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00000174-121d-d47e-a1f7-523d2c950000  WUSF News regularly collaborates with University of South Florida journalism classes in Tampa and St. Petersburg, providing students an opportunity to share their work with the greater Tampa Bay area.Some of the projects have included:“Past Plates” - a podcast and written stories produced in Spring 2017 that look into people’s memories and traditions related to food, food culture and food business in south St. Petersburg. In fall 2016, students profiled candidates running for Tampa Bay area elected offices. They  were produced as part of the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications' Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs classes; and as part of the Media and Elections class at USF St. Petersburg’s Journalism and Mass Communications Department.In 2015, WUSF journalists joined the USFSP Neighborhood News Bureau in creating oral histories of residents of St. Petersburg's historic Midtown neighborhood. That work was featured on WUSF's Florida Matters public affairs show.

Elections 2016: Florida House Of Representatives District 73 Candidate Joe Gruters

After a mass shooting in Texas intensified a partisan divide about immigration, state Sen. Joe Gruters has decided to postpone a statewide “listening tour” focused on the controversial topic.
Joe Gruters

House District 73 will have a new face in Tallahassee after incumbent Greg Steube’s decision to run in District 23 for state Senate. Native Floridian Joe Gruters hopes to be that new legislator so he can reform the education system in Florida.

“I believe it’s time that big government gets out of the way of Floridians, specifically in Sarasota, where our education standards are too controlled by government,” Gruters says. “I want my kids to get the best education our state can offer, and right now I know that is not happening.”

Age: 39 Education: Florida State University, bachelor’s degree in finance Occupation: Certified Public Accountant Political Experience: Vice chairman of Florida GOP

Gruters has served on Florida State University’s Board of Trustees. He also serves on the University of South Florida Community Leadership Counsel at the Sarasota Campus and is a member of the downtown Kiwanis. Gruters is a certified public accountant and the owner of Gruters CPA.

Gruters now faces Democrat James Golden, who was unopposed in the primary. 

While Gruters has been campaigning for state office, he has always had his eyes set on higher office. Gruters was appointed as vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida in 2015. That same year, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appointed him Florida co-chairman of the Trump campaign.

Gruters’ family has lived in Sarasota for four generations. His grandfather moved to Sarasota in 1922, where he worked as the chief tentmaker for the Ringling Bros. Circus. Gruters is married to his wife, Sydney, and has three children, Spencer and Jack and Elizabeth.

Gruters graduated from Florida State University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He graduated from University of South Florida with a master’s in business administration. He says his passion for running is his desire for his kids to have a well-rounded education that is built by the state, and not those in Washington, D.C.

Gruters has a long political resume. He previously worked with top Republican leaders including former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Congressman Vern Buchanan. Gruters won the Republican primary, defeating Steve Vernon, who disagreed with him on several issues but is supporting the Republican candidate.

Gruters first caught the eye of Trump and Sarasota when he called the Republican presidential candidate to tell him he won the Statesman of the Year award. While Gruters was GOP vice chairman, he fought to bring as many Republican politicians to Sarasota to see the area and how much it truly cares about the future of the country and its state.

Trump agreed to Gruters’ meeting, accepted the award and drew more than 1,200 campaign donors to the event. Gruters dual role has drawn criticism from many Republicans, but he says he can balance the two jobs.

"In order to be successful in Florida politics, you've got to be successful in Sarasota," Gruters says. 

Lawrence Lease is a student journalist attending the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications. This story was produced as part of the school’s Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs class this semester, under the leadership of instructors Wayne Garcia and Wendy Whitt.