Bringing with him his Marine background and homegrown Florida story, Ken Lawson has taken VisitFlorida in a bold, refreshing, and transparent direction. Appointed by Governor Scott to right a sinking ship, Lawson has been fundamental in revitalizing the state’s tourism bureau, however he still has to fight against hurricanes, national and international competition.
Ken is fluent in Floridian. Ken takes advantage of social media to innovate the way tourists are ‘sold’ on Florida, he informed us, “We have a program called Share A Little Sunshine where people send their video clips of their experience. And when you see it on Facebook, on Instagram. It’s like, “No. No one’s selling me anything. They’re sharing with me.” And then I’m going to put myself in the shoes of that person and it’s just after the hurricane for a live camera showing that, “Hey, it’s 1:10 here in Destin and the sky is clear. The air smells good. Feel the sand underneath your toes.” In fact, Facebook told us that after the hurricane our campaign on Facebook was basically the second most popular, successful campaign they had and this is after Visa.”
When making decisions on how to market the state, Lawson turned to an unexpected source: the general tourism council of Canada. Lawson learned that greater than marketing any theme park, beach, or fishing hole, is marketing the diversity of experiences in Florida. Lawson describes being able to traverse the west coast of Florida and experience fine dining, nightlife, museums, concerts and more.

Chris Cate:           Welcome to the Fluent in Floridian podcast, featuring the Sunshine State’s brightest leaders. Talking about the issues most important to the people of Florida and its millions of weekly visitors. I’m your host, Chris Cate, and in this episode, created by SalterMitchellPR, our guest is VISIT FLORIDA president and CEO, Ken Lawson.

In our conversation, we talk about Ken’s unique path to VISIT FLORIDA, and how his experience as a Marine has helped him become the leader he is today. We also talk about the growth of Florida’s tourism industry, changes VISIT FLORIDA has made in response to criticism from the state legislature, and what Florida has to do to stay ahead of other tourism-driven locations. And you can hear it all right now.

Ken, thanks so much for being on the show. I like to start every interview by learning about what our guest was like growing up, and how that helped them grow into a leader. So can you share a little bit about where you’re from and a little bit about what you were like growing up?

Ken Lawson:       Sure, happy to. I’m glad to be here. You know, I’m from Gainesville, Florida. Although I’m a double Seminole, born and raised in Gainesville. And you know, growing up in Gainesville in the ’70s and ’80s, beautiful town, good place. And I tell you, the biggest influence on me in my life’s my grandfather. My father wasn’t part of my life. My grandad was a school principal during segregation and integration, vice principal, leader of our family. And we’d sit, and from age four to about 42 … that’s how old I was when he died … we’d just talk about family, responsibility. And he just shaped me.

And as a kid, I just loved comic books. I always about go every Wednesday to the comic book store, buy comic books, reading Tarzan books and Hardy Boy books. And then high school, wrestled, ran track, but just grew in a very beautiful place.

Chris Cate:           When you were, let’s say teenager, what kind of ambitions did you have at that time? What were you thinking you’d be today?

Ken Lawson:       You know what? I grew up drawing. I thought I’d be an animator for Walt Disney World. I love animated cartoons … Snow White … Sleeping Beauty’s my favorite one. So I would spend time as a child just drawing and writing, creating. But then leadership was important too. ‘Cause like with Grandad, leader of our family, like at church, be involved with Sunday school, or be in student government. Started a club in high school, and I was co-captain of our wrestling team. So there was always that drumbeat of how do you serve? And how do you help? How do you set the way? But also be creative and cutting edge and think about the future. So that was kind of my attention growing up.

Chris Cate:           And speaking of serving, you went to join the Marines.

Ken Lawson:       I did.

Chris Cate:           Tell me a little bit about that decision of why you felt that was the right direction for you.

