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Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

‘One thing leads to another’: Boca Raton Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman’s journey from sports journalist to lawmaker

The Florida state representative didn’t mean to go into politics; she stumbled into it through a passion for making things right. This is her story.
Peggy Gossett-Seidman speaking to the Florida House of Representatives. Courtesy of the Florida House of Representatives website.
Peggy Gossett-Seidman speaking to the Florida House of Representatives. Courtesy of the Florida House of Representatives website.

All roads lead to the destination that’s meant to be: this is something Florida State Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman (R-District 91) wholeheartedly believes in.

As a freshman lawmaker representing Boca Raton and part of Palm Beach County, Fla., Gossett-Seidman is currently a part of six committees within the House, two of which are focused on water quality and natural resources, and she is the vice chair of an appropriations committee for K-12 education.

Before working for the state, she cycled through multiple careers: she was an athlete, a lifeguard, and then a sports journalist. Growing up, she played basketball, snorkeled across Europe, and wrote poetry. The Detroit, Mich. native is passionate about environmental preservation, which she says led her to where she is today.

“Everything has a bit of a meaning, [although] it’s tough to find the meaning sometimes,” she said. “And one thing leads to another.”

Early endeavors

Gossett-Seidman had many different passions growing up. She played basketball, was a swim instructor, and snorkeled across Europe. Poetry also stole her heart from a young age.

As a writer and sports lover, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English with minors in journalism and history from Michigan State University. After graduating college, Gossett-Seidman was a journalist for many years. She freelanced for the Lansing State Journal, where her sports editor at the time said women couldn’t write sports. Subsequently, she began to apply for reporter positions throughout Florida and landed a job with the Palm Beach Post. She moved to Florida in 1976 and worked for The Post from 1977-1982.

She became one of the first sports writers in the United States while at The Post, along with Michele Himmelberg who wrote for the St. Petersburg Times starting in 1979. Her articles have been published in the Atlanta Journal, Austin American Statesman, World Tennis Magazine, Detroit Free Press, Associated Press and other publications.

Gossett-Seidman wrote for the St. Louis Post, of which one of her articles is still on Newspapers.com. (Screenshot/Google, March 29, 2024).

Having such a wide combination of interests and skills gave her a stronger foundation for each new job she’s worked.

For example, she says she remembers working as a lifeguard in Michigan, then using those lifeguarding skills to rescue people in Florida from a boating accident.

Then, while at The Post, she remembers being given what she considered to be a “throwaway assignment” and then taking advantage of the connections she made through reporting that story. Those connections, she said, propelled her career forward.

“One guy was a well-known tennis pro. Shortly thereafter, [my editor] gave me the tennis beat and who do I run into? This guy. And he introduces me to people I needed to know,” she remembers.

Where she is now

An interest in environmental protection led her in the direction of politics. Specifically, the issue of human-made litter polluting bodies of water is what propelled her forward into creating change. Dow Chemical, she says, found unbelievable litter in Michigan canals. She noticed the same issue of people throwing “anything and everything into canals” when she moved to Florida, a similar state geographically.

“They found things like horses, refrigerators, cars… used paint cans, paint…” she detailed. “I saw, and I would go around taking photos in my town of this so I had proof… so people have to know that the canal is not a garbage can. So when I got into the state job, it just was in my face, like let us see what we can do.”

She was passionate about making things right, so she decided to be the change she wanted to see. 

“I could be on my back porch reading a book and enjoying the sun but I’d rather see clean water back there. I can rest when that’s happening,” she said.

New to politics but strong-willed

From 2018 to 2022, Gossett-Seidman served as a town commissioner for Highland Beach. There, she promoted environmental cleanups of roadways and waterways and, most notably, launched a Police Marine Patrol boat.

Peggy Gossett-Seidman’s official headshot for the Florida House of Representatives. (Photo/MyFloridaHouse.gov).

In 2022, she was elected to represent District 91 in the House. Since taking office, Gossett-Seidman has passed nine bills as a new law, which she said is above the average of one or two for most new representatives.

Since meeting Gossett-Seidman at her orientation in 2022, State Rep. Chuck Clemons (R–District 22), speaker pro tempore for the House, was always impressed with how quickly she adapted to her position, putting forth the research skills she used in her previous journalism career.

“Peggy is a fabulous researcher. She doesn’t take anything at face value. She trusts but verifies and she has her own ways of discovering what the facts are. And I admire that out of Peggy,” Clemons said. “She’s very, very thorough; when Peggy digs into an issue, she will quickly become the subject matter expert about that issue.”

Marshall Labadie, town manager for Highland Beach, Fla., met Gossett-Seidman when she joined the town commission and has worked with her for six years. He describes her as “tenacious,” always working from sunup to sundown.

“She’s on the issues. She knows what’s going on and represents the interests of her district quite well. And all of us here in Highland beach have been very, very proud of her and glad that she’s our state rep.,” Labadie said. “And she takes our issues to Tallahassee and works with all the legislators up there to make sure small towns’ issues in South Florida are considered.”

In addition to tackling environmental issues, Gossett-Seidman’s advocacy also extends to education and governmental procedures.

Just recently, she sponsored three bills of which she is particularly proud: HB 117, which would open the sealed Jeffrey Epstein case files in Palm Beach County; HB 165, an effort to reduce the pollution of waterways; and HB 135, which addresses glitches in the voter registration system.

“It’s not hard to do the right thing, and I don’t want anybody to tell [you] you can’t,” she said.

In an email, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer notes how much action Gossett-Seidman has done for Boca Raton, home to Florida Atlantic University, during the most recent legislative session. 

Representative Gossett-Seidman worked tirelessly during this recent legislative session to advocate for Boca Raton residents and her other constituents. She provided regular updates, asked for input on key bills, and as a former local elected official, worked to protect the concept of home rule – that certain local issues are best decided by [individual] communities. I am grateful for her hard work,” Singer wrote.

Labadie also believes Gossett-Seidman has given a lot to Boca Raton, particularly by securing appropriations and running legislation through the town manager and city commissioners to ensure everyone’s voices on different issues are heard. She also made Highland Beach students a priority while on the town commission.

“She always has initiatives to bring students into the fold; bringing them into the process,” Labadie said. “She’s always done a really good job of bringing students into the fold and wanting student education, student achievement, success, career planning – all that stuff.”

Gossett-Seidman never imagined herself in a position of political power, which she believes benefits the public.

“I think it’s an asset in some ways not to aspire to this job because you come in with a certain level of integrity. I don’t care about the title. I don’t care if the money isn’t much. I’ve already had some wonderful careers…” she said. “And this is not my identity. If you understand, I simply went into the job to make things right and so I think people understand that.”

Elisabeth Gaffney is the Managing Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this story or others, you can reach her by email at [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @elisabethgaff.

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About the Contributor
Elisabeth Gaffney
Elisabeth Gaffney, Editor-at-Large
Elisabeth is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism and double minoring in linguistics and sociology. She is a creative, kitten and coffee-loving workaholic with a love for the performing arts and storytelling. She hopes to one day work as a reporter at an established newspaper. In summer 2024, she is interning at MSNBC in New York City.

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