol is closed to the public because of the coronavirus, Galvano said a memorial will be created in front of the Senate chamber doors that lawmakers and their professional staff can contribute to.

The portrait of Margolis hanging in the Senate chamber will be draped in a black cloth, which is a tradition when a former presiding officer dies.

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