Ken Lawson:       Well, I’ll tell you this. I think the Marine Corps is a calling. My stepfather, he was in Vietnam. He was a grunt in Vietnam in the Marine Corps. And a good man, worked hard. And I think seeing him, and also my grandfather’s example, imparted in me service. And when I thought about the military, I couldn’t think of any other branch. It was just like, one day I was on campus, at school, and I saw the Marine Corps recruiter recruiting officers, and I just gravitated to that. And then I was very fortunate to serve as a military prosecutor in the Marine Corps. And that’s one of the best growing experiences that I had, being a young guy from Gainesville. Got to meet different people, understand leadership principles, and just develop.

Chris Cate:           Yeah, what’s something you learned as a Marine that you don’t think you could’ve learned otherwise?

Ken Lawson:       Well, you know what? I think this: the Marine Corps added polish on the principles of my family. You know, being a Marine officer is not being in charge, but understanding the balance of being a servant leader. One time you are the leader, next time you’re the servant. You learn from everyone you command. They follow you, you follow them. And understanding that balance of responsibility, respect, taking care of your people. Being present, and not just putting off on someone else saying, “That’s your job.” It’s your job. As a Marine, whether you’re a prosecutor or you’re a cook or a pilot, you’re an infantry officer. We go through Officer Candidate School. You go through what’s called The Basic School, a six-month program where it teaches every Marine officer how to lead men and women into battle. And I think with that training, it instilled the mindset that regardless of what I do as a particular function, I have one responsibility: take care of my people.

Chris Cate:           Did you ever consider being career military?

Ken Lawson:       No, it wasn’t me. You know what? I just telling you about my attention for leadership and creativity, and I loved the time I served in the Marine Corps, but I wanted something different. I mean that was a great base of my life, and it’s a part of who I am, but I want to continue building, growing, expanding.

Chris Cate:           Before VISIT FLORIDA and before the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which we can call DBPR from now on-

Ken Lawson:       Yep, that’s us.

Chris Cate:           -you held positions at the federal level.

Ken Lawson:       Sure.

Chris Cate:           How do you think your management style has changed as your career has progressed through a variety of different fields?

Ken Lawson:       You know, I’ve been very fortunate. I’m a child of the ’80s, and if you remember the model of the ’80s, you start off with a basic job, and then you grow to increase management experience, and get some international experience, then you have a larger unit. And that progression, you try, you fail. You open yourself up, you learn about leadership from those who are beneath you and above you. And one thing when I went to law school, [inaudible 00:05:28] was the dean. And Sandy said this, “Spend a decade learning your trade, but while you’re learning your trade don’t be limited there, be involved in your community. Grow, expand.”

And taking that mindset from growing up during the ’80s and also Sandy, I try to make sure with every job I had, I’d spent, you know, just doing the duties, but in learning basic principles about leadership, my trade, serving others, and connecting beyond my given profession.

Chris Cate:           What is the biggest challenge that you overcame at DBPR?

Ken Lawson:       You know what? I think this: first, I am so thankful to the governor making me secretary of DBPR. I love VISIT FLORIDA. I love the opportunity. But in my life, as a professional, being the secretary of DBPR is the best job in my life period, hands down. And what was great about that is that I was able to take my experiences from being a Marine officer, a federal prosecutor, working in Washington, working internationally, working at a company, and combine it for the lessons I’ve learned in my life, failures and success, and just be holistic leader.

And with DBPR, in the past, the secretaries, they stay for maybe a year and a half. I was fortunate to stay for six years. And when you stay for a long time somewhere, you’re able to really invest your energies into the people. ‘Cause people perform a job if they’re sure you care about them. Before they care about principles and policies, you got to share that as a leader you care about who they are, their careers, if they have a good day or a bad day, and be present. So at DBPR I think that the biggest challenge was overcoming that sense of not being connected when you have someone come in for a year and a half. But being fully invested, fully there, engaged, and for me by doing that paid dividends in my life. And the lessons from DBPR with our staff, with our licensees, engaging the legislature, will always stay with me, and I know they’ve helped me as a leader at VISIT FLORIDA.

