MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – Senator Gwen Margolis, a South Florida political icon who once served as the first female president of the state Senate, passed away Monday at the age of 85.

Her family said she died peacefully of natural causes, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.

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“Gwen Margolis was a trailblazer who lit a path for a generation of Florida’s women leaders to follow. As the first female President of the Florida Senate, she was a champion for civil rights. As a Jewish woman, I am deeply grateful for her leadership and her legacy,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

The Philadelphia-born Margolis, a real estate broker who attended Temple University, was first elected to the House in 1974. She entered the Senate for the first time in 1980, becoming president in 1990.

She left the Senate two years later for an unsuccessful run against Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw for his Congressional seat.

In 1993, she was elected to the Dade County Commission, where she would be until 2002. Margolis was the first woman to chair the Miami-Dade County Commission.

“Today, this community says goodbye to another giant. I am saddened to hear about the passing of former Florida State Senator, Commissioner and Miami-Dade County’s first Chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners, Gwen Margolis. Senator Margolis wielded power with grace and class. Her remarkable and long-lasting service to this community and State will be forever remembered by those she served, but especially by those that knew and loved her,” said Miami-Dade Commission Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson.

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In 2002, she ran again for and won a seat in the Florida Senate.

Margolis served in the Senate until 2008 when she ran to be Miami-Dade Property Appraiser. She lost in a run-off and was able to win her Senate seat back in 2010.

In 2016, she decided not to seek another term and retired.

“She was a trailblazer for many Democratic women in our state, including myself. During these difficult times as a nation, when our country needs exceptional leaders like Gwen Margolis, her passion, commitment, and leadership will be remembered more than ever,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo.

Margolis was the first woman to chair the Finance and Tax Committees in both the House and the Senate and the Senate Appropriations Committee

Over the course of her four decades of service, Margolis was a champion of women’s rights, she pushed for the Equal Rights Amendment and is responsible for implementing the will of voters who wanted a Department of Elder affairs.

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