From Jamaica to the Army to the Legislature, Lisa Dunkley Driven by Public Service

Born and raised in Jamaica, Lisa Dunkley’s path toward becoming a state lawmaker shows the power of the American Dream.

Dunkley came to Florida in the 1990s with her siblings and her baby daughter. She said much of her success began with six years in the U.S. Army, active and reserve.

“I saw the ad on TV that said ‘be all that you can be,’” she said. “Getting the opportunity to go to college without having to pay for it meant a lot to me.”

She served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and many of the lessons she learned there translated well into the legislative process.

“When we as a nation had to go to war, it was not about me. It was about the safety of our country,” she said. “Everyone had to work together to get the job done.”

“That’s how I see myself in this process,” she said of the Florida House of Representatives. “Understanding that we all don’t agree every day, how can we all work together to get the job done.”

She said the cohesiveness among veterans from both parties in the Legislature is a great start to working outside of political boundaries.

“I think there is a respect among us for veterans coming together as veterans,” she said. 

One of her priorities in the Legislature has been to streamline access to federal and state benefits available to veterans. 

“There is basically a disconnect about how communications for benefits gets to younger veterans,” she said. “I am trying to find different ways of communicating, not just in the traditional sense that the system has set up, so all veterans can have that access to understand what benefits are available.”

Dunkley’s public service extends beyond her time in the service and the Legislature. She has worked for the Florida Department of Transportation and served as a PTA president.

But becoming a member of the Florida House is a much different experience.

“One of the biggest things I thought about before running was, ‘Oh my God, my life is going to become public,’” she said. “I saw military service as being the ultimate way of serving. That’s exactly what my heart wants, to truly service people and nothing else.”