Chris Cate:           Anything related to business is a priority for the governor. What was your communication like with him as a secretary for one of his agencies?

Ken Lawson:       Fantastic. Honestly, before the election I didn’t know the governor. And the governor brought me in, and he’s been one of the best bosses I’ve had. Couple things. He’s very direct, very clear. We have his standards, and you measure everything. And I try to prove every day that with the direction we need to take the state after financial crisis, that we need to decrease needless regulations, ensure that we’re efficient as a organization, engage the business community, and protect our citizens. That we have that all in balance. And I like to think by virtue of being on the ground with my people, take care of my staff, developing policies that matter, getting rid of regulations that didn’t help, but protecting our community helped earn his respect. So my discussions and interactions were positive.

I’ll tell you one story. Couple things. One time I was testifying in front of the legislature, and I had what’s called TIA, like little mini stroke. I’m in front of the House Committee [inaudible 00:08:52]. I start talking. All of a sudden I just stopped, and had an out-of-body experience, and it’s like I couldn’t function. I’m a good public speaker, and it wasn’t nerves or anything, and Dr. Larry told me it was a TIA, where you basically have a little clot in your brain. You have things go through your arteries, and it blocks you. And I’m like, “Oh my god, what the heck is happening?” And then finally got my … it came back to myself, then I was speaking gibberish, and then I had to go back to my office, and I’m crying in my secretary’s arms. But then the governor called me later, said, “Ken, what’s going on?” I told him, and he was concerned about my health. Said, “Ken, just take care of yourself, and get to the doctor.” And he just showed personal concern about me as a human being. It wasn’t about the work, it was about hey, one of my guys is hurting.

And then there’s other times where I’ve talked to him. I took over VISIT FLORIDA. He gave me a lot of trust to help solve a problem. And just talked honestly about leadership, transparency, accountability. I can’t say nothing but good things about the governor and how he’s treated me as one of his team members.

Chris Cate:           Before you took over as CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, it seemed like the organization was in the news for all the wrong reasons. There were even threats that the legislature would take away your funding. What have you done to try to win back the support of the legislature and of concerned Floridians?

Ken Lawson:       Well, let me say this: VISIT FLORIDA is strong today. And we’re strong because we have fantastic employees and partners who care about serving Florida and marketing Florida in the right way. When I came in I found great people, who for years had been driving wonderful results and just needed to change our processes. So with our team of people … I met with them. This one thing I use as a leadership tool, there’s a photographer named Peter Beard, and Peter Beard had a photograph of a man drawing in a journal, and then an alligator is biting the rest of his body. And then I said, “This is symbolic. If y’all focus on the work, we’ll take care of the problems that exist.”

So every day our people worked hard with ensuring that we spent money on the right things, used metrics to drive our marketing activities, thought about reaching out to our partners and actively listening to their needs. And then I was able to go before the legislature, show legislature the results of our work, ensuring that we are transparent in terms of our spends, our contracts. And then after we were funded the first time, at $76 million, through the summer on the road seeing legislatures, partners. I was there every week from the end of session 17 to the beginning of the hurricane. Then after the hurricane our team came together, reached out to our partners across the state, asking what do you need to make sure people know we’re open? What do you need to make sure that when this hurricane passed that tourists will come? And then we showed the results of our efforts. And in this past session, we’re again fully funded, and I believe we have the confidence of the legislature.

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Ken Lawson:       And I’m just thankful for the governor support. But because of our people they’re focused on the work ensuring that we did the right things, eliminating activities that were not worthwhile, we’re able to be successful and that’s why we are strong today.

Chris Cate:           For our listeners who don’t know me included partially can you explain how VISIT FLORDA works with Florida’s local tourism boards?

