New ‘Free State of Florida’ welcome signs generating mixed reaction

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — “The Free State of Florida:” That’s the new motto visitors traveling in and out of Florida will now read on the state’s welcome and farewell signage.

However, as reported by Action News Jax’s Jake Stofan, the new slogan is being met with some mixed reactions.

Unlike Florida’s nickname “The Sunshine State,” the “Free State of Florida” motto isn’t an official moniker for the state.

Instead, you may recognize it as one of Governor Ron DeSantis’ favorite personal catchphrases.

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“We thank God and are proud to be citizens of the Great Free State of Florida,” Governor DeSantis said in the closing line of his second inaugural address last year.

The catchphrase will be the first and last words Florida visitors read as they travel in and out of the state.

The new signs at 24 locations along the state’s borders now read “Welcome to the Free State of Florida” and “Hurry Back to the Free State of Florida.”

Speaking exclusively with Action News Jax, FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue told us the new signage is about paying homage to the state’s spirit of freedom.


“Tourism is a really big part of our economy and what better way to welcome people into this state? You know, really embracing that spirit of freedom we know and love here,” Perdue said.

But the slogan doesn’t resonate with all Floridians, like Michele Wasserman from Palm Beach.

“I know a lot of teachers and it has not been a free state as far as what the education is coming to, taking books out. Yeah, I don’t find it a free state,” Wasserman said.

Others like Joe Harvie told Action News Jax it’s a fitting nickname.

“At least we have the freedom to not have people stuffing stuff down our throats. I don’t agree completely with everything, but I’ll go more with Florida than I will a lot of the other states,” Harvie said.

UNF political science professor Sean Freeder said it’s no surprise the new slogan is generating mixed reactions.

“You know, if you like DeSantis you don’t mind that. You know, you probably aren’t going to have any problems,” Freeder said. “If you don’t like DeSantis, you might look at this and think that you’re maybe using taxpayer dollars to do campaign work and that could get tricky.”

As for Secretary Perdue, he told Action News Jax he embraces the conversations sparked by the new signs.

“I would say anytime that we can spur a conversation about freedom and recognize the freedoms that we have here in Florida and appreciate those and understand that it takes strong leadership in elected positions to maintain and fight for that freedom, I think it’s a great conversation to have,” Perdue said.

In addition to the sign replacements, Perdue said other additions were made to welcome centers like “Welcome to Florida” photo ops.

The total cost to taxpayers: $60,000.

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