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The 100 Most Influential People In Florida Politics

including Carol Bracy, Darrick McGhee, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Ben Crump, Marva Johnson, Sean Pittman, Stephanie Smith


Kate DeLoach

Edgar Castro

Nelson Diaz

Matt Brockelman

Ca

Oscar Anderson

Kelly Cohen

Sarah Nemes

Brian Bautista

Ra

Laura Boehmer

Justin Hollis

Seth McKeel

Paul Bradshaw

Ch

Sydney Ridley

David Shepp

David Browning

M

Monte Stevens

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assi arlo Fassi Carlo Fassi

James McFaddin James McFaddin

Cone achel Cone Rachel Cone

Paul MitchellPaul Mitchell

udley hris DudleyChris Dudley

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r. Fearington, Jr. Mercer Fearington, Jr. Mercer Fearington, Jr.

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PUBLISHER’S | NOTE

@PeterSchorschFL

Creating ‘The List’ “You’ve guaranteed there will be an INFLUENCE Magazine for another two years.” That’s what one of the members of the INFLUENCE 100 told me after the first listing of the most influential people in Florida politics was published four years ago. This person’s point to me was that by creating a “Fortune 500 of Florida politics,” I had instantly made our fledgling magazine relevant. I didn’t know if I believed that. Not until another member of the list — a prominent lobbyist — told me about executives of a major corporation who were considering changing their roster of contracted lobbyists.  The in-house lobbyist who managed the team pushed back against the executives’ meddling by taking out the INFLUENCE 100 edition of the magazine, showing it to the executives and asking them to show him the lobbyists the execs wanted to hire. On those pages were some of the members of his existing team.  That, my friends, is influence. And that is what this magazine — and especially this edition (our 17th!) — is all about.  But influence is a commodity that’s hard to define. The old adage that “you’ll know it when you see it” doesn’t apply to influence because, in many ways, those who wield influence don’t often want to be seen at work.  That’s what’s special about the INFLUENCE 100.  There are no elected officials or agency heads on the list. That’s for two reasons: the first being that, of course, the Governor of Florida is the most influential person in the state. The second is that the power of most officeholders is with their position and (mostly) they don’t take it with them once they leave.  Instead, the INFLUENCE 100 includes all the other masters of the universe: The Players, The Thought Leaders, The Lobbyists, The Titans, The Counselors, The Media, The Industry Leaders, The Advocates, The Wonks, and The Legends. The original inspiration for the INFLUENCE 100 was Time Magazine’s annual list of the most influential people in the world, which, rather than ranking them, also breaks down its list into sectors. The INFLUENCE 100’s two favorite aspects for me — beyond the parlor games it inspires — are the superb photographs that accompany many of the profiles, and that those bios were written by the subjects’ peers, competitors, and admirers. After all, who knows the 100 better?

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Since this is the third edition of the INFLUENCE 100, it’s almost as interesting to consider who is no longer on the list as well as who is making a repeat appearance. About 60% of the latest list is the same as in 2018 but, still, a lot of room opened up on the rankings, especially because it’s a presidential election year in the midst of a pandemic. And, as it was with the first two editions, this is MY list. I’m responsible for the facepalming, out-of-leftfield choices, as well as the glaring sins of omission. I’m the one who initially decided not to rank the list. I’m the one who moved so-and-so from the “100” section to the honorable mentions. Beyond the INFLUENCE 100, this is a really, really important edition of the magazine. You’ll notice that we made a concerted effort to “take off our blinders” and diversify who is featured throughout the magazine. There’s just a slew of news and notes and insights and features about what we think is the most politically active and interesting state in the country.  Hopefully, with this third edition of the INFLUENCE 100, we’ve done more than guarantee another two years for our little publication.

Peter Schorsch Publisher

Peter@FloridaPolitics.com


INFLUENCE MAGAZINE A FloridaPolitics.com Publication

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SUBSCRIPTIONS Subscribe at InfluenceMagazineFlorida.com

INFLUENCE Magazine is published quarterly by Florida Politics, LLC, a subsidiary of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC. 204 37th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33704. INFLUENCE Magazine and Extensive Enterprises Media are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contributions are welcomed and encouraged, but will not be returned. INFLUENCE Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright October 2020, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.

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PHOTO: The Workmans

features

84 INFLUENCE 100 The Honorees – Once again, INFLUENCE provides you with a not-so-short list of the heaviest of heavy hitters who make things happen in Florida.

57 Road Tripping the Five Floridas

152 The Honorable Mentions

64 Florida’s Black Lobbying Corps

158 What I’ve Learned with Bob Buckhorn

We’re taking you down the road and down the ballot to show how the politics work in the diverse regions of the Sunshine State.

A roundtable of Black advocates share the challenges and opportunities they face as a miniscule minority of Florida lobbyists.

76 Recount 2020: An Oral History

While most of us were on the outside looking in during the 36day drama, here are the stories as told by several people who had an insider’s view of the process. 6

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Here’s a passel of big guns who deserve a shout-out — even if they didn’t quite make the first string.

Tampa’s Mayor, now retired, reflects on his legacy of economic growth and his hope for the city’s future success.


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departments

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40 162

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22 Restaurant Openings During a Pandemic Several eateries have managed to open despite the disruption caused by COVID-19.

40 A Very Tallahassee Election

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INFLUENCE focuses on Tallahassee to capture retail campaigning as it was practiced on Primary Day in August.

PHOTOS: Bill Day, The Workmans, Datz

44 Jimmy Patronis’ Orbit A Who’s Who of people important to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.

70 Taking Flight After learning to fly his own airplane, lobbyist/data analyst Brecht Heuchan is tackling the thrill of aerobatics.

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On the Move

Insider’s Advice

Political Aficionado’s Guide

11

Briefings from the Rotunda

33

Fourth Floor Files

47

The Big Question

162

53 Yolanda Cash Jackson says diversity isn’t just a good idea, it’s good business too. 55 Cocktails to go and a rethinking of alcohol laws are just two consequences of the pandemic, says Tony Glover.


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the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

GOOD READS | FILM | BEST STUFF |

TELEVISION

Political ink BY ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER

I

f you are engrossed by the polarizing push-pull of American presidential politics in 2020, publishers are offering a bountiful buffet of titles that provide analysis, dish dirt and take deep dives into the subject. No fewer than eight of the top 15 books on the Oct. 4 New York Times nonfiction bestseller list were specifically about President Donald Trump and the people in his orbit. Here are a few possibilities from across the political spectrum.

“BLACKOUT”

BY CANDACE OWENS President Trump has tweeted her praises, she’s frenemies with Cardi B and Kanye West, and she’s not afraid to take a rhetorical axe to Democratic sacred cows. In her first book, 31-year-old Candace Owens shares her conservative worldview with Black Americans — and calls for them to “escape from the Democrat Plantation.” Slavery in America ended after the Civil War but, she posits, Blacks have now become “mental slaves” thanks to social policies that encourage them to buy into a “victim narrative,” become dependent on government programs and decimate their race with abortion. Owens calls for them to join her “Blexit” movement by rejecting their victim status — and a Democratic Party that has taken them for granted — and empowering themselves with a do-it-yourself attitude and embracing the values of the right.

“RAGE”

BY BOB WOODWARD This is Bob Woodward’s third book about Trump and it dropped on national media like a bomb even before it was published when news broke about what the President knew about the new coronavirus, when he learned it, and what he didn’t share with Americans. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner — who has written about the last nine presidents — had tapes from 16 on-the-record interviews with Trump. Woodward’s book doesn’t necessarily break much that hasn’t been reported before, but using beaucoup interviews and documents, and his reportorial style of writing, he’s able to put us in the room with the President and his minions while the history is being made. Those documents include Trump’s correspondence with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which can read like gushy mash notes. “Being with you today was truly amazing,” POTUS wrote in one.

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“TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH” BY MARY TRUMP

If you heard about Trump paying someone to take his SAT’s and Ivana Trump’s penchant for regifting, that’s about all the shockers you’ll find in this slim book written by the President’s niece. Mary Trump is the daughter of Fred Trump’s oldest son and namesake, who was supposed to carry on the family business. That mantle was passed on to Donald and Fred Trump Jr. would end up dying at a relatively young age because of his alcoholism. The book begins with the recounting of a birthday dinner at the White House for the President’s sisters that lets us know there’s something off about this family. Mary Trump doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of the Trump family day-to-day, but her recollections when she does interact with them and her background in psychology give her a unique perspective on the family’s dysfunction. She spends much of the book rehabilitating her father’s image and can come across as angry and petulant. But she did sue Grandma, Donald Trump, et al, after Fred Sr. died when they tried to screw her and her brother out of an inheritance, so there’s that.

“LIVE FREE OR DIE”

BY SEAN HANNITY In his latest book, subtitled “America (and the World) On the Brink,” the conservative talk show host and political commentator takes us on a quick journey through U.S. history starting with the Mayflower (they were Christians) then moving on to the Constitution (he loves it). It ends with a chapter devoted

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to Trump’s coronavirus response and a call to “fellow patriots” to reelect him in the upcoming election. In between are chapters devoted to polemics about subjects such as Russian collusion (“The Hoax of the Century”), media, socialism and “the left’s assault on free speech.”

Is the controversy found in all of these political books causing you distress? Here are a couple of titles that will have you thinking about anything but politics in no time. The suggestions are from former political operative Sally Bradshaw, now a Gadsden County chicken farmer and owner of the Midtown Reader bookstore in Tallahassee.

