After a first term in the state House that started in 1996, Dockery was picked to chair its environmental committee solely because she could persuade people to agree. In 1999, she initiated a program called Florida Forever, which provides $300 million a year to buy land for preservation. Both businesspeople and environmentalists supported it.
Elected to the state Senate in 2002, Dockery also became head of that body’s environmental committee and started hearing from developers that water conservation was suffering from population growth. Dockery spent most of two years developing legislation to reallocate water, but then realized that people would hate it.
Instead of ramming the bill through, she started over.
Dockery wanted consensus behind her legislation. For a year, she brought together anybody interested in water rights. More than 120 business leaders, farmers, environmentalists, builders and utility officials, among others, started meeting regularly.
To no one’s surprise, those special interests started out on opposite sides.
Finally, Dockery saw a solution: Access to water didn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Instead of giving Peter’s water to Paul, or conserving even more, the state could make more water available. Alternative water sources would be the answer, involving desalination, water reuse and above-ground reservoirs.
What’s most amazing, though, is that Dockery’s bill did satisfy nearly everyone.
—Adapted from “On the Water Front,” Zach Patton, Governing.