State Rep. George Gainer: "Senator Greg Evers was a dedicated public servant and an even better friend. He will be greatly missed. Go rest high on that mountain."

BAKER — Greg Evers, a good ol’ boy farmer turned politician, has died in a truck accident.

Evers, 62, who served 15 years in the Florida Legislature, was killed in a single-vehicle accident at the Penny Creek Bridge on Griffith Mill Road in his hometown of Baker. Multiple outlets confirmed through FHP spokesman Lt. Eddie Elmore that the accident was believed to have occurred late Monday. Elmore said it appeared Evers had failed to negotiate a turn in the road and his truck was found submerged in a roadside creek.

Evers was elected to the Florida House of Representatives for the first time in 2001. He was elected to the state Senate in 2010.

“Be it farming or politics or just chit-chatting about anything, Greg was a stranger to nobody,” said Henry Kelley, a longtime friend.

Kelley, who got his start in politics as a leader of the Tea Party movement, said he became close friends with the then-House member after contacting Evers to advocate for a bill. Evers called to discuss the bill with him, and after thanking Kelley for the effort he had put into research, said, “I agree with ya, but I’m gonna vote agin’ ya.

“I got to spend time with him at the Senate in Tallahassee and in a tractor in Baker,” Kelley said. “He was the same Greg in both places.”

Evers purchased 10 acres of land in Baker in the summer of 1990 and the next year opened a farm he called Akers of Strawberries, where he welcomed fruit fans from all over to come and pick a basketful of berries.

Evers was serving as the chairman of the Yellow River Soil and Conservation Board and had been a past president of the Okaloosa County Farm Bureau in 2001 when Congressman Joe Scarborough of Pensacola announced he would be leaving his seat.

The farmer jumped into the state House race to replace Jeff Miller, who left the Florida Legislature to pursue the open congressional seat.

Evers won his first race narrowly, but never looked back. His staunch conservatism and in particular his advocacy for Second Amendment rights made him hugely popular with his rural, conservative constituents.

Word of Evers’ death spread quickly Tuesday afternoon, garnering sympathies from those who respected his efforts and influence representing Northwest Florida while in public office.

"Senator Greg Evers was a dedicated public servant and an even better friend. He will be greatly missed. Go rest high on that mountain," new state Sen. George Gainer posted on social media.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis also issued a statement, saying, “I’ve known Greg for many years, and there’s no one who fought harder for his principles or for the people of Northwest Florida than Greg Evers. He truly believed in the value of hard work, and nothing was more important to him than his family, public service, and his North Florida farm. We served in the Florida House together, and I’m proud to have worked alongside him and called him a friend. Tonight, I join Florida in mourning his sudden and tragic loss.”

Gov. Rick Scott in a statement remembered "the kind, hardworking farmer from Milton who tirelessly fought for Florida families."

“My wife Ann and I are heartbroken after learning of the passing of Senator Greg Evers," Scott wrote. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lori, and their entire family during this terribly difficult time."

As chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Evers advocated for prison reform, even making surprise nighttime visits to the state’s prisons. Asked once if he was ever intimidated inside the prisons, Evers simply answered, “I’m a big ol’ boy.”

Legislation sponsored by Evers helped bring about needed reforms to the Florida Department of Corrections.

In 2014, he also authored the so-called “Pop-Tart bill,” which prohibits schools from disciplining students who play with simulated weapons. The bill was inspired by the suspension of an 8-year-old Maryland boy for biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun.

More recently, Evers made a bid for an appointment to the Florida Public Service Commission, although he was not chosen as a finalist last week.

The Evers family released a short statement announcing the death and asking for prayers as they deal with the unexpected loss.

VIDEO: Greg Evers on why it is OK to be a farmer in 2016

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VIDEO: Take a look at Evers’ farm in Baker

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VIDEO: Greg Evers 2016 Campaign video

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