“CENTENNIAL CRISIS: THE DISPUTED ELECTION OF 1876”

BY WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST Dreading the possibility of an unsettled presidential election in 2020? Many of us recall the 36-day brouhaha that followed the Bush/Gore election 20 years ago, but it was by no means the first presidential race that was left unresolved. In this book, published in 2005, the late Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court dissects the hotly contested 1876 race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden to succeed Ulysses S. Grant as President. While Tilden would win the popular vote, a disputed electoral college would leave the final decision to Congress, which seemed hopelessly deadlocked. Through wheeling and dealing, four Southern states — including Florida — threw their support to Hayes, who won by just one electoral vote. There’s a wide cast of characters in this book, but Rehnquist deals evenhandedly with the chicanery practiced by both parties. (Just FYI, he sided with the 5-4 majority in the 2000 Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case.)

“ONE BY ONE”

BY RUTH WARE If you have to go to a company retreat, a ski chalet in the Swiss Alps sounds like a perfect setting. But when a shareholder in a start-up tech company presents a controversial buyout offer and then the resort is cut off from the outside world by an avalanche, tensions rise, the temperature drops, secrets are revealed … and members of the group start to disappear.

“CREATIVITY”

BY JOHN CLEESE The subtitle is “A Short and Cheerful Guide” and at 117 pages with really big print, “Creativity” can be consumed in one sitting. As for cheerful, it’s as enjoyable as one might imagine having a drink or lunch with a fellow of Cleese’s prodigious talents would be. But he is serious about his thesis — that creativity can be taught. While his writing style may induce smiles, there aren’t the belly laughs one associates with his comedic genius in “Monty Python” and “Fawlty Towers.”


the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

FILM

Making pictures in a pandemic

BY JACOB OGLES

F

ew industries faced as complicated a path to reopening as filmmaking. An inherently collaborative creative process, the industry faced challenges in gathering groups for filming, huddling together in production bays, and even in sharing a buffet at the craft services table. For Film Florida, a trade association determined to keep motion pictures in Florida, setting up solid guidelines for productions became a paramount mission. The result? Florida boasts some of the best directives available in the nation when it comes to turning soundstage floodlights on again. The organization’s official Recommendations for Clean and Healthy Production Sets is one of the most comprehensive lists of best practices available for filming during a pandemic, and they set the Sunshine State apart as a leader in finding a way to move forward during challenging times. Now, Film Florida Executive Director John Lux wants the state to achieve something more: to become competitive once again in attracting major productions. “Regardless of whether it’s an airplane or a restaurant or a film set, people are most concerned about the safety and their health,” Lux said. “Just because somebody says ‘Hey we should do this’ doesn’t make people do it. The key to getting people to do things these days is making sure they are comfortable. We are giving people a peace

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Top: Film Florida executives are hopeful COVID-19 safety guidelines will lure the television and film industry back to the state. Bottom: Daily temperature checks for cast and crew members, and regularly sanitizing workspaces are among the guidelines put in place to help the film industry.


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about coming to Florida — and letting them know when they do come to Florida, they are going to stay safe and healthy.” That type of personal sense of security at this moment stands right up there with the incentives conversation when it comes to convincing directors and producers this state provides the best setting for their next movie. And considering the average production drops $20 million into the state economy, that creates value beyond a chance to star in pictures.

QUIET ON THE SET

As with virtually every industry in the state of Florida, the spread of COVID-19 ground film work to a near halt this spring. Social distancing requirements presented problems for talent and crew trying to film on sets. Post-production facilities shuttered about the same time as professional offices. A stay-at-home order certainly made no exceptions for the making of commercials, television shows and feature films. Even as reopening phased in over the summer, the particulars of film work presented challenges. What good are masking requirements for actors emoting with their faces in a medium focused on intimacy and subtlety? Casting calls were canceled. Talent relying on live entertainment gigs and theme park work suffered similar problems. Producer Tony Stopperan, co-founder of the Skyway Film Institute, noted there were plenty of other challenges, such as working with unions like the Teamsters and the Screen Actors Guild. During the pandemic, all turned a focus to protecting their members financially and in terms of their personal protection. “We really needed a set of protocols,” Stopperan said. He has worked in Florida (“Dark Night,” “Kilroy Was Here,” “Paradise, FL”), New York, Washington, and even India (“Daushabi Unleashed”). He cherished the fact Film Florida released one of the first playbooks to help get the industry up and running. “It’s really been taken to heart and something we’ve implemented well in productions in Miami and in the St. Pete area,” he said. Guidelines recommend daily temperature checks for cast and crew, and they suggest tracking daily changes if it’s a multiday shoot. They establish procedures like dividing production areas and assigning crew members to teams, limiting exposure between departments, and assigning someone in each unit whose primary job is sanitizing the area. Tents 16

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are promoted over trailers, windows and breezeways over central air, and digital scripts over any paper products. It’s all part of an effort to ensure there’s a working infrastructure and industry in place where talent and crew can operate. In the event someone connected to a production does test positive for COVID-19, the number of individuals in close personal contact should be small and not capable of throwing entire productions into disarray.

ACTION!

Stopperan said the guidelines played a critical role in getting some small production efforts back up to speed. Work like commercials and short films. Whether that’s enough to bring an entire industry back into full recovery remains to be seen. But it at least Film Florida guidelines include assigning crew members to has earned interest teams, sanitizing areas and daily temperature checks to protect from professioncasts and crews. als. Lux notes the guidelines in Florida serve by nature as recommendations. ly the procedures can be followed anyFilm Florida holds no power to regulate where in the world. the industry, and the state instituted no Florida, of course, suffered significantrequirements such as quarantining bely over the course of the pandemic since fore and after production. the first case was reported in March. As There are still plenty of challenges of early October, well over 700,000 cases for increasing interest here, not the least of COVID-19 — along with nearly 15,000 of which remain generous incentives in deaths — have been reported by the state regional neighbor states like Louisiana, Department of Health. North Carolina, Texas and especially But the fact there are rules in place Georgia, home to “The Walking Dead” widely embraced by film professionals franchise and the filming location for most living in the state offers some assurance of Marvel movies. That’s still a conversation the industry’s future. And there’s no reaLux hopes can be rekindled in the coming son that can’t happen immediately Legislative Session. “We may have to wait for other indusAnd while it’s hoped the productries to come back,” Lux said, “but content tion guidelines ensure there’s reason to creation and production is happening all bring productions to Florida, admittedover the world right now.”


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the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

GEAR

BY MICHELLE TODD SCHORSCH

eter and I are both fanatics about the holidays. One only need drive by at Christmastime and witness our home and Santa himself waving from our front yard to see that. But we create an equally big display for Halloween. As an engaged couple, we decorated the balcony of our one-bedroom condo with lights and decorations. Our Halloween decorating went over the top when we lived in Old Northeast St. Pete, known as one of the best neighborhoods for trick or treating in Florida. Our theme was “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Old Northeast Halloween Party” when we projected the “Boo For You Halloween Parade” on a 10-foot Mickey movie screen. We continue with the Mickey theme now.

DIY SPOOKY DISTANCING Jaimie and Jay, aka The Wicked Makers, have come up with a combo yard display and candy delivery system that allows trick or treaters to get their loot from a six-foot distance. The couple gives step-by-step instructions on how to create your own Candy Slide featuring PVC piping and creepy skeleton mummies. The idea is not unique, though. My neighbors have created their own chute that delivers treats from a second-floor window. thewickedmakers.com

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It gets updated each year but always includes Ella’s Pumpkin Patch, made up of about 50 light-up Mickey pumpkins. Maybe we should bring back the parade projections since Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was canceled this year. Peter’s love for Halloween decorating can be traced back to Ella’s first Halloween, when he humored me by allowing his first ever inflatable decoration – a spooky tree with an owl. Years later, Ella would insist we throw away said inflatable. The rules are different during the days of COVID-19, but I’ve gathered a few possibilities for a spectacular Halloween display — including a few that will scare small children.


HALLOWEEN HOLOGRAPHS If you’re ready to give your neighbors a scare, your home can be the scene of a zombie invasion, visits from ghosts and phantoms and other eerie scenarios with this Halloween Holographic Window Projection kit. The set includes a projector, screen and six animated scenes as well as audio that can be synced with the action. $60. (Kick in an extra 10 bucks for the Ultra-Luxury Package and you’ll have Christmas covered with an additional six holiday videos.) missrol.com/products/h

SLEEPY HOLLOW IN YOUR YARD I don’t think there’s any Halloween tale quite as scary as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” penned by Washington Irving. This depiction features a rearing horse and a headless horseman holding a flickering pumpkin that stands 7½-feet tall. When activated, the rider speaks five phrases. The horse’s head and legs move, accompanied by horse and galloping sounds. $279. homedepot.com

FOLLOW THE BROOMSTICKS For a kinder, gentler display guaranteed not to scare the easily spookable, consider leading the way with these upside-down broomsticks, generously wrapped in orange mini-lights. Three for $129. grandinroad.com

A HAUNTED HEARSE If you’re more of a Halloween-is-about-death person, this hearse with an animated skeleton driver and a deader-than-dead skeleton body is for you. I wouldn’t blame you either — the funeral home house always won the Halloween decorating contest in our old neighborhood. $349. homedepot.com

A VERY DISNEY HALLOWEEN A visit to Disney World’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and a Halloween on the High Seas cruise were annual events for the Scorsch family, and we are sad that both are canceled this year. You can bring a bit of the festivity to your front yard with this air-blown Mickey and Minnie display. It inflates to its 4½-foot size in just seconds. $110. target.com

FIRE-BREATHER

THAT’S LIFE

Is there a GOT fan in the house? You’ll be transported to Westeros with this 6-foottall animated dragon. Any movement nearby and the yellow-eyed beast turns his head, flaps his wings and roars. Add to the fear factor with a fog machine so it will look like he’s getting ready to breathe fire. $499. grandinroad.com

If navigating trick-or-treating in public sounds like an ordeal this year, bring the entertainment home with The Game of Life: The Haunted Mansion Disney Theme Park Edition. Two to six people can play the game, which features attractions found in the Disney parks as well as some “magic” to make the game fun, including hidden Mickeys on the game board and glow-in-the-dark elements. $40. shopdisney.com

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On a

Mission to Care Five Questions

with Florida Hospital Association President and CEO

Mary Mayhew

“Our hospitals are committed to meeting the comprehensive needs of individuals and families and the communities they serve.” Mary Mayhew is the president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association (FHA), the state’s largest hospital association, representing more than 200 hospitals and health systems across Florida. She joins FHA from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) where she served as Secretary for nearly two years. Over the last seven months, Mayhew supported Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Mayhew also served as Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and in Maine in both government and private sector roles, including with the Maine Hospital Association.


