The focal point of the Entrance Park across from the mansion is the bronze sculpture, Florida's Finest. The sculpture features five, life-size children and a dog who are playing a game of "follow the leader" atop three logs of a fallen tree. It was unveiled on April 9, 1998 by Governor and Mrs. Lawton Chiles and dedicated to the children of Florida .
Lawton Chiles, former United States senator and Florida's 41st governor, devoted nearly 40 years of his life to public service. A major focus of his career was Florida's youth. Among many proud accomplishments, he established Florida's Healthy Start Program to ensure that mothers and their babies get the prenatal and infant care they need. Chiles also worked to increase existing state health insurance programs for children, raise standards for education, and promote adoption. The sculpture, Florida's Finest, reflects the governor's high regard for children.
Florida artist W. Stanley "Sandy" Proctor was commissioned by the Florida Governor's Mansion Foundation to create this sculpture. Proctor is a native Floridian and an established wildlife and landscape painter. In the late 1980s, he expanded his repertoire to include carving in stone. Today he works almost exclusively in bronze. Proctor lives and works in Tallahassee, and has won numerous distinctions nationally and internationally.
A monumental, bronze artwork like this required the work of many skilled people in a complicated process. The artist came up with the original idea that gave the work its shape and form. He then created a model in clay or wax. Craftsmen created a mold of the artist's model and poured liquid bronze into the mold to make the final sculpture. Welders, metal finishers and those who applied the patina to the sculpture all worked together to produce the finished product.
The Governor's Mansion Commission and the Governor's Mansion Foundation collaborated to bring the sculpture to the grounds of the mansion. The eight-member commission is responsible for preserving the style and character of the mansion. The foundation is a non-profit corporation that raises funds to maintain and make additions to the residence and its grounds. It also funded the lanscaping of the park, which included native flora such as the endangered Chapman's rhododendron, as well as columbine, jack-in-the-pulpit, green dragons, trillium, and brown jug ginger.