Just a few months out of college, Gina Evans got a call from state Rep. Larry Cretul, whose election campaign she had worked on the previous year. He asked her to be his legislative aide, much to her surprise.
“I didn’t even know what a legislative aide was,” Evans said. “But just a few months into the job, I became addicted to legislative politics and the whole political process.”
It was a turning point for Evans, putting her on a career path she never anticipated but has come to love.
The competitive environment and fast pace of Tallahassee was a natural transition for the girl who grew up dancing ballet, swimming and running track. As a teenager in Jacksonville and then a student at the University of Florida, Evans dreamed of one day merging her interests in public relations and fashion. Her first job after graduating was working for Tampa Bay Woman, a publication that focused on working women, business issues and shopping. But when Rep. Cretul reached out to her in 2005, Evans was excited to move back to the Gainesville area and take a shot at working in Rep. Cretul’s district office.
Cretul went on to become the Florida Speaker of the House in 2009, and Evans went to work in his Tallahassee office, where she focused on the Ocala and Gainesville area’s horse and gaming industry, health care and higher education. Her favorite project was a bill that made the state’s organ donor registry more accessible and easy to use, which greatly increased the number of donors in Florida.
“I just love the pace of Tallahassee, love that it’s so challenging, love the constant networking,” Evans said. “It’s dramatic and fast in a way that always keeps it interesting.”
After working for Cretul, Evans went to work for a lobbying firm in Tallahassee before joining Tampa International Airport in December as Director of Government Affairs.
The 32-year-old was happy to move back to Tampa this year. She settled into a downtown condo, close to her favorite restaurants and shops. She is an active member of Junior League, sitting on the organization’s statewide board of political affairs, and she has participated in four marathons and about a half-dozen half-marathons, including her most recent half-marathon from Napa to Sonoma in California’s Wine Country this past July.
Running has been a great way to blow off stress, Evans said, but it’s also given her some interesting experiences. Less than a year after running with Goofy and Mickey at the Disney marathon to raise money for leukemia research, she went to Miami for an entirely different atmosphere. Runners began their trek through South Beach at 6 a.m.
“I went from Minnie and Mickey Mouse to South Beach just as the clubs were letting out,” Evans said. “I just remember a guy with no shirt, wearing a tutu, cheering us on.”
Evans also loves traveling. In college, she did a “semester at sea,” which allowed her to travel by ship to Greece, Spain, and Morocco. She also has traveled throughout Europe and Hawaii and hopes to eventually get on one of TPA’s nonstop flights to Cuba.
Evans said she has loved her work with TPA so far, and is excited about the support the community and state legislators have shown for the airport’s mission. “I figure you can learn the ins and outs of transportation issues and economic development,” Evans said. “But you can’t learn lobbying. That’s something you have a passion for when you come into this job.”