What do you want people to know about Florida’s hospitals? Our hospitals are the foundation for healthcare in their communities. Not only are hospitals meeting the needs of patients 24 hours a day throughout the year, they are focused on the comprehensive healthcare needs of their communities and shaping innovative models of care to support improved healthcare outcomes. Over the last 7 months we have directly witnessed the critical role hospitals play in a public health crisis. While our hospitals were particularly focused on serving COVID-19 patients, hospitals were deeply involved with local officials and community leaders in addressing the comprehensive response to COVID-19. From public health, to welcoming healthy babies, to cardiac surgery and mental health services, to emergency room services, skilled nursing and rehab care, our hospitals are committed to effectively serving the comprehensive needs of their communities. There is no pause button on healthcare or on a public health crisis. When a car accident occurs, when someone is having chest pain, or when an unprecedent virus emerges, we expect our hospitals to be there and to be ready. We all understand that you can’t just flip a switch and expect that level of readiness. Having high quality healthcare delivered by highly skilled doctors, nurses, and technicians, requires constant commitment and investment. What are you most looking forward to in the FHA role? Without a doubt, it’s the opportunity to work closely with the selfless people who work in hospitals and dedicate themselves to the care of others. I want to bring their work to the forefront of decision-making in Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C. As the third-largest state with an ever-growing population, we need to aggressively lead the way to advance the best healthcare system in the country and drive improved health for all Floridians who depend on that system. Crises often drive positive change. What positive changes do you see that are emerging from the COVID-19 crisis? You’re right. Crisis can bring out the best in us, and it can drive innovation. As a large state, we responded to this crisis as a strong community. Hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities came together in regions around the state to address local challenges and to protect our most vulnerable. Hospitals worked together in their communities to plan and respond to the crisis.

We also saw firsthand that the pandemic served as a catalyst for change in driving a dramatic increase in the availability and use of telehealth. The number of individuals who were able to access critical healthcare services from the comfort of their home has skyrocketed over the last several months. We need to look for opportunities to sustain this increase in telehealth. We know what a difference this convenient access can make for a teenager in need of mental health counseling or for a 68-year-old diabetic patient. What are the qualities of an effective leader during a major crisis, such as COVID-19? Throughout my career, I have faced numerous challenges, but certainly nothing compares to this pandemic. Crisis leadership starts with having a great team. I have had the pleasure of working with incredible teams and that is certainly true of the team at AHCA. During this public health crisis, we needed to provide clear and decisive leadership that was based on timely and consistent engagement with healthcare leaders in the field, with county public health officials, and with local and state leaders. As a leader, I needed to be accessible, informed by meaningful data and information, calm in my deliberations, while maintaining laser beam focus on goals and being crystal clear in my decisions. You’ve long advocated for better access to mental health care. How will you address this issue in your new role? Depression, anxiety or a serious mental illness can affect anyone at any time. We understand that now more than ever because of the isolation and stress caused by this pandemic. Our hospitals are playing vital roles in supporting critical access to mental health services within their walls and in their communities. I am confident that we can do more to help the 28-year-old with schizophrenia who needs help staying on his medication or the 16-year-old battling anxiety. At the end of the day, our hospitals are committed to helping individuals with mental illness lead happy, meaningful lives away from the revolving door of the emergency room. I look forward to working with policymakers, community leaders, community mental health providers, and many others to help support models of integrated and comprehensive care that provide the best possible outcomes for all patients.


OPENINGS in the time of COVID-19...

“The restaurant business has been hit hard,” he added. “But we turned everything negative into a positive.” — Lucio Zanon, owner of Portosole

Setting a New Course Restaurants face the challenges of starting a new business during the pandemic by rochelle koff

T

he new Coral Gables restaurant, Portosole, was all set to open on March 16. The staff was ready to go. The city permits were in order. And owner Lucio Zanon was eager to showcase authentic Italian cuisine in his white tablecloth venue. “We had a nice inspector do a final walk through, I signed her tablet and she said, ‘Good luck with your business,’” said Zanon, a longtime restaurateur born in Venice, Italy. At 5 p.m. March 17, officials ordered 22

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all nonessential businesses, including restaurants, to close except for takeout and delivery because of the new coronavirus. Portosole, a restaurant with a mission of pampering service, an elegant atmosphere and a menu of carefully prepared dishes suddenly had to change or give up. “Takeout and delivery had not been our core business,” said Zanon, who runs the restaurant with his son, Sebastiano. “We hadn’t planned on putting pasta on paper or plastic. It was a new life for us. “The restaurant business has been hit

hard,” he added. “But we turned everything negative into a positive.” While the pandemic and the ensuing economic uncertainty has forced many restaurants to close temporarily or even permanently, hundreds of places across Florida, like Portosole, have decided to face the challenges and open a new business. Many newcomers have had to forgo grand opening splashes, space out tables, turn to non-contact menus and load up on masks and hand sanitizer. Some faced delays, a few began selling groceries, gourmet products or cocktails along with takeout, and plenty had to revamp their menus, all the while changing their business models on the fly. The key to the future, most restaurateurs agree, may be tied to how long this crisis continues. “We’re praying, like all restaurants, that this ends,” said Suzanne Perry, coowner with husband, Roger, of the Datz Restaurant Group in the St. Petersburg/ Tampa area. “If we can come out of it, we come out a lot stronger.” Here’s a sampling of the Florida restaurants — from a small vegan eatery to a 40,000-square-foot food hall — that have bravely launched their businesses since the pandemic began.


Chuck’s Fish TALLAHASSEE 224 E. College Ave.

850-597-7506 chucksfish.com

The upmarket downtown restaurant opened in late August, about seven months later than originally planned, primarily because of the virus. “We didn’t know what to expect but we’re doing great,” co-owner Charles Morgan III said. The star attractions here are sushi and fresh Gulf fish from the restaurant’s wholesale market, Harbor Docks, in Destin. The Tallahassee location is the fifth for owners Morgan, Cris Eddings and his mother, acclaimed sushi chef Yoshie Eddings. “There’s absolutely no way I’d run a seafood restaurant if we didn’t own our own wholesale market,” Morgan said. The menu includes seafood gumbo, kimchi Brussels sprouts, the catch of the day prepared a few ways, stuffed shrimp, rib-eye, chicken scaloppine and an extensive list of sushi and sashimi. The restaurant is named after Morgan’s father, who gained national prominence as a civil rights lawyer after giving a powerful speech in Birmingham that followed the 1963 bombing of his hometown’s 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls. At all its locations, Chuck’s operates nonprofit food trucks called American Lunch that bring free meals to hard-hit communities. During the pandemic they’ve been serving hundreds of meals. Chuck’s, which has an outdoor deck, offers dinner and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Lunch service is planned for early 2021.

L-R: 1. Datz, Shrimp and Grits. 2. Datz, Cluck Yeah. 3. Uptown Shrimp, panko-fried with Asian slaw in a wonton bowl, is on the starter list at Chuck’s Fish in Tallahassee. Photo: Chuck’s Fish

Datz Riverview TAMPA / ST. PETERSBURG 6264 Winthrop Town Centre Ave.

