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Atwater portrait unveiled in Senate chamber

The Senate stopped normal business early this morning to honor its top officials, President Jeff Atwater and Pro Tem Mike Fasano. In a tradition at the end of each term, senators took turns honoring the two lawmakers, before the official portrait of Atwater was unveiled in the center of the chamber.

(Term-limited and running for CFO, Atwater is going on to a “higher calling,” according to Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. Fasano, who members praised as fastidious and wry, has two more years but will no longer be Pro Tem.)

Atwater capped the events with a lofty 20-minute speech complimenting senators for their faith, commitment to office and willingness to engage tough issues. “At this time, in this chamber, we were not afraid to debate the issues of our time.”

Because the chamber can only hold a limited number of portraits, Atwater’s painting replaces that of Frederick Preston Cone, who served as Senate president from 1911-12. (Cone enacted the state’s driver’s license and shot a man for being a “stubborn and belligerent Republican.”)

Atwater’s fellow senators presented him with a collage of the senate signed by each member on the matte. He also got a basketful of gavels that were carved from an oak tree on an island near Jacksonville that was the original homestead of his great-grandfather, former Gov. Napolean Bonaparte Broward.

As a new tradition, he also had a gavel made with both the Senate and House logos. He plans to alternate using it with House Speaker Larry Cretul next week and also hold it with him in the rotunda after session. (After they drop their respective hankies, we presume.)