TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As First Lady of Florida, Casey DeSantis isn't just holding a ceremonial position, she's using her role to try to tackle some big issues.
In her first year as First Lady, she traveled across the state holding what she calls listening sessions and launching initiatives to address some of her top priorities.
"Both the governor and I are of the mind when much is given, much is expected," Casey DeSantis said. "When I walked into this role, in the beginning, I didn't really have an appreciation for all of the good I can do, and when I realized all that you can do with having this position and having it with humility I wanted to get to work."
The former journalist and host of First Coast Living is used to being in the public eye, and she's not shying away from it now. She is taking an active role in her husband, Governor Ron DeSantis', administration. He appointed her Chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet.
"He empowered me to go and do what I felt in my heart was right," Casey DeSantis said. "He never micromanages and never asks me what I am going to do or say. He just believes in service, and so he has given me an opportunity and platform to do really good things for the people of Florida."
In May she launched Hope for Healing Florida, a statewide mental health and substance abuse initiative.
"What I've found with Hope for Healing is there are so many good things going on in so many different capacities, but as you know as a journalist one of your goals is to take something big and complicated and boil it down to something that is simplified," Casey DeSantis said. "I look at that same approach for Hope for Healing. There are a lot of options to be able to get meaningful help. How do you navigate that to get people from where they are, to be able to get the help they need to be successful and to be able to get the services they need."
She says she's focused on bringing together the faith-based community, private sector and non-profits to collaborate with the state to help those struggling.
"From that we've had various projects, pilots and initiatives that have spun off," she explained.
"One of those is NAS, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Jacksonville, Duval County, northeast Florida has one of the highest prevalence rates for NAS in the state, and that basically is babies born addicted to drugs. We're taking best practices. We are bringing them into the hospital, but we are also seeing wrap-around services. So how are we identifying these women early? How do we communicate to them the need to go and get help?"
She is juggling the role of First Lady with motherhood. The DeSantis' have a 3-year-old daughter, 1-year-old son, and they are expecting their third child in March, a baby girl.
"I think it's like anything, I think moms and dads just figure it out," she said.
"You balance it. My priority obviously is my children. I want them to grow up happy and healthy. I try to involve them as much as I can when we have events here at the mansion which are fun. You just have this balance of trying to care for your family, help my husband out and then on the official side trying to help out the state as much as possible."
The DeSantis' are the first family with toddlers to live in the Governor's Mansion in 50 years, and she says they may be the first-ever to have three children under the age of three living there. As long as her husband is in office she says don't expect him or her to slow down.
"I really wouldn't say I'm going to stick to one thing," Casey DeSantis said. "As needs arise and I find there's a way I can provide meaningful help with humility, I think I'm going to tackle it. You have this opportunity for hopefully eight years to be able to serve, so you want to do it to the best of your abilities and you want the people of this state to be proud of you."