TEMPLE TERRACE – From outside, the gathering at the dining room of the Temple Terrace County Club may have appeared to be a “welcome home” celebration.
And indeed it was.
Well over 100 family members and friends and came together for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who grew up in Temple Terrace and whose family’s roots in the town run four generations deep.
But the many hugs and handshakes served an even greater purpose – the guests were there in support of Bondi’s bid for a second four-year term as the state’s chief legal officer.
“She’s a homegrown Temple Terrace girl and we’re proud of that,” said Mayor Frank Chillura, who among several others served on the community’s host committee to champion Bondi’s campaign.
Former Mayor Joe Affronti and his wife, Liz, who also were members of the host committee, were among those who turned out in support of re-electing Bondi as the state’s top attorney.
“She’s very strong in fighting crime and protecting the safety of our people,” Joe Affronti said.
Bondi’s conservative views, added Liz Affronti, are in line with the couple’s beliefs.
Longtime Temple Terrace residents Nancy and Ralph Lupton, the founders/owners of Lupton’s Fat Man’s BBQ on Busch Boulevard, also were on hand to back Bondi in her quest to serve another term as Florida’s first-ever female attorney general who, prior to taking over the position in 2011, spent more than 18 years as a prosecutor in the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.
“I think Pam is a wonderful attorney general. She’s honest, she’s intelligent and she speaks from her heart,” Nancy Lupton said.
Ralph Lupton described Bondi as a “true champion of the people.”
“It’s great to have Pam back in her hometown so we can show her our support,” said Sherrill Tomasino, who along with her husband, Paul, also served on the committee that hosted Bondi.
“She taken on a few things, like the pill mills, and she’s taken them very seriously. She didn’t give up,” Sherrill Tomasino added.
Chillura, who formally took to the stage to welcome Bondi and wish her well, said she took on a difficult job and has tackled some tough issues.
“Her commitment, her leadership and her passion for Florida have made it a better state,” he said.
When it was Bondi’s turn at the mic she thanked all those in attendance and hailed friends of her mother, Patsy, a retired teacher, for helping her overcome of the loss of her father, Joe Bondi, a University of South Florida professor and former Temple Terrace mayor who died last year.
“My dad is looking down on me,” she said.
Bondi spoke about her success in curbing the state’s drug abuse crisis through the passage and enforcement of the “pill-mill” bill.
“When I took office there were 98 pill-mill doctors living in Florida,” she said. “We’re now down to zero.”
As a result, Bondi added, prescription-drug related deaths have dramatically decreased.
She said she is adamant in her crusade to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking, which she noted mainly involves run-away kids between the ages of 12 and 14.
“Florida is ranked No. 3 (in the U.S.) in human trafficking and I’m working very, very hard to change that,” Bondi said.
If elected to serve a second term as Florida’s Attorney General, Bondi vowed to keep up her fight against perpetrators of crime.
“My job is not glamorous,” Bondi said. “But I am following what the voters of the state of Florida want and that is to make Florida the safest place to live, work and play.”
While still up on the stage Bondi acknowledged an audience member with her hand held high in the air in an effort to attract her attention.
“All I want is to tell you how proud I am of you,” said Diana Anastasi, Bondi’s first-grade teacher at Temple Terrace Elementary School.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.