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Former State Sen. Greg Evers killed in a car crash

Greg Evers and Piper Kerman
@MaryEllenKlas

Former State Sen. Greg Evers, a Baker Florida farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash near his home in Okaloosa County late Monday. The Florida Highway Patrol said the death is being investigated. Evers was 62.  

According to a press release from the Florida Highway Patrol released late Tuesday, Lt. Eddie Elmore of the Florida Highway Patrol said that sometime on Monday night, Evers' vehicle "failed to negotiate the curve" on Griffith Mill Road near Baker, crossed the road, crashed through a guardrail, and landed "into a creek where the vehicle became submerged." His car was found on Tuesday afternoon.  Download Evers report - Okaloosa County 8-22-17 2 Form1

Evers, a Republican who left the Senate in 2016 to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress, was born in Milton, Florida, and grew up on his family's farm, later attending Pensacola Community College. He took over his family's fertilizer business and moved it to Baker, where he grew cotton, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, corn and strawberries.

He was fond of preparing strawberry ice cream and delivering it to his Senate colleagues in Tallahassee during session. He leaves three grown children and a wife, Lori Weems. 

A passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers, he became a vigorous critic of the Florida Department of Corrections and the Gov. Rick Scott administration for failing to adequately pay corrections officers and sufficiently staff the state's prisons. He used the opportunity to bring Piper Kerman (photo above) to the Senate to speak to his colleagues about her best-selling book and NetFlix series, Orange is the New Black. 

As chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Evers used the platform to scrutinize the Department of Correction's treatment of several whistleblowers on the inspector general's staff by having the staffers testify under oath about their allegations of cover-up and abusive treatment of inmates within the agency.

He ordered FDC Secretary Julie Jones to re-negotiate contracts with private vendors who supplied medical care to inmates, and he took advantage of a rarely-used state law that allows state legislators to make surprise visits to state prisons.

An outspoken Second Amendment advocate, Evers drew controversy in his 2016 congressional campaign when he offered to auction off a AR-15 rifle to citizens who liked his Facebook page.

Evers was first elected to the state House in 2001, where he served until 2010 and then ran for the state Senate.

After news of his death broke late Tuesday afternoon, Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, who was elected to the state Senate after Evers left, tweeted that Evers was "a dedicated public servant and an even better friend. He will be greatly missed. Go rest high on that mountain." 

Last Wednesday, Evers attended the Panama City launch of of Sen. Jack Latvala's campaign for governor. Latvala attached a photo to his tweet. 

The governor said in a statement:  “My wife Ann and I are heartbroken after learning of the passing of Senator Greg Evers. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lori, and their entire family during this terribly difficult time.

"A dedicated public servant, Senator Evers truly loved Florida and devoted his life to serving his community – not only on his family farm, but during 15 years representing the people of North Florida in the state House and Senate. He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him as the kind, hardworking farmer from Milton who tirelessly fought for Florida families.”

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, notified his colleagues of Evers' death in a statement Tuesday. 

"Greg passionately represented his district for many years in both the House and Senate,'' Negron wrote. "He was especially dedicated to the men and women of his community who were serving or had served in the military, as well as our fellow Floridians across the state who serve as Corrections Officers.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens wrote:

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said: "I’ve known Greg for many years, and there’s no one who fought harder for his principles or for the people of Northwest Florida than Greg Evers. He truly believed in the value of hard work, and nothing was more important to him than his family, public service, and his North Florida farm. We served in the Florida House together, and I’m proud to have worked alongside him and called him a friend. Tonight, I join Florida in mourning his sudden and tragic loss.”

RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said: “Tonight, our hearts are heavy with the news of former Florida Senator Greg Evers passing. Senator Evers was a passionate and dedicated public servant in the Florida Legislature for 15 years.  He was an ardent supporter of our military, our Constitutional rights and an advocate of returning the power to the people.  We extend our deepest condolences to the Evers family, and pray for peace during this most difficult time.” 

Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Evers family, said in a statement: "On behalf of the family of former State Senator Greg Evers, it with great sadness that we announce his passing.  Senator Evers was involved in a single car accident last night near his home in Baker, Florida. The family asks for your prayers as they deal with this sudden loss. Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming."

Photo: Former State Sen. Greg Evers shakes hands with Piper Kerman, the author of Orange is the New Black, whom he invited to speak to his Senate colleagues about her work.

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