Incoming U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin has recruited Alice Hunt, a well-connected local business and civic leader, to run his Lakeland district office once he takes office next week.

Hunt, a past chairman of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Board and current chair of the Florida Polytechnic University Foundation Board, said the timing was right when Franklin asked her to join his staff.

She said she’ll be able to diminish her involvement at Hunt Construction of Central Florida, a family business where she is vice president, because a major subdivision is being completed earlier than anticipated and a daughter has joined the business. And she has plenty of assistance to perpetuate Hunt Properties LLC, a property management company where she is president, she said.

Hunt said she has known Franklin and his wife, Amy, for years and has served on numerous boards with him. Franklin, a Republican, leaves his seat on the Lakeland City Commission on Sunday, the day he assumes his Congressional position.

“He has a passion for making sure his constituents are heard and taken care of,” she said. “It sounded good to me to be helpful to those in need.”

Staff members in Congressional district offices often help residents navigate the federal bureaucracy, and Hunt said she “went though a lot” setting up Veterans Administration paperwork for her father, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

Bruce Anderson, a Florida Southern College political science professor, praised Franklin for hiring a well-connected district coordinator, a position that he says often goes instead to “a political hack with little real interest in district affairs” or a campaign figure.

“Franklin was recruited and backed by folks who were primarily upset with (predecessor Rep. Ross) Spano’s unrelievedly amateurish treatment of constituent services,” Anderson said. “Franklin is shrewd enough to realize, as Dennis Ross (the Lakeland Republican who preceded Spano) did, that holding congressional office depends largely on serving your district regardless of party or position.”

Hunt grew up in postings all over the U.S. and in Japan because of her father’s military career, but her family returned to Lakeland, where her mother’s side had lived since her great-grandparents came here to grow peanuts.

Hunt, 61, was the first female elected president of the student body at Santa Fe High School and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in early childhood education, according to a Ledger profile. Before joining her husband, Chuck, at the construction company, Hunt taught fourth-grade at Mulberry Elementary School for five years.

Hunt’s civic involvement, according to a news release from Franklin’s office, includes serving on the boards of the School to Work Polk County School Board, Early Learning Coalition, Polk State Foundation Board, Leadership Lakeland Board, Polk County Builders Foundation and Pac Boards, Florida Poly Vision Board, Lakeland Economic Development Board, Central Florida Development Council Board and Central Florida Speech and Hearing Board.

She received the Chamber of Commerce George Jenkins Award for community service in 2018, and she chaired Polk County’s Charter Review Commission that year.

Other staff appointments announced by Franklin today include:

  • Michael Richards — deputy chief of staff and legislative director. He was previously deputy chief of staff for Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas.
  • Katharine Tate — director of operations in Washington. She worked in the office of President Ronald Reagan and has held several positions in Congress and in the health-care industry.
  • Patrice Smith — communications director. Her six-year public relations career includes nearly three years as deputy press secretary to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

Franklin earlier announced that his chief of staff would be Mellisa Kelly, who had been chief of staff to Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, since June 2018.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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