Ken Lawson:       Sure. Here’s the deal. Every state in the country has an organization, which is the state official marketing arm, all right? For VISIT FLORIDA we are funded by the legislature and also receive funds for our private partners. And then with every county they will have a tourism group. Convention of Visitors Bureau. And then those locals, they will work with us because we’ll use … They may have less money than us and we’ll have a marketing campaign and they put in one dollar into that marketing campaign and we’ll put in three.

Then we’re able to use our additional funds to pool these activities to market domestically, internationally. For instance, we had what’s called a Canadian takeover. We saw that before I came in we lost nearly a million Canadian tourists in Florida and Canada serves as our number one source of international tourists. So, we developed a program where you put money up to match with our partners to help market the entire state. And by virtue of that activity in Canada we saw a 4% increase after 2017 showing that we’re getting more tourists coming here because we’re more targeted in our actions and we market to the diversity of Canada and share it with the University of Florida.

Chris Cate:           As a leader, how hard is it to align the interest? I mean I imagine a North Florida Visitors Board will have different interests than South Florida.

Ken Lawson:       Sure.

Chris Cate:           How hard is it to work together and get everybody on the same page whole-wise?

Ken Lawson:       Sure. You know what? I think this: one thing we did this past November is that we made sure as an organization that we’re not only actively listening to all our partners across the state, but then implementing the suggestions and understanding throughout the diversity of Florida where it’s the Panhandle, Central Florida, South Florida there are common needs and different needs, and those different needs provide resources that help that area grow.

For instance, in the Panhandle, we have a regional co-op where you have Pensacola, Panama City, Destin come together, all right? And we are providing a financial incentive for their $1 matching it or exceeding it to help market in the different unique way it does versus say South Florida. So, as an organization we have to constantly actively listen to the needs of our partners regardless of where they are and provide marketing programs that help them in particular. Not just one blanket campaign.

Chris Cate:           For people who say Florida markets itself, Disney markets itself, what would Florida tourism be like without organizations like VISIT FLORIDA and the local marketing arms?

Ken Lawson:       Well it’s like any business. You have to constantly be top of mind and then share what you have to offer. There’s a great example of Colorado. 20 years ago Colorado decided not fund as a state official marketing organization. And by virtue of that rationale, their very first year they lost out on millions of dollars in terms of state revenue, and they didn’t recover until 20 years later. I mean they made some other decisions down the line, but it’s a clear example of when a state does not ensure that it’s sharing its special offerings to others in other states, in other countries they’re not necessarily going to just drive people to Florida because you’re there, yet constantly, constantly touch hearts and minds and share new locations, share diversity and be creative.

Chris Cate:           You mentioned Canada.

Ken Lawson:       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Cate:           And besides Canada and our neighboring states, where are most tourists coming from to Florida?

Ken Lawson:       Sure. Well you know what? Of course in the United States from the North East Corridor. We got New York, Chicago, Pennsylvania, right? Then you got Atlanta and Dallas. But internationally Canada, the UK, Germany, Brazil and then outside China. So, for our marketing activities we ensure that we use data and information to develop marketing programs to touch those really come here and also talk to a new pool of individuals who perhaps thought, “Yeah I’ve been to Florida. Yeah I’ve seen it and been there.” As opposed to not knowing that we have other offerings.

Chris Cate:           What state or country is Florida’s biggest competitor when it comes to drawing tourists?

Ken Lawson:       Let me tell you something. In terms of states, California, Texas, Georgia. Dubai. Since I’ve been in this position since 2017 I’ve been to several international trade shows and different states and different countries are spending a tremendous amount of money to compete for tourism dominance. We’ll see stands from New York City, Dallas, Chicago, Oregon. Again, trying to get those tourists to spend their time, their money, which is precious there.

And then other countries. I mean you’ll be amazed by the amount of time and attention these countries are putting into tourism. I mean for Florida, tourism funds 1.4 million jobs. It brings in $12 billion dollars in terms of state and local taxes. This past year we had 116.5 million out-of-state tourists come to Florida. It’s a huge ecoomy driver and everyone is competing for tourists dollar and attention.

