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Speeches and Floor Statements

Dena Gross Leavengood

Madam Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the life of Dena Gross Leavengood, a tireless advocate for Florida, our Tampa Bay community and indeed our planet. Her determined advocacy has left a profound impact on our community and almost impossible shoes to fill. 

A Florida native, Dena graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Florida and received her master’s degree right here at the University of South Florida. Dena was a driving force behind The Florida Aquarium because, even then, she realized its key role in fighting climate change and saving our planet. Dena served the Aquarium in key positions, including director of educational outreach and community liaison. 

There are so many areas where Dena was indispensable.  I remember her perhaps most fondly when in my time as a County Commissioner, she worked with me to fight for health care for working families in her role as the founder of the Hillsborough Health Care Coalition. Dena was legendary in leadership roles for women with the League of Women Voters and Athena, to name a few.  Tomorrow Matters and the Sierra Club were among so many other places where Dena left her inimitable and indelible stamp. As a Hillsborough County Commissioner, Member of Congress and as her friend, I witnessed Dena’s tenacity and steadfast commitment on behalf of her neighbors, friends, Tampa Bay families and people she would never know, except in her heart. 

Dena’s decades of activism and professional accomplishments earned her the love of our community and numerous accolades, including the 2010 Education Award from the Health Council of Pinellas County, the 2003 Human Rights Award from the Tampa Human Rights Council. She also received national recognition as community liaison with The Florida Aquarium.     

Madam Speaker, on behalf of a grateful and saddened Tampa Bay community, we promise to reflect on Dena’s life of service to improve the lives of our neighbors, our community and our country, and have it serve as a beacon and inspiration as we undertake the hard work of going forward without her – as Dena would certainly insist on us doing. Dena earned a special place in my heart and of the entire Tampa Bay community.  Dena would be sorely missed in all times but especially in these challenging times – we will strive to remember our indefatigable, Happy Warrior, Dena, if ever we get discouraged.