813-535-7952 datztampa.com

Suzanne and Roger Perry are known as innovators who instill a sense of fun in their restaurants, creating dishes like mac ‘n cheese stuffed meatloaf, salted caramel doughnut waffles and “ooey-gooey monkey bread.” When the pandemic shutdown hit in March, the Perrys were about to open a third Datz restaurant in Riverview. The original is in South Tampa and there’s a second in St. Petersburg. The couple also owns the bakery Dough and are partners in Dr. BBQ, both in St. Petersburg. They postponed the opening of Datz and that was the beginning of many more crucial decisions. “We went from a staff of 300 employees to 27 overnight,” Suzanne said. “Some of these people were like family. They were with us from day one.” Like other restaurateurs, the Perrys turned to takeout in earnest. “Bern’s is doing takeout and delivery — when I saw that, I thought this is really the end of the world,” Suzanne said. Among many efforts, the Perrys wound up selling their rare and expensive liquor collection, including a prized 25-year-old bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon Whiskey for double the $20,000 asking price. It was bought by a local veteran, philanthropist and customer lending his support. The money also helped the

restaurant provide meals for health care workers and first responders. The couple secured a $1.5 million loan for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program. While it sounds like a lot of money, Suzanne said, consider that the Perrys’ payroll is about $200,000 a week on top of the other costs of doing business. “The bills didn’t stop,” she said. The Perrys were able to hire back “almost everyone,” but many were doing different jobs at the outset, like painting the walls or ripping out carpet. Over the coming months, developing an app loyalty program was a priority and “we were seriously fortifying our online presence, our delivery, our technology, our pricing, our costs and our catering,” Suzanne said. “We were busy.” This summer, the couple set up a virtual kitchen called Cluck Yeah out of their bakery in St. Pete, serving fried chicken and tenders, salads and sides. “A lot of restaurants are setting up ghost or virtual kitchens,” Suzanne said. They allow restaurants to make use of the space and food in their restaurants with separate social media sites and delivery platforms. When Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed restaurants to open at 50% capacity, the Perrys opened Datz in Riverview’s Winthrop Town Centre. “We had to close it after two and a half hours because we could not control the crowd,” said Suzanne, who insisted on social distancing. They opened quietly a few days later, and the restaurant has been successful even at 50%. Given the response to Datz, the Perrys were spurred to take a brave move. When Riverview’s Boca Brandon closed, the Fall 2020

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OPENINGS ... couple decided to buy the “stunning” restaurant, which already had “a fantastic buildout. I walked in, looked at Roger and said ‘we’re going to take it.’” Their new spot is Donovan’s Modern American Eatery, with a planned fall opening. Through it all, the Perrys have kept their sense of humor, coming up with the perfect pandemic dessert at Datz: a white cake that resembles a roll of toilet paper, selling as fast as the real thing.

Huey’s

JACKSONVILLE 1173 Edgewood Ave., South Murray Hill 904-619-2943 hueyshotchicken.com

Hughes Brown and his family have brought the taste of Nashville’s famous hot fried chicken to the historic Murray Hill neighborhood. “It’s really a local thing that Nashville has loved forever,” said Brown, who owned a fine dining restaurant called Watermark in the Music City before moving to his wife’s hometown of Jacksonville nearly two years ago. Jacksonville diners are apparently ready to jump on the hot chicken trend. Huey’s opened May 22 with lines out the door. “It’s been a crazy, crazy time,” Brown said. Huey’s menu focuses on fried chicken with sauces that range from Classic to Hotter than a Mother Clucker. Other items include Southern sides, salads and chicken and waffles (on Saturday and Sunday). Among the many challenges of running a business during a pandemic is the difficulty in finding supplies, Brown said. “It’s affected every industry,” including paper products, cleaners, rubber gloves and food, Brown said. Still, he’s undeterred. “I don’t think I’d tell someone not to go after their dream just because of the current climate,” he said. “But be prepared.”

Portosole

CORAL GABLES 2530 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables 786-359-4275 portosolemiami.com

Named for the Portosole Marina in San Remo, Italy, the classic 5,400-squarefoot restaurant specializes in authentic coastal cuisine. Owner Lucio Zanon launched Portosole bolstered by decades of restaurant 24

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experience, starting with Arrigo Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice and later in New York City and Buenos Aires. He opened his own restaurants in Venice then became general manager of Casa Tua Miami and Aspen. Switching gears from fine dining to takeout took some doing, but Zanon and his team hit the challenges head on. When the pandemic shutdowns began, Zanon found other jobs for his staff — like delivering meals. “We have a small team but I was able to keep our employees.” In the interim, Portosole also initiated Mercato di Portosole, selling high-quality Italian products like Parmesan cheese, aged prosciutto, regional olive oils and imported pastas. And he switched the menu to more basic Italian dishes that could travel for takeout. Zanon was able to add some tables on the sidewalk, and he’s offering dining inside and out, with safety measures in place. Perfume soaps are gone in place of hand sanitizer. Every half hour, someone cleans the bathroom. Windows are open to allow in fresh air. “This is a new normal,” said Zanon. “We’re here against all odds.” His hope? “We want to see the place full.”

Sistrunk Marketplace & Brewery FORT LAUDERDALE 115 NW 16th St.

954-329-2551 sistrunkmarketplace.com

The opening of a mammoth food hall during a pandemic seems like a nightmare, but the group behind Sistrunk Marketplace has big dreams for this ambitious venture. The site features a dozen food concepts — including crepes, Japanese cuisine, tacos, ceviche, pizza and a coffee house — a cooperative retail space called Sistrunk Collective, an island bar, art installations and a DJ academy with recording studio, all under 20-foot ceilings. A brewery will open soon, and there are plans for culinary cocktail classes, bourbon and wine dinners, and Sunday brunches. “We started the project almost two and a half years ago and we had planned to open the early part of this year,” said

Steven Dapuzzo of Society 8 Hospitality Group, which devised the 40,000-squarefoot project. “Unfortunately COVID came into play. We postponed it two times.” “We built this facility geared toward group experiences and to be around a lot of people,” Dapuzzo said. COVID is the antithesis of that, he noted. Still, the marketplace, named for Dr. James Franklin Sistrunk, founder of Broward County’s first Black hospital, has


L-R: 1. Datz, App Hero. 2. Chuck’s Fish in Tallahassee offers an extensive list of sushi and sashimi like this appetizer and assortment of salmon, hamachi, yellowtail and tuna. Photo: Tallahassee Table. 3. Sistrunk Marketplace

been proactive in setting and following safety standards. The marketplace’s website has a category called COVID-19 Safety and outlines What You Can Expect From Us and What We Ask of You. As of now, all visitors must book reservations in advance through a smartphone restaurant reservation app. No walk-ins are allowed, masks are required and diners order from their tables using an online system. There are communal sinks

in the middle of the hall so diners don’t have to go to the restroom just to wash their hands. The venue is operating at less than half of its 565-person capacity, Dapuzzo said, and there is plenty of outdoor dining space. “You can have your whole experience outside,” he said. Even without the option for fanfare and big grand openings, Sistrunk has been attracting a following. “There’s been great support for us,” he said. “It’s a good local presence.”

Veg’n Out

ORLANDO Pixon Building, 6982 Lake Nona Blvd. 407-313-2980 vegnoutnow.com

Owner Ashley Swanson-Torres never expected to be dealing with a pandemic

when she was planning her small, over-thecounter eatery, but her concept is more workable than many other dining venues. The menu is plant-based. It features a grab-n-go market. There’s no dining inside. “We started this well ahead of the virus, but we didn’t have to change our business model substantially,” said Swanson-Torres, who opened the 945-square-foot Veg’n Out in Lake Nona in September. The menu offers smoothies, coldpressed juices, overnight oats, açaí and grain bowls, salads, and soups. “It’s about health and wellness,” said Swanson-Torres, who came to Veg’n Out from the business and corporate world. She’s encouraged by the public’s interest in the plant-based concept at her restaurant, though there are challenges because of the pandemic, like the supply chain logistics and “crazy” prices. Still, Swanson-Torres is pleased to see diners picking up the vegan dishes that have helped improve the health of her family. “We’ve wanted to give back to the community.” Fall 2020

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open for business Badia and Todd Josko, a lobbyist with Ballard

Partners, believe they have the right recipe for a new restaurant in this new environment.

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odd and Badia Josko were served up lemons earlier this year when the spring opening of their bistro was put on hold by COVID-19. While they didn’t make lemonade when they finally did open Brioche CafÊ and Bakery on June 15 in Tampa, perhaps they could substitute a peach-flavored French soda or vanilla lavender latte? Or might you be tempted by a bacon, cheese and chive scone, a handcrafted croissant or a roasted vegetable sandwich?

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food

The couple — affianced when they started this venture, now they’re newlyweds — seem to have hit upon a concept tailormade for 2020, even though it wasn’t a consideration when they were planning a restaurant. “It’s been successful beyond what we expected. It turns out that we probably have the ideal post-COVID blueprint for a restaurant. It is heavy on to-go, and we have very limited seating,” said Todd Josko, whose day job is working as a lobbyist in Ballard Partners’ Tampa office. “We have a lot of local political folks that come in from both sides of the aisle — the County Commission, the City Council. We have elected officials from Pinellas County who make the trip over,” he noted. “In a divisive political environment, sometimes it’s nice to just talk about cookies and muffins.” Badia Josko, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, is in charge of the kitchen, and the menu reflects her international background — a fusion of flavors from the Mediterranean and Europe.

Born in Morocco, she grew up in Switzerland and moved to Tampa in 1999. English was the last of the four languages she learned. The others being Arabic, German and French. “I didn’t speak English when I moved to the U.S.,” she said. “I couldn’t even say ‘hi’ and ‘bye.’” Brioche is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (it’s closed on Monday) for breakfast, lunch and brunch. Its footprint is small — 750 square feet — with only four indoor tables, so most of their patrons take food to go. Not to be confused with fast food, said Chef Badia. All of the baked goods, salads, soups and sauces are made in house. Brioche’s offerings are “more elevated” but “not too fancy” she said. “You feel like you’re buying something somebody made at home.” In addition to scratch cooking, Badia Josko estimates 90% of the ingredients she uses are organic with meats and cheeses sourced from Europe.

Left: Todd and Badia Josko launched Brioche Café and Bakery in Tampa. The 750-square-foot bakery serves up breakfast, lunch and brunch six days a week. Right: Opened in June, Brioche Café and Bakery has become a popular spot for local, county and regional elected officials to grab a pastry and put politics aside.