Chris Cate:           You mentioned hurricanes earlier and whenever there is a hurricane or some natural disaster what really is the impact on tourism and how hard is it to get things back to normal?

Ken Lawson:       Well I think this. You know what? Again, it’s the actual impact of any incident and also perception. With Hurricane Irma, with the news coverage it gave the perception that all of Florida was damaged and that was not the reality. And we used this thing called Listen First. It’s a social media listening platform that tells us a number of hits on Facebook or in media about a given subject. And we found by using Listen First that we faced nearly half a billion dollars of negative news about Florida.

So, what we did as an organization is that to counter this impression we nearly spent $5 million dollars and had a comprehensive plan where you use social media and traditional media and say digital media, billboards where we put live cameras on the beaches of Florida and then we show that, “Hey we are open.” I went down to Keys, I was with Captain Steven on a fishing boat and then we put on a live cam and said, “Hey. The hurricane is over, things are good here in this area of Keys. Although a part has been punched, another part is open. Come on down. The fishing is fine.”

And then again with the northeast corner put money into blasting the media that Florida is open for business and then we communicate with our partners to ensure that we’re producing our right message and understand their needs. So, as a team as today before my people were really committed to sending the right message about our state, the right message to tourists that we are open and ready. Whether there’s a hurricane, an oil spill, there’s always something there we got to make sure you’re constantly sending the word out that we have to offer and that we are here to open our arms to our tourists.

Chris Cate:           When you consider the marketing tools that you have at hand, social media in particular.

Ken Lawson:       Yeah.

Chris Cate:           Have you seen your investment in that grow, and how do you utilize something like social media besides just advertisements?

Ken Lawson:       Well you know what? Again, it’s about experience. You think about our generation. It’s not about, “Hey, come to Florida. Let me show you a video when I was in Florida. What I saw, how I felt to touch one’s heart and mind.” We have a program called Share A Little Sunshine where people send their video clips of their experience. And when you see it on Facebook, on Instagram. It’s like, “No. No one’s selling me anything. They’re sharing with me.” And then I’m going to put myself in the shoes of that person and it’s just after the hurricane for a live camera showing that, “Hey, it’s 1:10 here in Destin and the sky is clear. The air smells good. Feel the sand underneath your toes. Searching you is important.”

In fact, Facebook told us that after the hurricane our campaign on Facebook was basically the second most popular, successful campaign they had and this is after Visa. Yeah. Visa corporation that has a lot more money than us and we’re right behind them. That says a lot about the effectiveness of my team and the use of social media to connect hearts and minds to our state.

Chris Cate:           When you go to Canada let’s say.

Ken Lawson:       Yeah.

Chris Cate:           What is the most attractive thing about Florida to them? Are you going selling Disney or beaches? What’s your trump card when you go to South Florida?

Ken Lawson:       Diversity. The bottom line. When I came in I made a point to look at our social international tourists, and then I reached out to the council generals in these countries that drive our tourism numbers. I remember the council general of Canada. She looked at me and said, “Ken Lawson let me tell you something. You have great attractions. You have great beaches, but you got to understand the diversity of Canada. We have people who are under the ages of 35 who are born outside of Canada and came here. And also, you have locations that you’re not selling.”

So, what we did this past year is really change our message, make sure we’re selling diversity of our people here in Florida, our locations and it’s not just beaches. It’s culture. It’s restaurants. For instance, if you’re from Canada and you fly down and then you fly to say Tampa and then you go to Tampa, you to ukuleles or mise en place and have a great meal, right? And then you drive to St. Pete. You’re downtown for ceviches and go dancing and have some tapas, right?

Then you go to Sarasota and my favorite place to go in Florida is the Ringling museum and get some really great culture. Yeah and you see this artwork you wouldn’t expect it being there. Then you go by Clearwood and get your concert. The best concert I ever saw was Van Morrison in Clearwater. I mean he was just rocking, right? But you have this wonderful experience, but you have the diversity of experience hidden by Busch Gardens or the beaches, right?

