ORLANDO, Fla. – The reporter in the blue shirt holds a microphone emblazoned with an old News 6 logo.
She’s reporting on a story about absences at a Clay County school.
And then she signs off: “In Orange Park, Casey Black, Local 6.”
The story aired on WKMG-TV News 6 in Orlando in 2009.
Casey Black would become Casey DeSantis later that year.
The future first lady of Florida was a well-known journalist in Jacksonville from 2003 up to at least 2017, working for News 6 sister station WJXT-TV and then for First Coast News.
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Experts say DeSantis has used what she honed in Jacksonville to help propel her husband to the heights of American politics – all the way to a presidential run.
“I think she is not only his wife, but his closest advisor,” said News 6 political analyst Jim Clark. “Remember, she came from Jacksonville from a television background, so she knows how the media works. She knows how to capitalize on things. And she has done an excellent job so far of guiding him on these kinds of ways to get national attention.”
“I think Casey DeSantis helps immensely,” said Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini. “I mean, she’s beloved, especially in Republican circles, and she’s very personable. She’s almost magical when she walks in a room. She has the presence, you know -- he does, too -- but I think she has more of it.”
Jill Casey DeSantis (nee Black) was born in 1980 in Ohio. Her father was an optometrist and her mother was a speech pathologist.
She went to College of Charleston in South Carolina, where she competed on the equestrian team, continuing her love of horses, and got a degree in economics.
In 2003, she got a job at WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida, where she held several positions, including weekend anchor and morning news anchor.
Then she met Ron DeSantis over a bucket of golf balls at a driving range while he was working at the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville. They married at Walt Disney World in 2009.
In 2010, Casey DeSantis left WJXT and did a stint with the PGA Tour before returning to local news at First Coast News in Jacksonville in 2011, where she won an Emmy Award for on-air talent, leading daytime talk shows and primetime news specials.
During this time, husband Ron was serving in Congress for U.S. House District 6. Casey said a big turning point for her was in 2017, when a gunman opened fire at the Republican baseball team as it was practicing. The congressman was there, but he wasn’t hurt. Others were, however, including Steve Scalise, who now serves as House Majority Leader.
“I don’t think you can put words to what that does. I mean that’s your husband, that’s your family and you think about something like that happening. Beyond words to describe, it was one of the most difficult days of my life,” Casey DeSantis told First Coast News in an exclusive interview in 2018.
In 2018, Ron DeSantis ran for governor, winning by a slim margin. They brought their two young children, Mason and Madison, to Tallahassee. In 2020, the family welcomed their third child, Mamie, the first baby born in the governor’s mansion in some 50 years, according to the first lady’s website.
Casey DeSantis has made mental health a key policy issue during her time as first lady. She launched the Hope for Healing Florida initiative in 2019 to come up with local solutions to address mental health and substance abuse.
The Facts. Your Future. campaign was also started in 209 to raise awareness about substance abuse among young people and how it can negatively impact them.
She followed that up with the Resiliency Florida initiative in 2021 to address the stigma of mental health.
Mental health officials say Casey DeSantis’ influence was key in increasing funding for mental health programs in the state budget in 2022.
In 2022, Casey DeSantis also pushed to secure $100 million in recurring funding for cancer research and care in the budget. The push was personal for her. DeSantis was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, underwent surgery and was declared cancer-free in 2022.
“She fights. She’s tough,” Ron DeSantis said in 2022 when they announced she’d beaten cancer. “I mean she’s basically resigned that, you know, better that she has to go through it than others who may not be able to handle it as well. And that’s just, that’s why I love her. She’s an exceptional person.”
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