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SEND IN THE CAVALRY! Crisis Communications Political Consulting Public Affairs

CAVALRYSTRATEGIES.COM MELISSA@CAVALRYSTRATEGIES.COM 225-772-3059

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food

Badia Josko, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, serves a customer during a recent visit. Badia Josko opened Brioche Café and Bakery in Tampa with her husband, Todd Josko, a lobbyist with Ballard Partners in June.

The menu is short and some items change seasonally. For the fall, she has added Autumn Apple Salad, the chef’s take on a Waldorf, featuring spring mix, candied pumpkin seeds, sliced apples, burrata and a creamy apple cider vinaigrette. Menu favorites include the quiche du jour as well as those croissants and savory scones. Hand crafting can mean some popular items will sell out quickly. “Sometimes customers are upset, but they don’t understand that it takes three days for us to make a couple batches of croissants,” Badia Josko said. Thus far, Brioche hasn’t done any paid advertising, but sales have been improving week-over-week since the café’s opening, fueled by mouthwatering photos posted on Facebook and Instagram as well as word-of mouth. “Obviously, it’s a difficult environment for restaurants right now, but we’ve created and enjoy a very devoted following in very short period of time,” Todd Josko said. “We’ve gotten rave reviews. We have lots of repeat customers and we’re hoping that continues,” he said. The bistro is located on Dale Mabry Highway near the Westshore business district, where the couple expected to attract a lunch clientele. But with so many people working from home, Todd Josko said many of their customers come

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from the nearby neighborhood, which is where they live. That allows Badia to run home during the day when necessary, but it presents a problem for Todd. “It’s dangerous having a bakery walking distance from my house,” he said. “In my home office, I’m trying not to destroy my diet every day.” While it is early days for Brioche, the couple does have a bigger vision for the future. “We wanted something that was scalable and that could be duplicated,” Todd Josko said. “It’s only been a couple of months, but certainly, you know, there are opportunities that we’re looking at as we speak to kind of increase our reach.”


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Advocacy. Strategic Counsel. Experienced Insight. We are a team of high-energy, results-driven lobbyists and advisors determined to help our clients succeed in today’s fast-changing governmental and political landscape. What’s different about us? As a boutique consulting firm, we take a true team approach to serving clients at the local, state and federal levels of government. When you engage our firm, you get all of us—from our principals to our consultants, all of our diverse experience, our deep relationships built for decades, and our complete dedication to your success. We’re proud of our long-time client relationships and our reputation for achieving results while maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards. Get to know us at RubinTurnbull.com.

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Miami

Washington, DC


Briefings from the Rotunda

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GrayRobinson nabs top Senate staffer Carlecia Collins

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rayRobinson is expanding its bench, announcing a top-notch addition ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session. GrayRobinson announced that Carlecia Collins, a long-time legislative staffer, joined the firm as a lobbyist. Collins, who most recently worked in the office of Senate President Bill Galvano, will be based out of the firm’s Tallahassee office. “I am beyond thrilled to be joining the GrayRobinson team, which includes many familiar faces from my past 10-plus years of service to the state of Florida,” Collins said. “The team that Dean (Cannon) and the firm has built is a perfect fit for me as I make this next step in my career. I look forward to working with such a great group of lobbyists and attorneys.” Collins spent more than a decade working for the state government. She spent about eight years working in the Florida Senate, serving most recently in the Senate President’s Office. In that role, Collins oversaw appointments to boards, commissions and task forces. Before that, she worked in the House Speaker’s Office under Cannon. “Carlecia will be an incredible addition to our GrayRobinson team,” said Cannon, the firm’s President and CEO.  “I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Carlecia for many years. She worked with our team in the Florida House during my tenure as Speaker, and her authenticity and invaluable knowledge of the inner workings of state government will be a tremendous asset to our clients and our firm.  Carlecia  is the real deal, and we’re proud she’s joining us.” Collins is a graduate of Florida State University, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees there.

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Briefings from the Rotunda

David Clark is going solo

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lark launched Allegiant Strategies Group in October. The government relations and lobbying firm boasts expertise in a wide variety of topics, including procurement, information technology and conservation land acquisitions. Across four gubernatorial administrations, Clark lobbied on behalf of the Executive Office of the Governor, Department of Management Services, and the Department of Environmental Protection. Most recently, he was Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Ron DeSantis, which saw him provide executive guidance and policy direction for multiple state agencies on behalf of the Governor.

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Clark left the Deputy Chief of staff position in early August. Clark also worked with First Lady Casey DeSantis to support her mental health initiatives. Before his work with the state, Clark served as an airborne officer with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in the U.S. Army. Clark is married to his high school sweetheart, Ashley, and has two sons.


Briefings from the Rotunda

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Good news about Tara Reid, a great person

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trategos Group announced that Tara Reid has been named partner, making her the first female partner to ascend from the Tampa-based firm’s internal ranks. “Tara joined our firm family as an associate, with roles ranging from administrative to managerial. Her progression to client delivery and firm leadership was a reflection of her value to our organization,” Adam Giery, the firm’s Managing Partner, said in a statement. Reid joined Strategos in 2015, spending three years as an associate before being named a principal in the firm. She spent two years as a principal before being named partner in September. Before joining Strategos, Reid spent a year at the Republican Party of Florida serving in a variety of roles. She did stints

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at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners and the Florida Retail Federation. Reid graduated from Florida State University with a degree in political science and government. Recognized in 2016 as one of Florida Politics 30 under 30, Reid serves on the boards of the Junior League of Tallahassee and the National Coalition for Infant Health. “The current career advice to young leaders is to switch careers often, advance quickly, and seek continuous recognition,” Giery said. “This announcement provides proof of an alternative path to career success, founded on continuous growth and commitment to a craft. In my view, an organization’s role is to create a course rubric to help leaders graduate and remain motivated.”

PinPoint Results LLC is a government relations firm specializing in legislative and executive branch lobbying, procurement and consulting.

150 S. MONROE ST., SUITE 303 | TALLAHASSEE, FL 32301 | 850.445.0107

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Briefings from the Rotunda

The Southern Group is expanding its ranks

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im Gilmore and Chris Hagan of Gilmore Hagan Partners in Jacksonville have joined the top-tier lobby firm. The duo brings with them more than 40 years of economic development, business development and lobbying experience. “We are excited to grow within The Southern Group and look forward to seeing results from our forces combined,” Gilmore said in a statement. “We firmly believe that our expertise in economic development combined with their strong presence in the Florida market will be a driving force for client success in the future.” Gilmore has more than 30 years of experience and has generated more than $1.5 billion in new investment in public and private projects. His efforts have spurred corporate relocations, which helped to generate high-paying jobs and raise property values and provided millions in federal grant funds for transportation and infrastructure improvements and economic development. Hagan has more than 10 years of experience in government relations, representing clients throughout Florida before municipal councils. He specializes in creative solutions for private clients in fields of economic development and government relations. “We are incredibly excited to join The Southern Group,” said Hagan, who will serve as the Jacksonville office’s Managing Partner. “The strength of their brand in the Southeastern U.S. is matched only by the reputations of their individual professionals. We look forward to adding value to The Southern Group and its clients, and I know our new colleagues will offer the same to our existing clients.” Taylor Mejia, who has led stra36

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Chris Hagan, far left, and Jim Gilmore, far right, join The Southern Group. Here they stand with, from left, Matt Brockelman,  Taylor Mejia and Carlo Fassi. tegic partnerships for Gilmore Hagan Partners since 2015, is also joining The Southern Group. She is responsible for the multiagency coordination program of several multimillion dollar infrastructure projects for local and state entities. “For more than 20 years, The Southern Group has been at the tip of the spear of Florida government relations,” said Paul

Bradshaw, firm founder and Chairman. “Our innovative approach to local and state lobbying has enabled us to become the Sunshine State’s largest influence firm. This momentum is something we are constantly looking to build upon, and the addition of the Gilmore Hagan team in Jacksonville does just that.”


A SEAT AT THE TABLE ACROSS FLORIDA & THE U.S. MIAMI | JACKSONVILLE | ORLANDO | TALLAHASSEE | NEW YORK CITY | BOSTON

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PHOTO: Allison Lynn Photography

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Briefings from the Rotunda

Helen Levine, behind the scenes policy rockstar, leaves big shoes to fill at USFSP

he University of South Florida St. Petersburg recently lost one of its top executives and fiercest advocates. Helen Levine, the school’s Regional Vice Chancellor of external affairs, retired on Sept. 4, leaving behind a legacy not only at the school, but in local governments and in the halls of Tallahassee. “Helen has been a tremendous asset to the University of South Florida. Her presence on our campus and her advocacy for the university, the city and the county has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock wrote in a letter to staff announcing Levine’s retirement in early August. “She has helped the university navigate through some of its most challenging times and served as my proverbial ‘right arm’ since I assumed the role of Regional Chancellor.” Levine was a regular figure in Tallahassee each Legislative Session and in committee weeks. Those within the Political Process knew her as a staunch policy wonk and someone who somehow noticed every single detail. Levine worked not only on issues related to USF but also made herself familiar with other topics in state politics, a skill that made her a formidable and respected force. Levine, a proud Democrat, did what

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others strive to accomplish. She doggedly worked across the aisle in a legislative body that has long been dominated by conservative leaders. While she often disagreed on matters of politics, that had no role in her advocacy for the communities she served. “All of us share a common goal: Working to serve the people of our communities. Regardless of party affiliation, members knew they could rely on me, whether for data, insight on a complex policy, an assist with a constituent concern, or a recommendation for the best restaurant in St. Pete or New York City,” she said. Levine spent more than three decades working with agencies throughout the state and with the city of St. Petersburg and the City University of New York. In all of her roles, she was a master at bringing individuals together regardless of differing backgrounds or ideological differences to further various initiatives. Those restaurant recommendations, while seemingly mundane, were a key to her success finding collegiality in a Tallahassee body often rife with partisan squabbles. While she meant it literally — she’s no stranger to the various food offerings in both St. Pete and New York — it’s also a metaphor for finding common ground.

