Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a Charlotte County Dems Profile series, Influencers, by Linda Conklin, a Charlotte County Dems writer.
Florida Democratic Party State Committeeman representing Charlotte County-Tom Garner
Growing up in a small community seemed idyllic to Tom Garner. “I felt everything I could ever want was right there in Gritney, Florida”, an unincorporated community in the northern panhandle. Tom said, “My parents owned the only grocery store in our little burg, and when I got out of school each day, the store was my responsibility.” The only professional person he saw on a regular basis was a state forest ranger. “I was impressed with his uniform,” said Tom, “so I thought I might want to be a forest ranger someday.” But then another professional, a probation officer, came into the store. As the only hangout around, our store was the officer’s first stop looking for a client. What impressed Tom was that the probation officer wore a suit and tie and drove a really nice car.
That impressionable young man wanted to find out what it would take to become a probation officer. So he found out and attended Florida State University (FSU) and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology. He worked in Florida state government, including the Parole and Probation Commission, the Auditor General’s office, and the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement where he investigated white-collar crime. (Uniform and/or coat and tie—mission accomplished!)
While attending FSU, Tom met an extraordinary woman, got married, and after completing college on the G.I. Bill, served four years in the U.S. Air Force. Stationed at Homestead AFB in Florida, Udorn in Thailand, and finally Langley in Virginia, his world expanded quickly. His wife, Lucy Huyke Garner, was born in South America, so there have been many trips to see her family. Settled into his career, Tom joined the U.S. Army (active) Reserves and served 16 years.
Tom never paid much attention to politics, but he had an “aha” moment following the 2000 election. He was upset by the actions of the Florida Secretary of State giving Florida’s electoral votes to the Republican candidate. Tom decided he would get involved in local politics and has never stopped.
Tom’s introduction to the Charlotte County Democrats (CC Dems) was volunteering in his precinct, knocking on doors to promote local, state, and national Democratic candidates. He became a precinct captain, and in 2016, he and his wife were selected as delegates to the Democratic National Convention. In 2017, they were each elected as Florida Democratic Party (FDP) State Committee members for Charlotte County. In addition to serving as the liaison to the FDP, Tom serves on the party’s state Rules Committee.
As to Tom’s future in politics, he says, “If Joe Biden wins, I would like to continue serving as a delegate.” Otherwise, he would like to serve once again as a precinct captain. But whatever his role is in the future, he will continue to fight for the rights of veterans, voter registration, and support local, state, and national Democratic candidates.
Tom’s current hope is that citizens register to vote, and then actualize that right and vote by mail, or in person at the polls on November 3.