The late Greg Evers: ‘He led with heart’

299958_10151213649372529_1293199107_nA close friend of Greg Evers, a former state senator who died after his pickup truck ran off the road Monday night, summed it up in a conversation this morning: “He led with heart.”

For those who knew him well, Evers was the real deal, a strawberry farmer-legislator who was as at home behind the wheel of a tractor as he was with a microphone on the Senate floor.

“Let’s go burn one,” he’d say with his signature smile, inviting fellow cigarette smokers to join him on a picnic bench on the side of the Senate Office Building.

I remember the thrill in Evers’s voice when I spoke with him during his first visit to the nation’s Capitol, shortly before he announced his 2016 bid for Congress.

Evers didn’t win that race, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for his country, or his desire to help others, even if that meant an early morning drive across town — in his pajamas — to help out a stranded pal.

He’s been called folksy, a “down-home” gentleman, and dozens of other adulatory adjectives in the short time since his sudden death, which, for those left behind, came far too soon.

It is with a heavy heart that we bid adieu to Greg, a man I was honored to call “friend.”

The Evers family issued the following statement late this afternoon:

“We are devastated by the sudden and shocking loss of our beloved Greg. To many, he will be remembered as an advocate, representing Northwest Florida for 15 years and championing causes, such as criminal justice reform and higher pay for state employees. Greg was a tireless force for his constituents and ‘working folks’ across Florida. His personality was larger than life, with a signature wit and a toothy grin.

“Greg was also well known as a farmer and owner of Akers of Strawberries in Baker, Fla., spending countless hours in the field greeting customers with an infectious smile. Every customer was treated like family; and to Greg, they were.

“Above all, we will remember Greg as a father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend. His presence always brightened a room. Words cannot describe the loss we feel, but we have been blessed at the outpouring of support from our friends and neighbors.

“We would like to thank the Florida Highway Patrol and local law enforcement for their compassion at this difficult time, as well as their constant service to our community – Greg was always their biggest fan.”