Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for “the second most powerful office in government,” spoke in Raymond Gross’ Public Policy and Policymakers class about her life, background and what the state chief financial adviser does for students.
Sink, a North Carolina native, is what Gross describes as someone who is not a lifetime political figure. She was previously advised to run for Congress and chose to enter the world of politics after establishing herself as a top professional in her field of banking.
“Banking is a career in which you help people realize their dreams,” Sink said.
Sink spoke about enjoying the feeling of going to bed every night knowing that people in her company had helped clients realize dreams of money for their children’s education or their own first cars and homes.
Sink was with NationsBank, now known as Bank of America, for 25 years, most recently serving as president of the Florida Banking Group. Before that, she worked as the consumer executive in the bank’s Tampa Bay and South Florida regions, as well as the establishing manager of its corporate loan production office in New York City.
Although this will be Sink’s first time running for a political office, she is not entering her campaign blind; her husband is Bill McBride, the lawyer who ran and beat former attorney general Janet Reno for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor in 2002. McBride lost to Jeb Bush 56 percent to 43 percent at the polls.
“When he told me that he was running for governor, I asked him, ‘Governor of what?’ When he said Florida, I reminded him that Florida already had a governor, Jeb Bush,” Sink joked. Sink received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, with a minor in business, from Wake Forest University. Upon graduation, she taught at girls’ high schools in West Africa, in regions such as the Congo and Sierra Leone.
During her speech, Sink explained the role and responsibility of the state chief financial adviser.
“Nobody knows what the CFO is. It is a very broad responsibility, a mishmash of things, but once I saw (the description), I though that this job was made for me,” she said.
The CFO is directly responsible for a number of offices and divisions, including treasury, insurance fraud, insurance agents and agencies, risk management and unclaimed property. The CFO also holds the position of State Fire Marshal.
“The power and authority you have here closely resembles the governor. It is an office with one of the greatest impact on lives,” Gross said.
Class member Luis Coton, a senior majoring in political science, enjoyed the speaker, which was only one of many Gross brings in weekly for his class.
“We’ve had state representatives to lobbyists, but she’s been the first pure candidate, and she was pretty interesting,” Coton said.
Other speakers for the class include Betty Castor, the former USF president and 2004 senate candidate, slated to speak next week.
Retired since 2000, Sink said the next step for her, regardless of the election outcome next year, is unclear.
“I’ve always said I wanted to be the ambassador to the Bahamas,” Sink said.