THE EARLY YEARS
Dennis Ross was born October 18, 1959 in Lakeland, Florida. He was the youngest of five children born to Bill and Loyola Ross who moved to their Polk County home in 1955. Being raised on modest means, Dennis attended Catholic school for nine years before going to high school at Lakeland Senior High School, where he graduated in 1977. Throughout his high school career, Dennis was active in Student Government where he met his wife, Cindy. In 1977, The Ledger’s prestigious Silver Garlands Award gave their first Award of Citizenship to Dennis for his efforts in outstanding citizenship in Polk County as a high school senior.
After high school, Dennis attended the University of Florida for one year before transferring to Auburn University where he graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management from the School of Business. Dennis went on to work for a year as a legislative aide in St. Petersburg to State Rep. Dennis Jones in 1982.
Following Rep. Jones’s successful re-election, Dennis went to work in the newly developed micro-computer industry working for several companies. With one company he was installing computer systems throughout the Eastern United States in small-town pharmacies, and with another company he was selling computer systems throughout the Eastern United States to collection recovery organizations.
YOUNG BUSINESSMAN & SMALL-TOWN LAWYER
In 1983, Dennis and his wife, Cindy, were married in Lakeland. Within one year of their marriage Dennis went off to law school at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Upon completion of law school, Dennis returned to Lakeland to begin his work as an Associate Attorney for the firm of Holland & Knight. After two years at Holland & Knight, Dennis then became in-house counsel for Walt Disney World handling the workers' compensation defense matters for the company.
Having always wanted to have his own law practice and exercise his entrepreneurial skills, Dennis borrowed $10,000.00 from a neighbor and started his own law practice in October of 1989. He worked to pay off that debt in less than a year. That firm grew to seven lawyers and 27 employees before Dennis had to divest himself when he became a member of Congress. Not only did Dennis get involved in the practice of law having served as past president of the Lakeland Bar Association, but he also served as a Board Member of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce and on various charity and community boards as well.
A COMMITMENT TO SERVICE
In 1990, Dennis was the President of the Greater Lakeland Young Republicans and in 1992 was elected as Chairman of the Polk County Republican Executive Committee. He served in that position until 1995. During his term as Chairman of the Polk County Republican Executive Committee, the party elected many local Republican officials and developed a successful organization that helped spread strong principles of individual freedoms, personal responsibility, less government, and lower taxes.
In 1996, Dennis ran unsuccessfully for the State Senate, losing to a very well-liked incumbent, Senator Rick Dantzler. However, the race taught him many things about the political process and about being true to one’s self and community. In 2000, Dennis had an opportunity to run for the State House of Representatives and was elected by an overwhelming majority. Dennis continued to serve in the Florida House of Representatives until he was term limited in 2008. Throughout his term as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, Dennis distinguished himself as a strong proponent of conservative principles and was well respected by members of both parties. In 2007, Dennis, along with Rep. Don Brown, were the only two legislators to vote against the property insurance bill that made Citizens the largest property insurer in Florida. For voting against his party and with his free market principles, Dennis was stripped of his Chairmanship and many said his career was over. But Dennis is a conservative leader, not only of independent thought but of independent action as well.
THE ROSS FAMILY
Dennis and Cindy have two children, Shane and Travis. The family enjoys traveling throughout the United States. They have been to each of the 48 continental states, predominantly by motor home and with their several family dogs. The family shares a passion for American history, national parks, and the great outdoors. Dennis is an avid hunter and so are his sons who enjoy not only hunting, but also fishing and camping. They are members of the First Presbyterian Church in Lakeland.
Cindy serves the Lakeland community in multiple ways, including on the Habitat for Humanity Community Advisory Board, and has been Volunteer-of-the-Year at Rochelle School of the Arts and George Jenkins High School.
Together the family believes that community service, regardless of how it is performed, is one of the most responsible acts a person can give to his or her fellow man.