Players in Tallahassee rarely agree on everything. Her latest battle working for USF St. Pete bore that out immediately. Levine helped the school navigate the USF system’s legislatively mandated consolidation process, removing USF St. Pete’s independent accreditation and shifting back under a singular accreditation with the USF Tampa parent campus and the Sarasota-Manatee regional campus. At first, members of the community balked at the idea, worrying it would strip the St. Pete campus of its autonomy. But, due in large part to Levine’s work behind the scenes with lawmakers, the consolidation process was amended to ensure protections for regional campuses and their students. For Levine, it was never about credit. Rarely would her name come up in the media crediting her work. “I’m proud to have introduced elected officials to the significant work being accomplished on our campus, and to have helped raise our profile throughout St. Petersburg and Pinellas County,” Levine said of her pending retirement. Throughout her illustrious career, Levine worked with members of both parties including Republicans Chris Sprowls, the incoming Speaker of the House for


Briefings from the Rotunda Left: Helen Levine, front, plans to spend more time laughing with wife, Katee, back. whom Levine found a fierce warrior on the USF consolidation issue, former Sen. Jack Latvala and his son, Rep. Chris Latvala. Locally she partnered with the likes of Pinellas County Commissioners and St. Pete City Council members. “She was relentless in not only creating but also delivering on promises made. In her years at USF St. Petersburg, Helen has been incredibly effective, nurturing and strengthening the relationship between our campus and the ever-changing members of the Pinellas delegation,” Tadlock said. But it’s not her most recent work for which she is most proud. Early in her career working for Hillsborough County government, Levine was instrumental in getting a half-cent sales tax approved in the Legislature to fund indigent health care that still exists today, some 25 years later. “The Hillsborough County Health Care Plan has given thousands of people access to comprehensive health care for more

than 25 years now. As a result, individuals and families are stronger, as is the county,” she said. “Governor Lawton Chiles signed a copy of the law for me three weeks before he died. I framed it and displayed it on a bookshelf in each of my offices since to remind me of the honor of working on issues that make a meaningful impact on communities and families.” Levine’s career also led her to personal work enriching communities. Her most passionate project was, and is still, working with the Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Pete. While the museum itself serves as a memorial to lives lost and shattered by genocide, it’s also a valuable educational resource. “The museum honors the memory of millions of innocent men, women and children who suffered or died in the Holocaust and is dedicated to teaching the members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides,” she said. “With the increased rise of anti-Semitism, the museum has partnered with

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schools across the state to deliver curriculum for Holocaust and genocide education for students of all ages through virtual learning and experience.” Levine’s approach to legislative work is carried largely through personal values instilled through her Jewish upbringing and by supportive parents. She lives by the Jewish value Tikkun Olam, which translates to “repair the world.” “It is a great touchstone for everyday living and setting the course as I enter a new chapter,” she said. That next chapter is well-earned, and a path forged with love and compassion. She plans to be “mostly able” assistant to her wife, Katee Tully, on her art project, The Poetry Bar. Travel plans are in the mix, too, once the throes of COVID-19 make doing so safe again. The couple also own a second home in Tallahassee, where they plan to spend more time with friends and family. “I plan to follow two simple rules: No texting before 10 a.m. and more laughing with my beloved wife, Katee.”

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Election DAY

Capital City IN the

W PHOTOS: The Workmans

hile Tallahassee is politically significant to the state, voters can get pretty revved up by the local races. That’s why candidates and their supporters spend lots of time on popular corners — Tennessee Street and Magnolia Drive, for one — waving signs and soliciting beeps from passing cars. On a sweltering Primary Day Aug. 18, the troops were out in full force on those corners and in front of polling places (1,2,3,4) making a last-minute pitch for their favorite candidates. Democrat Al Lawson, who represents North Florida’s 5th District, spent time in his hometown fist bumping supporters large (4) and small (5). Jessica Yeary would end up winning 65% of the vote to win as Public Defender for the 2nd Judicial

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Circuit. Jacqueline “Jack” Porter’s creative campaigning — including live musical entertainment driving through neighborhoods — won her a seat on the Tallahassee City Commission after she gathered 52% of the vote in a three-way race. Former State Democratic Party chair Allison Tant won handily in her primary bid for House District 9. Tommy Mills (10) was unsuccessful in his bid to unseat the incumbent Sheriff Walt McNeil. Jeff Hendry (11) came in third in a six-way race for Leon County Commissioner. Kelly Otte (12) will face Carolyn Cummings on Election Day to determine the winner of that seat. With 47.5% of the vote in a five-way race, incumbent Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson will be in a runoff with Bill Schack on Nov. 3.


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The universe of Jimmy

Patronis

Jimmy Patronis has been the state's Chief Financial Officer for a few years now, and his star may keep burning for another six. Here’s who is in his orbit. When it comes to the CFO’s inner circle, his wife, Katie Patronis, is undoubtedly the closest. As his top and most trusted adviser, she is consulted for every major decision and gets briefed on all political strategy discussions. She and the CFO share a pair of “moons,” if you will: Johnny and Theo. While the Patronises’ sons aren’t old enough to be on the ballot anytime soon, they are a frequent sight at campaign meetings and events — they even starred in one of Patronis’ 2018 ads. Patronis got his start in the state House, but the “big bang” appointment that put him into statewide office came from then-Gov. Rick Scott. Even though Scott, now a U.S. Senator, has moved on to Washington, the pair speak regularly, and Patronis looks to Scott for guidance and advice, especially in times of crisis. The next ring out is full of close friends and mentors. Panama City businessman Bo Rivard is among the closest, having known Patronis since their school days. But the ring is as packed as the asteroid belt, with HCA VP Brian Anderson, lobbyists Marc Dunbar, Fred Karlinsky, Paul Mitchell and Bill Rubin, political consultant Melissa Stone, and lawyer Tim Cerio, each serving as a resource for institutional knowledge and policy advice. Further out, but still within the Kuiper Belt are Patronis’ top-level staffers, including Chief of Staff Peter Penrod, Deputy Chief of Staff Paige Davis, Senior Adviser Susan Miller, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Frank Collins, Policy Director Michael Dobson, Legislative Affairs Director Meredith Stanfield, and last but not least, former top staffer Anna Alexopoulos Farrar. 44

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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Grand kids? None of the above at this time. I’m still young and hopefully have time in the near future. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Representing Florida’s 67 counties, I advocate and cultivate relationships that will strengthen local governments and agencies at the local, state, and regional levels. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I am a community advocate who recognizes the importance of a strong education system, adequate health care, and an economy that works for everyone. If you have one, what is your motto? Nevertheless, she persisted. Three favorite charities. Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society, and National MS Society Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Debrief and toast with my team at the Governor’s Club Lounge downtown; followed by much rest and relaxation shortly after. What are you most looking forward to during the 2021 Legislative Session. I am cautiously optimistic for the innovative ways we will collectively work together to take care of business for the great citizens of the Sunshine State. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be… Brian Ballard and Ron Book Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? The opportunity to grow and develop as a young professional as FAC’s Associate Director of Public Policy.

Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I enjoy them all. Florida has some of the nation’s best journalists and communications gurus. Other than Florida Politics.com, your reading list includes… Politico, Sun Sentinel, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Modern Healthcare, and The Brookings Brief What swear word do you use most often? I don’t swear often. What is your most treasured possession? My 92-yearsyoung grandfather. He’s my heart and biggest fan. The best hotel in Florida is… The Fontainebleau Miami Beach You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Gov. Ron DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Kim McDougal of GrayRobinson, and Florida State University President John Thrasher Favorite movie? “The Parent Trap” When you pig out, what do you eat? Wings and french fries (preferably truffle fries) If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Shirley Chisholm

PHOTO: The Workmans

Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No, I have Gucci sandals, but I’m a Tory Burch girl when it comes to my business footwear.

Tonnette Graham

ON ADVOCATING FOR COMMUNITIES AND CULTIVATING RELATIONSHIPS

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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES TALKS SINE DIE GIFTS AND THE 2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I am a tireless advocate for a fantastic group of clients, ensuring they have a voice and presence in both Tallahassee and their local communities. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. The key ideas of the U.S. Constitution best describe my beliefs: limited government, republicanism, checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, and popular sovereignty. Three favorite charities. As a board member of the Tallahassee Margarita Society, we work with multiple charities in the region to ensure children and families in need have a joyous holiday season, so choosing only three is hard. The delight on the faces of the students at Pineview Elementary last Christmas was one of my favorite moments; and as someone who grew up in the Apalachicola area, providing assistance to victims of the Eastpoint wildfire was near and dear to my heart. Hang Tough Foundation is also an outstanding organization that does wonderful things.

