Jordan Takes Faith in Fact and Fortitude to Capitol Freshman Legislator Keeps Lower Profile as He Learns the Political Ropes

Article excerpt

Byline: Thomas B. Pfankuch, Times-Union staff writer

TALLAHASSEE -- Even the people who clean toilets for a living are important to Rep. Stan Jordan.

Jordan, a Republican from Jacksonville, has learned through a long career in politics that the way to be successful is to forge positive relationships with as many people as possible, including those who are paid to sweep floors and clean bathrooms.

And that philosophy has carried over to the Legislature, where Jordan is serving his first session after 16 years as an outspoken member of the Duval County School Board.

"I always like to establish special relationships with the folks who do low-profile jobs because they'll go to the wall for you then," Jordan, 63, said last week.

To that end, Jordan made his first official legislative duty Thursday the writing of a letter to the House sergeant at arms thanking him and his staff for responding to lawmakers' requests. Oh, and also for keeping the Capitol bathrooms so clean.

But Jordan also knows how to make contacts with people in more powerful positions. Jordan took a few minutes Thursday to meet with Rep. Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, the House Rules chairman who has the power to determine which lawmakers get their bills heard on the House floor.

Jordan innocently and humbly queried Byrd about why lawmakers don't get a staff analysis of every bill that comes before a committee for a vote.

Byrd politely told Jordan that compared to the seven-member Duval County School Board, things are much different in the 160-member Legislature and that Jordan must just accept it.

Jordan's visit, however, could pay dividends in the long run. It revealed how Jordan's willingness to speak up to leaders and ask even an innocuous question may serve him well in the Legislature.

"I'm glad you're here," Byrd said as the two ended their brief visit. "We need people here that don't mind speaking up and taking the sugar coating and the bark off the process. In a short time, you're going to be a leader over here."

RIGHT OR RIGHTEOUS?

Making connections, making friends, arguing issues from a position of fact and fortitude: Jordan believes these are his strengths. And some of his colleagues will attest to that.

"Stan gets to the bottom of things, he does what's right, and I wish all officials had the integrity and knowledge he does," said Billy Parker, a 20-year School Board member who is one of Jordan's best friends.

But despite his congenial nature and frequent use of humor, some people who know Jordan say he can be bullheaded.

"He can be very domineering and very intimidating; his manner and delivery tend to intimidate people," said James Rinaman, a Jacksonville lawyer who has known Jordan 20 years through the School Board and National Guard. Rinaman once described Jordan as "a board-certified egomaniac."

Jordan called Rinaman's remark an "insecure attack" that isn't true. But in an odd moment Thursday, Jordan showed signs of demanding more than just casual respect from others.

While walking to a meeting, Jordan stood in a Capitol stairwell and blocked the path of a lobbyist who was talking on a cell phone. In mock worship, the lobbyist interrupted his call a moment and bowed his head to Jordan as would a servant to a king.

Even Parker, who often sided with Jordan on major issues facing the School Board, said Jordan's strong-willed nature can occasionally become overbearing.

"He's a strong-minded man, and if you want to call it overzealous, fine," Parker said, "but 99 percent of the time he's right."

Rinaman said Jordan's nature sometimes falls flat and shows that Jordan is more into playing politics than being sincere.

"He can be just as sweet and kind and gentle as he would like when he wants to be," Rinaman said. "He certainly would make you think he's sincere the way he delivers things. …