Meet local attorney and School Board Chairman Patrick Canan
Patrick Canan’s motto is “family first,” despite having the demands of two full-time occupations on his hands.
A self-proclaimed military kid, Canan was born in Hawaii and eventually ended up in Clearwater, Fla. for high school. He received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida and served as an assistant public defender in both Gainesville and the Florida Keys.
In 1990, he and his family moved to St. Augustine where he served as the assistant state attorney in St. Johns County. In 1994 he began his private practice as a litigation firm, in which he handles personal injury cases. Over the years, he has added other attorneys who specialize in civil litigation, medical malpractice, contract disputes and family disputes, to name a few.
He and his wife Dawn have three children, two who have already graduated from St. Augustine High School and the University of Florida and the youngest, Charlotte, a sophomore at St. Augustine High School. Canan is grateful to note that Charlotte is a two-time cancer survivor.
Q: What made you decide to open your own private practice?
A: I knew I didn’t want to be a government employee forever. I worked my 10 years to become vested and then knew I wanted to open my own practice.
Q: What do you find most challenging about being an attorney in St. Augustine?
A: First, St. Augustine is a great place to practice law; the market has been inundated with graduates of the Florida Coastal School of Law. I now employ four of them. The most challenging thing about being an attorney is that it is sometimes difficult to deal with and solve other people’s problems when you have your own.
Q: What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
A: Helping people. For personal injury cases, it is fulfilling to see people get well. For youth criminal cases, it is being able to salvage a young kid’s circumstances after they have made a big mistake. It is fulfilling to see them “get it” and not have their future jeopardized.
Q: Where do you see your business in the next five years?
A: The business is growing. Two years ago, we opened the County Road 210W location in addition to our St. Augustine office. This original office was in a building built in 1910, located on the side street right next to the Sally Walton Dance Studio that fronted North Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Three years ago, she sold the property and we expanded the 1910 building to include the land where the dance studio was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t renovate the dance studio building, but had to rebuild it. We have a total of five attorneys now and I see more expansion in that area.
Q: How did you become interested in serving on the St. Johns County School Board, where you are now chairman?
A: In 2009, I was asked by Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner to serve on a year-long strategic planning committee, which was charged with updating the School Board’s strategic plan. There were 30 members on the committee and we met frequently. Then School Board member Carla Wright retired and I thought to myself, who better to run for her position than the guy who helped write the strategic plan? So I jumped into the pool of politics. I was first elected in 2012 and in 2016 I ran unopposed for a second term.
Q: What do you find to be the most challenging part of being on the St. Johns County School Board and does your background as an attorney help?
It is very challenging to stay up to date with the changes in law. Also to stay ahead of Tallahassee, who sends us mandates that are frequently unfunded. I remain very discouraged with our elected officials in Tallahassee and their position on public education. To be 50th in the nation in spending per child is disturbing. We’re still not at the level we were 10 years ago.
There are certain issues that my background helps, although I never give legal advice. I rely on our counsel. But all the board members bring something unique to the table in terms of understanding issues.
Q: How do you manage the demands on your time of being both an attorney and a school board member?
A: The biggest challenge is trying to juggle my calendars. I try to do as much as possible with the School Board, but there is so much to do. I always try to prioritize my family first
Photo by Martie Thompson