Editor’s Note: Alex Sink was recognized as the Bob Graham Center’s 2020 Citizen of the Year on Oct. 16.
By Andy Shodell, Graham Center communications intern
Alex Sink’s story and life’s work spread an effectual optimism that is difficult to find in all the negativities that can surround us on a day-to-day basis.
Sink’s story shows us that an individual can truly have the power to work within both government and business for the betterment of all parts of society. Her life’s work is reminiscent of how former Governor and Senator Bob Graham continues his mission for a civically engaged and active country through the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.
Sink’s pioneering role as the first and only female Chief Financial Officer of Florida paved the way for other underrepresented Floridians to be uplifted into positions where they can use political power for good. She’s worked with a diverse group of the state’s up-and-coming small businesses and female politicians to build on a momentum that she herself tilled as CFO from 2007 to 2011.
All of this and more has created a legacy larger than life.
Sink’s care for society’s welfare is one of her attributes that can help affirm our optimism during such a strange, humbling, and sometimes awful period of Earth’s history. Alex Sink’s top concern for her whole career has been the empowerment of the people of Florida, particularly the marginalized whose voices have been silenced since before recorded history. Sink’s efforts to elevate underrepresented public and private citizens has had rippling effects on the state and the nation. This diversification of our representatives and small businesses has been Sink’s lifelong work, persisting through every banking position, leadership role, and campaign.
Before ever leading a campaign for public office, Sink worked in the banking industry for 26 years. During that time, she served as president of Florida operations for NationsBank, now Bank of America. As one of few female business executives at the time, Sink used her platform to increase the representation of racial, ethnic, and gender minorities.
During her tenure as CFO, Sink managed to steer Florida through the economic recession. The task was even tougher given that she was the first Democrat since 1998 to be elected to statewide office in Florida. Her record champions bipartisanship, which translated into much progress for Florida’s economy. With an ideology that differed from all other statewide officeholders, Sink was able to cross the isle when she knew it could help the people of Florida.
Sink’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and 2014 House campaign gave her opportunities to continue elevating marginalized voices all across the state. “She’s been a trailblazer in business and politics and has dedicated her life’s work to making sure our young Floridians have a better chance to succeed by creating equal opportunities for them,” said Florida Rep. Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg.
This 2020 Citizen of the Year is being honored as such because she is filled to the brim with compassion, and has dedicated her life to those around her while paying homage to the women who helped to make her groundbreaking career possible. This is the essence of service, leadership, and civic engagement, the three principles of the Bob Graham Center.
Sink now works to create new possibilities for Floridians through two groups she founded — the Florida Next Foundation, which supports tech start-ups, and Ruth’s List, which recruits pro-choice female politicians.
As a 2020 Girl Scouts of West Central Florida Woman of Distinction, Sink said, “Every day, I wake up thinking to myself, Can I do a good deed for somebody else today that would help their lives be better?” And while Sink has millions of lifetimes covered by now, she continues striving to make every day count.
Sink’s passion brings us back to where we started: optimism. With Alex Sink and the Bob Graham Center working to improve the state for all of us by uplifting the voices of the historically oppressed and underrepresented, we can wake up in the morning knowing that we are not the only ones who are ready to get out of bed and work toward justice.
The award ceremony on 10/16 is open to the public. Register at this link.