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AARP AARP States Florida Advocacy

In Florida Statehouse, Finding a Voice

Old And New Florida State Capitol Buildings In Tallahassee

After a career in the Federal Aviation Administration, Ken Thomas these days performs a different kind of air traffic control: overseeing about 100 volunteers in their efforts to influence the Legislature on behalf of 2.8 million fellow AARP Florida members.

“It’s an opportunity to have a voice in the things that affect us as we age,” says Thomas, an AARP volunteer since 2010 and now volunteer state president.

Thomas, 70, of Boca Raton, early on did presentations for AARP’s Speakers Bureau. He later volunteered as a driver safety instructor, a fraud prevention educator and an advocate on policy issues. He first became state president in 2015. He then became regional volunteer director for AARP’s mega states region (the seven largest states by residents 50 and older) before returning to state president in January 2023.

Zayne Smith, AARP Florida’s director of advocacy, says Thomas was an excellent partner when they recently revamped the volunteer advocacy program.

“Ken is a great thought partner when discussing how to advocate and include volunteers and how to incorporate their different life skills and backgrounds,” she says.

Volunteers were previously underused, Smith says. Now, about a dozen at a time go to the state Capitol for six weeks of the Legislature’s annual session. They learn about AARP’s priorities and bills affecting members and then meet with legislators, attend committee meetings and testify.

 AARP State Director Jeff Johnson says Thomas is “unflappable, flexible, even-keeled and diplomatic.” He’s also left an impression in legislative chambers.

“Multiple congressional and state staff members know Ken as ‘the AARP guy,’ ” Johnson says.

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—Stacey Shepard

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