So, for a Canadian it’s that holistic experience they want to have. One of culture, theme parks, beaches, food, vibrancy. That is what I communicate.

Chris Cate:           Looking ahead, what does Florida have to do to stay ahead of other tourism driven locations?

Ken Lawson:       You know what? Again, constantly refresh our message, show the variety of things we have and also embrace technology. In this world here, I’m a child of 64 and I still have a flip phone. It’s personal, but I have an iPhone for work. And then you’ve got the iPhone. How do you use that iPhone to book a trip using a chat bot? Where this phone is talking to you about options, right?

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Ken Lawson:       … using the chat box. This fellow was talking to you about options right? Or use VR, virtual reality, when you go to a location and let’s say you take your phone and you put it up to, like if you’re in the square in St. Augustine, right? And you just put it in a spot and something pops up like when you’re playing Pokémon, saying that Martin Luther King Jr. was here during the Civil Rights movement. Or, at the Fort, this was founded in this year.

And then you just have an experience beyond just traveling because it’s that experience that matters now. So that transforms you. You take away a feeling that you are a new person, you’ve been changed. When you go back home you share the experience with your friends. That’s the future, ensuring not that you go to a location and “if I spend a lot of money and I was in this place, look at the pictures.” No, let me tell you it touched me. Let me tell you what I learned. Let me tell you how I grew. And by embracing technology and ensuring that these experiences are transformative that will keep us on the cutting edge.

Chris Cate:           You didn’t have a whole lot of tourism marketing in particular when you took over at VISIT FLORIDA. You think having fresh eyes to the industry actually helped you? And what has surprised you most about the job?

Ken Lawson:       Well I’ll tell you two things. One, back when I was at Florida State I did an internship at old Florida Department of tourism. It was my junior year, and I think we were in the basement of the Collin’s building, and then I worked for Dale [inaudible 00:25:29], so I was there for six months and I’m just kind of looking around. So, I had an awareness, right? And then being the secretary of DBPR, I regulate hotels, restaurants, alcoholic beverages and a whole range of things that impact our industry.

And I’d always speak at tourism day when I was the secretary, and I just talked about how as an industry we have to work with regulators. And I was regulating at the time. How important it was for regulators to understand the business community and ensure that we’re working together to protect the health and safety but also drive the business’s growth. So, I didn’t have tourism experience per se, but I had a true appreciation.

And then by virtue of my background coming and actively listening to the legislature, to our partners and then traveling the state and seeing our industry partners, whether it’s Sawgrass recreational or Jungle Island or Cary Morrissey and the hotels that he markets. Just being on the ground helped me truly appreciate my mission. So, I have some fresh eyes, but I had a true appreciation for our state, our industry and a desire to show that we are valuable.

Chris Cate:           Is there anything then though that surprised you about the job?

Ken Lawson:       You know what surprised me really? Was that the passion. You know, I just went to a funeral this past Sunday in Miami. The founder of Sawgrass Recreation had cancer and passed away. And his daughters and his son, they’re involved with the industry and the company. And I saw this them past summer and they you know, out in the Everglades, and we went out on the boats and then we’ve seen the beauty of the Everglade’s and they’re talking about how they built this business.

And what they have built and what they do every day and the passion, dedication, whether it was a good day or a bad day, radiates. And I see that in the small, medium and large partners we have. So that emotional connection, where it’s not just about making a dollar, but making a difference and being part of something bigger than themselves. That surprised me, overwhelmed me and pleased me.

Chris Cate:           I close every interview with the same four questions to every guest.

Ken Lawson:       Alright.

Chris Cate:           The first being, who is a Florida leader that you admire? And it can be someone from the past or present.

