Troopers and title belts: the sights and sounds of Florida Boys State

Not long after the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) first took to the state’s roadways, a group of FHP troopers headed to Tallahassee for a week to support a fledgling program — Florida American Legion Boys State (FALBS).

It certainly helped that the FHP was established by former Department of Florida Commander Neil Kirkman. Eight decades later, FHP troopers are still a key part of the program.

“It helps us in several different ways” to have them here, said FALBS Director Andy Satterlee, himself a sergeant with the Cape Coral Police Department. “The relationship between Florida Highway Patrol and the Legion staying that history connection. Secondfold is, the youth of today, some positive influence and impact with law enforcement in general. So it’s not all negative; they have questions or experiences they’ve heard of, they’re right there.”

“Thirteen troopers from all over the state have volunteered their time to be away from their families over Father’s Day to join you this week. These troopers have dedicated their time to you,” FHP Director Col. Gary Howze told the Boys State delegates during an assembly.

Among those troopers was FHP emergency operations coordinator Capt. Derrick Rahming.

“Sometimes when we meet (young people), we meet them in unfortunate circumstances. But when we get to talk to them in this positive atmosphere, it gives us a chance to actually be one-on-one. I don’t call myself captain when I’m here, I call myself Derrick and ask them to do the same. I want to know them, I want them to know me,” Rahming said.

Rahming acknowledged it’s competitive to get the Boys State assignment.

“When those delegates come here, they’re getting the sharpest troopers that we have as part of this program,” said Rahming, who’s served on the staff 16 of the past 18 years. “When I see all those (Boys Staters in) red shirts come into the Capitol and they get to see what we do on a day-to-day basis to get things done in the state of Florida, just means the world to me. This program is awesome.”


‘A week that shapes a lifetime’

Several FALBS staff and guests who are alumni of the program shared their thoughts on how their time as a delegate influenced them.

“It made a huge difference. I didn’t have any understanding of government or an interest in that, and I found I’ve spent my entire 30-plus-year career in public service in various roles,” said Florida 1st District Court of Appeals Judge Clay Roberts, who attended FALBS and American Legion Boys Nation in 1982. “My legal career throughout the state, lots of times I would show up for a hearing in front of a judge and counsel on the other side would be someone I knew from Boys State.”

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey attended FALBS and has served as a counselor in past years. In accepting a banner from the program commemorating Tallahassee’s 200th anniversary, he said, “Thirty-four years ago I participated as a delegate … in this amazing program, Boys State.”

Satterlee “had so much fun” as a delegate in 1995 despite losing several races before being elected to the House of Representatives.

“So the next year, I saw that the Legion had asked if anyone would like to come back as a counselor, and I applied, and Director George Wehrli said yes. I came back as a counselor, and I was able to serve as a city counselor, and the city counselor is the core, that’s the hands-on with your individual cities. They take your personality on, but you’re also able to step back and watch them actually run it,” Satterlee said. “To me, that made a huge impact. I was actually able to go to college on a military scholarship, and at college, I had several people on my campus that attended Boys State as well, and they had the same experience.”

“Before I went to Boys State and Boys Nation, I was a page in Congress for a year,” said morale officer Bob Knight, a 1974 alum of FALBS and Boys Nation. “And so that gave me even another boost up to understand Washington. But it was life changing. I mean, when I went to Boys State, I really didn't know which college I wanted to go to. Boys State and Boys Nation defined those decisions. And even as I came back and my second and third and fourth year, there was still a very heavy influence on me and my future. Because of this program; I owe everything to this program.”

And 2024 FALBS Governor Terry Shen was thankful even before his week was complete.

“As I look around this room, I truly see a close family. A family that will stick together because we are the 80th anniversary of Florida American Legion Boys State,” Shen said after his inauguration.


Honoring those who served

Even with the program’s emphasis on the political process, FALBS didn’t forget to thank those who made it all possible.

Shen and his cabinet braved the torrid Florida sun for a brief afternoon service at the Florida Veterans World War II Memorial across the street from the capitol. And all of FALBS gathered in the House chambers Friday morning for a memorial service.

The program’s cities also put together care packages to send to troops stationed overseas.


All in good fun

In an effort to add a little something extra to the rivalry between the political parties, this year’s session featured some bonus accessories for the party chairs — a replica championship belt for the party with the most success in the elections, and fluffy unicorn hats for the other party.

The Federalists left 2024 with the belt and bragging rights after a sweep of the state-level elections.


Boys Nation

Boys Nation

At Boys State / Nation, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments.

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