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Margolis celebrates 40 years of public service

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It's hard to believe, but 40 years have passed since state Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami Beach, first became a state lawmaker.

Margolis, 79, hasn't held state office the entire time. She spent eight years on the Miami-Dade Commission, and made unsuccessful bids to become a member of Congress and Miami-Dade property appraiser.

She made history when she became the first woman to hold the Florida Senate presidency in 1990.

Senate President Don Gaetz celebrated the occasion Wednesday by presenting Margolis with 40 roses during the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting.

Said Gaetz: "This is the beginning of the next 40 years."

We caught up with Margolis in between meetings Wednesday to get her take.

Herald/Times: What inspired you to get involved in politics?

Margolis: The Equal Rights Amendment. The gentleman who was the incumbent [in the Florida House of Representatives] at the time voted against the Equal Rights Amendment and I was just horrified that anybody could do that. So I decided to run against him.

Herald/Times: What was it like to be the first female Senate President?

Margolis: It was amazing. The galleries were packed with every woman who worked here in the Senate. It was incredible. When they swore me in, they were crying… The women, one after another, were getting up and nominating me, saying, ‘Good ol’ boys, step aside.’ It was really strange. It was really something.

Herald/Times: Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

Margolis: I did the constitutional amendment that brought government into the sunshine in 1992.

Herald/Times: You’ve left Tallahassee a few times to pursue other offices. What is it about Tallahassee that keeps drawing you back?

Margolis: I was chairman of the [Miami-Dade] County Commission for six years. It was awful. There was strong mayor at the time, Alex Penelas, and so the chairman just presided, kept order. I could set the calendar and things like that. It was a good experience, but I never want to go back… [Tallahassee] is a good place. I know the staffs of most of the committees very well. It’s an easy place for me to do well.

Herald/Times: Any plans to retire?

Margolis: I have three more years... I’ll think about it then. I have a [retirement] account open, but I don’t know if I really want to pursue it.