Jessica Love

Any last-day-of-Session traditions? I like to surprise my GrayRobinson lobby team with a sine die gift. This year it was a monogrammed handkerchief embroidered with GrayRobinson’s 50th anniversary logo. They were all probably converted into face masks or used to mop up tears after the veto list came out. What are you most looking forward to during the 2021 Legislative Session. Having been stuck in the house for nearly six months straight, I look forward to simply being in the presence of other warm blooded human beings and having real conversations. And I can’t wait to see everyone’s mask game.… I have a feeling Nick Iarossi and Sarah Busk Suskey will set the bar high.

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Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Having the drive, talent, and determination to elevate myself from a legislative assistant to a government consultant for one of the state’s premier lobbying firms. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Gary Fineout. His Twitter feed reliably serves as a window into what’s happening in the Capitol outside of the committee or meeting I may currently be sitting in. Other than Florida Politics.com, your reading list includes… Politico, News Service of Florida, GRayMatters, LobbyTools, A Song of Ice and Fire book series (again), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with my daughter, and Star Wars: Escape from Darth Vader with my son. What swear word do you use most often? That’s like asking, “which kid is your favorite?” What is your most treasured possession? I know this will sound materialistic, but I really, really love my wedding ring. The best hotel in Florida is… Whichever one I’m calling “home” each year during the Mile 0 Fest music festival in Key West. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Peter Schorsch, Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Congressman Matt Gaetz … and former Rep. Tom Goodson for comedic commentary. Favorite movie. It’s a toss-up between Casino Royale and Sense and Sensibility. And when For Love of the Game is on any channel I can’t help but watch it. When you pig out, what do you eat? Raw oysters – no cracker, a splash of lemon and a few dashes of Crystal hot sauce, right out of the shell. I don’t actually know the limit of how many I can eat, but I have finished off a 100 count bag by myself in one sitting, so I’d definitely call that “pigging out.” If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Elizabeth I.

PHOTO: The Workmans

Significant other? Children? Grand kids? I am blessed beyond measure to be happily married to my longtime friend, Drew Love, who gave me the coolest last name ever, and we have two amazing kids, Leighton, 10, and Drew, 7.


At the Governors Inn, you’ll be welcomed as a friend and pampered as a guest. The Governors Inn is a distinctive boutique hotel located steps from Florida’s Capitol. As Tallahassee’s most well-appointed and well-positioned address, it is the hotel of choice for those seeking refined luxury at an affordable price in the heart of historic downtown, with 41 fine rooms and suites. Enjoy a stress free, continental breakfast prepared by our staff and carefully wrapped for a touch free delivery. Be our guest, we look forward to your stay with us.

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STEPS FROM THE CAPITOL


FOURTH FLOOR>FILES ON THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING IT LOCAL Significant other? Children? Grand kids? My wife and best friend of 16 years, Angela Adams Suggs, and our amazing daughter Dillyn Ashleigh Suggs In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Lead efforts regarding policy development and advocacy for the Florida Association of Counties, representing all 67 Counties (Board of County Commissioners) in Florida Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. #KeepItLocal If you have one, what is your motto? The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? The association and its members receive 110% of my time. However, I give pretty good free advice, when solicited. Three favorite charities. FAMU Foundation, Jack and Jill of America Foundation, and Goodwill Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Staying until the hanky drops, then exhaling at the Governor’s Club Lounge. What are you most looking forward to during the 2021 Legislative Session? After an election cycle, I always enjoy getting to know the new elected officials. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be… I would not trade the counties for anybody. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Finding or facilitating the “next” solution to the “next” challenge for my members. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I don’t wear loafers. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I miss Tia Mitchell; she was a close friend of the family. Other than Florida Politics.com, your reading list includes… It’s football season. It’s always football season.

Davin Suggs

What swear word do you use most often? All of them. What is your most treasured possession? My Milwaukee King High School letterman jacket. The best hotel in Florida is… Either The Breakers or The Diplomat. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? It’s a close call between my daughter and three of her friends from her softball team and/or four guys from my barbershop.

PHOTO: The Workmans

Favorite movie. “The Five Heartbeats.” When you pig out, what do you eat? Pizza. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Jackie Robinson.

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When policy impacts your agency…

You need a team to help you impact policy.

Our lobbying team’s racial, ethnic, gender, and political diversity provides you with the distinct advantage of working with an array of state and federal legislators and local government officials from both sides of the aisle, as well as the various caucuses. Like all highly functioning teams, our lobbyists rely on each other’s unique set of political contacts, knowledge of various issues, and political intelligence to best help you tell your story. Our team enjoys access to the resources of a large law firm but operates like a “boutique” lobbying practice, providing you with personal attention and “on call” availability.

Government & Lobbying 52 | INFLUENCELaw Fall 2020

Fearlessly Moving You Forward | beckerlawyers.com


{ insiders’ ADVICE yolanda cash jackson says diverse teams set the stage for strong outcomes for clients.

Diversity and inclusion in state lobbying makes cents

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he lobbying world could potentially face one of the most challenging Legislative Sessions in the history of the profession. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police shootings, the ongoing Black Lives Matters protests, and the passing of Congressman John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have put a spotlight on the need to diversify lobbying teams to better address issues and reflect today’s society. As corporations across the country prepare to manage the challenges ahead, incorporating a strategy that includes diversity and inclusion will increase opportunities for growth and limit the risks and pitfalls that come with a narrow understanding, devoid of cultural nuances. Diversity can set the stage for a coordinated, strategic response among legislators and leaders to ensure a strong outcome for clients. In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the noted management consulting firm, suggests firms that exhibit gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to outperform their less diverse competitors and produce better results. Governors and state legislators establish budgets and taxes that pay for state services. They appoint judges, regulate businesses, and shape policies that impact the administration of justice. Who benefits from the money, laws, and regulations often comes down to the effectiveness of individual lobbyists and their firm’s lobbying strategies. Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans are poorly represented as registered lobbyists in Florida. African Americans account for less than 2% of registered lobbyists and only seven are women. The issues of social justice, race and pandemic response are all intertwined. The battles for power and funding will be fought not only

on “K Street” in the nation’s capital, but in state capitals throughout the country. In Florida and across the nation, the communities that have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 are overwhelmingly minority. When additional pandemic relief becomes available, be it in the form of funding or a vaccine, a positive outcome for these communities depends on a diverse advocacy approach. In a post-pandemic world, successful corporate leaders will re-examine their advocacy strategies and include diversity and equity in their messaging, in how they interact with legislators and in identifying community partners. This assures that a client’s message aligns with lawmakers and the affected communities. Corporations must get involved to create and hire diverse lobbying teams. In 2019, I co-founded the National Black Professional Lobbyists Association. We provide mentoring and networking and have been partnering with diversity and inclusion leaders to ensure Black government affairs professionals are included in efforts to expand the perspectives communicated to state government leaders. A diverse team ensures a broader understanding of the client’s challenges. With a broader understanding, a more successful and financially beneficial result can be achieved. Diversity is not just good for business; it’s good for the bottom line. Yolanda Cash Jackson is a shareholder of Becker and Poliakoff, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and has served on the firm’s management committee since 2010. Ms. Jackson is also a founder of The National Black Professional Lobbyist Association (NBPLA).

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Thank

YOU

Our team extends our gratitude to our heroes and first responders in the war against COVID-19. Thank you to the doctors, nurses, grocery workers, restaurant staffers, manufacturing and research teams, essential government workers, and so many others.

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mhdfirm.com


{ insiders’ ADVICE tony glover says time is right to make pandemic-era cocktail to-go policies law.

Cocktails during corona: notes on the alcoholic beverage industry as it survives the pandemic

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etween the public debates over whether bars should be open and the increase of private consumption during a time of social distancing, alcohol seems to be on everyone’s mind in 2020. Despite the obvious challenges, the end of the year carries some optimism for Florida’s alcoholic beverage and hospitality industries.

Local bars and restaurants need our support

It continues to be important for us to support our favorite bars and restaurants by visiting or ordering take out. Despite the national growth of total alcohol sales during the pandemic — roughly 25% through the start of September, according to Nielsen’s market data — and Florida’s status as one of the more business-friendly states during the crisis, the economic slowdown managed to directly affect many businesses and workers in the state. Many operators spent substantial energy and resources to be able to safely serve customers, and the next few months will be critical for their long-term stability. Even with these high stakes, circumstances are looking up in comparison to earlier in the year. Bob Arbuthnot, co-owner of Tallahassee’s Over Under Bar, told me “this fall has definitely been a high point businesswise, and like everyone else, we’re working to provide a safe environment for our guests.” With any luck, future data will back up this anecdotal positivity.

Is help on the way?

Congress may continue to pass relief bills here and there, but we should know better than to expect the federal government to really save small businesses. Still, the pandemic has created an opportunity for meaningful

state-level reforms across the country. Consumers and the industry are already benefiting from what may be the most popular pandemic-era policy: the widespread legalization of to-go alcohol and cocktails. More than 30 states, including Florida, have temporarily allowed restaurants and/or bars to sell mixed drinks to go, bottled alcohol to go, or both. Legislative action is required to make the policy permanent, a step that has already been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senator Jeff Brandes. The temporary policy has been a form of regulatory relief for many Florida establishments, and shifting consumer behaviors may make a permanent change inevitable.