Ken Lawson:       Sure. I’ll tell you this and most people do not know this person, but Neil Butler was the first black mayor of Gainesville and Granddad brought him to the house when I was about seven years old. And I don’t remember what we talked about, but I was impressed by the fact that he was mayor and he was kind. And then he talked to me about leadership, and he have me this sense of calm and grace and focus that I’ve always carried in my heart. And I always say that if I ever get a chance to be a leader, I hope I can be as strong as he was. And the fact that he was the first black mayor meant that he faced some tensions in the 70’s but at the same time, his arms were open to the bigger picture that you serve everyone. It’s not about Luna Pool, it’s not about [inaudible 00:28:58] being the first, it’s about serving. So that’s important to me.

Chris Cate:           What is something in Florida that deserves more attention than what it’s currently getting?

Ken Lawson:       You know, I’ve used the diversity of Florida basically as my mantra. Whether we’re talking about panhandle, central, we’ve got so many great locations. Like, for instance, in Tallahassee, I love Torreya State Park. I was talking to the German counsel general and we were talking about German tourism and she said, “We love going to Crystal River, but also we love Torreya.” I mean that place is just gorgeous. You have these two trails. You have the challenge course and the regular course. Each one’s eight miles long, right? Has ups and downs but has a natural beauty that’s wonderful. Great camping grounds, great trails and places like Torreya deserve more attention. And they’re like hidden gems in our state that perhaps even Floridians don’t know about.

Chris Cate:           I love Torreya, I’ve done some camping there myself. What then though is your favorite place in Florida to visit?

Ken Lawson:       Well I was tell you earlier in this discussion, I love the Ringling museum. I mean the fact that, every Floridian should know this, on Monday’s if you show your driver’s license, it’s free. Okay? The artwork just blows you away. And also the museum out in Ocala, if you haven’t been there. And it’s out in Silver Springs Boulevard, the artworks… The Appleton museum. The Appleton’s donated their art collection, which is this international collection to Ocala, right? And you go in, you think you’re in D.C., like at the Corcoran museum and you see this artwork, you see pottery, you see Japanese armor, just a culture in pockets like Sarasota and Ocala are overwhelming, and I love those places.

Chris Cate:           Last question, this may be a little but tricky for you because you’re from Gainesville, but you went to FSU. What is your favorite Florida sports team? Maybe you go with professional?

Ken Lawson:       Okay, in terms of …Let’s give you a backup. I went the Gator games when the team was not that good. You go to Florida national bank and they always had a sticker that you put on your car bumper sticker that you put on your car that said, “Wait until next year.” And when John Reaves was the quarterback, me and my granddad are sitting the stadium and watch those games and watching us lose. And Charley Pell didn’t get enough credit for what he did, but he turned that team around. When they played at USC and Kitty Cat, Wilber Marshall came around the corner and pulled down Rob Johnson, wonderful. With that being said, I’m a Seminole, because when Bobby Bowden played Oklahoma, okay and you’re trying to take out JC Watts, I was sold. Aright, so in terms of college it’s the Florida State Seminoles.

In terms of professional, I’m a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. You know I moved to Tampa after the Marine Corps, I would go to the games and Tony Dungy did heck of job rebuilding the reputation of the Buccaneers. And I’m just waiting for them to reemerge as a prominent team that they were. But you count me as a strong Bucs fans and strong Seminole, with an appreciation for the Gators.

Chris Cate:           Great. I really appreciate you taking the time to be on the show.

Ken Lawson:       Sir, thank you for making time for me. This was great.

Chris Cate:            Thanks for listening to the Fluent in Floridian podcast. This show is executive produced by April Salter with additional support provided by Heidi Otway and the team at SalterMitchellPR. If you need help telling your Florida story, SalterMitchellPR has you covered by offering issues management, crisis communications, social media, advocacy and media relations assistance.

You can learn more about SalterMitchellPR at, you can also learn more about the Fluent In Floridian podcast and listen to every episode at or by searching for the show using your favorite podcast app.

Have a great day!

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