Reform-minded recipes

America’s alcohol laws were under scrutiny at the height of the pandemic, and for good reason. Once the new coronavirus’ spread began to accelerate in the spring, the nation’s hospitality industry was immediately hamstrung by onerous alcohol regulations. How did we end up in this situation in the first place? Alcohol policy expert Jarret Dieterlie’s timely new book, “Give Me Liberty and Give Me a Drink!: 65 Cocktails to Protest America’s Most Outlandish Alcohol Laws,” combines history, humor, and a healthy serving of hooch as it explores peculiar regulations that stand between consumers and their beverages. It doubles as a recipe book, so you might consider pouring a glass before you wade deeper into this world. Cheers! Tony Glover is a regulatory lawyer who represents members of the alcoholic beverage, gaming, and hospitality industries in Florida.

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ROAD TRIP by jacob ogles and scott powers

OLD FLORIDA CHARM AND SMALL TOWN POLITICS AWAIT ON THE FLIPSIDE OF THE TICKET.

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rue Floridians know you need to travel the whole state to understand its people and its politics. While national anchors study I-4 Corridor presidential returns — the equivalent of taking pictures of Cinderella’s castle and believing you know Central Florida culture — why not spend Election Night on a road trip through the Sunshine State’s local elections? It’s on those back roads where trends emerge, where the last vestiges of old ways linger longest, where trench wars between ideas and values become the most blunt and brutal. Big stars are born in small towns. Let’s wind through the down-ballot contests,

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which in every county inevitably include at least a few races or issues with the potential to resonate far beyond the city limits or county lines. Political scouts will spot local character — and most important, local characters — in the flyover contests. Visit these camps before they become hotspots and the media reservations book up. For those who stop and look, there’s plenty to see, maybe even some fights so messy they become impossible to unsee. There are hundreds of small elections and referendums on local ballots Nov. 3, here are a few places worth a stop within what politicos call the Five Floridas.

Panhandle

A taste of the Deep South, with the Sunshine State’s tropical charms… Pensacola City Council

Start in Pensacola this November where you might see a tree fall. Council member P.C. Wu, as rooted there as any majestic landmark tree, is battling for a seventh term in District 1. His contest with political newcomer Jennifer Brahier — they’re both professors — has all the usual local issues like sidewalks, drainage problems and law enforcement. This one, though, might hinge on trees. Wu voted for a land swap to relocate a YMCA and build soccer fields. Supporters call it a win-win. But it could topple seven huge heritage oaks. Call Brahier a tree hugger if you like; the trees have been the symbol for her call for more City Hall responsiveness. At least one poll showed her leading.

Leon County Children’s Services Council

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iting. Times are tough in Leon County. Does that make a good or bad time to go for a new tax to help children in need? Leon voters are the latest considering a countywide children’s services tax. The half-mill levy would bring in $8 million a year for 12 years, dedicated to Leon County’s impoverished children, in as much need now as ever. Advocates say things

like subsidized prenatal care, newborn medical care, pre-K education, tutoring and mentoring improve not just lives of children but safety and welfare for the community. Nine other counties already have approved such Children’s Services Council taxes. Others tried and failed, as citizens rejected new tax burdens even in better times.


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Northeast FL

They say it’s easier here. That never fooled anyone … Duval Clerk of the Court

Jog to the end of I-10 to see “The Machine,” a famous Jacksonville attraction. Locals know the term references Mayor Lenny Curry and his network of loyal Republican electeds and operatives, and you can see it in action this fall. By usual accounts, Jody Phillips is an obvious heir to the open Duval Clerk of Court office, where most of the job is nonpartisan grunt work, so experience and competence should be critical. He’s the number two there, with decades of experience in business and public management. Yet the office has played overtly partisan hands where it could: banning courthouse weddings after same-sex marriage was legalized and being uncooperative with felons seeking to achieve voting rights under Amendment 4. Democrat Jimmy Midyette, a lawyer and activist, is challenging The Machine on these, and campaigns have been nasty.

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A frontier beyond Fantasyland … Seminole Tax Collector

Take I-95 down to Seminole for a coastal attraction of a constitutional contest. Joel Greenberg resigned as Tax Collector in June under charges and continuing investigations that made his office look like a crime scene. Even before then, Republican J.R. Kroll and Democrat Lynn “Moira” Dictor campaigned to oust him with anti-corruption platforms. Though Greenberg had inherited, relied on, and left behind a core staff of professionals to run things, Kroll and Dictor know they’ll still need brooms, if for no other purpose than to chase away contractors who saw the office as a trough. Their missions are similar; their differences few, except for private tag agencies, which Dictor supports and Kroll does not. So this could be decided by experience levels [Kroll is a businessman,] name recognition [Dictor is a radio personality] — or party, in the now deep-purple county.

Seminole County Commission

There’s reason to linger in Seminole. There are three power bases in Seminole County: Democrats, on the outside forever, but with demographics and elections trending their way; old-school Republicans, who share the population’s unique love of nature; and pro-development Republicans, many entwined with former Rep. and now lobbyist and developer Chris Dorworth. Old-school Republicans Bob Dallari and Lee Constantine seek reelection to the County Commission in Districts 1 and 3 after trouncing Dorworth-backed candidates in primaries. Now come Democrats Katrina Shadix and Kim Buchheit, with Dorworth saying he doesn’t care who beats Dallari and Constantine. Then there is District 5, where pro-development Republican Andria Herr and Democrat Pernell Bush battle for an open seat that Democrats nearly won last time.

Orange County Charter Amendments

Grab some quarters and hop on State Road 417 to run over to Orange County. There, two proposed amendments to the County Charter test how far voters are willing to commit to protect the environment. Both also have anti-growth aspects

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that might prove as popular as preservation of nature. Amendment 1 would declare “rights of nature” for two environmentally important but threatened rivers, the Wekiva and the Econlockhatchee. Amendment 2 would ban intrusions into Split Oak Forest Park, essentially killing a planned major road extension. Osceola County, which needs the road, emerged as an opponent to Amendment 2, but a lawsuit might inspire Orange County voters to protect home turf. The Legislature already has tried to make Amendment 1 unenforceable with a preemptive law passed this spring. Nonetheless, if voters approve it anyway, a strong message will be sent.

Brevard County Commissioner

Wing over on State Road 528 to see more than rockets lifting off from the Space Coast. The District 3 race offers one of the starkest contrasts between candidates found anywhere, and it could be a bellwether for whether Brevard Republicans continue to dominate or rising progressive Democrats finally claim victories. Republican former Rep. John Tobia, an inyour-face, old-style conservative, is seeking reelection on the County Commission, facing Democrat Sanjay Patel, a former

congressional candidate and a high-energy leader of the county party’s progressive wing. Tobia’s style is combative enough that he drew and defeated a tough Republican primary challenger, Melbourne Mayor Kathy Meehan. Patel likes rough-and-tumble politics, too. The Brevard Sheriff and Palm Bay mayoral contests offer similar sharp contrasts, yet the County Commission D3 race offers pure polarity and should be close.

Sebastian

Ride I-95 south again to and find your way to a particularly choppy inlet. Florida doesn’t often see recall elections, much less for three officials at once. Voters in Sebastian will decide on Nov. 3 whether to undo the selection of three City Council members. Damien Gilliams, Charles Mauti and Pamela Parris. They all won seats just last year and then proceeded with somewhat of a coup at City Hall, firing all charter officials and removing Mayor Ed Dodd. A lawsuit, one of many officials in the town filed against one another this year, later reversed that, TC Palm reported. Now, voters get a say on whether the three Council members keep their nameplates at the dais.


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Southwest FL A paradise for politics…

Bradenton Mayor

Find your way to State Road 70 to reach Florida’s other coast, where the water looks calm but there’s plenty of activity on shore. After five terms in office, Wayne Poston retires as a city institution, and there’s a heated race to take his place. As a Mayor with oversight for city finances and a vote on city policy, Poston has been among the region’s most high-profile leaders. Council member Gene Brown resigned his seat early to run for the job, and Council member Harold Byrd, whose term is already drawing to a close, already planned to challenge Poston for the job. Brown has dominated fundraising, while Byrd hopes an uproar for change and redevelopment of the city’s lower income regions carries him. He has been critiquing city spending while promising continuity. The impact of underfunded outsider Dimitrie Denis is anyone’s guess.

Sarasota City Commission

For decades, elections in Sarasota took place in the spring. After passage of a charter amendment in 2018, there are now races worth visiting in November. City candidates share the ballot with presidential contenders for the first time in generations. In an August primary, Dan Clermont established himself as a favorite in District 3 but must get through Erik Arroyo, the only Republican to make the November ballot. Meanwhile, Commissioner Liz Alpert faces a challenge from former Commissioner Terry Turner for her District 2 seat, and Commissioner Willie Shaw, on the ballot for the first time in nine years, must contend with a spirited challenge from Kyle Scott Battie.

Sarasota County Commission

There’s always a reason to stick around a little longer in Sarasota. You would think approving a new district map ahead of an election would put Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran in a strong position for reelection, but a narrow Republican primary victory suggests otherwise. Now he faces Democrat Mark Pienkos. Moran should be fine if voters tick a party line, but winning just 52% of the vote against GOP challenger Mike Hutchinson undermines that thesis. While Republicans hold heavy advantages in District 3 and 5 in the first election in decades conducted under single-member districts, the District 1 seat seems too close to call. Will the decision to redraw boundaries in an off year, two years ahead of required review post-Census, end up biting the incumbent?

Fort Myers Mayor

Jump on Tamiami Trail and head south to the next mini-metropolis of Fort Myers. When Randy Henderson resigned as Mayor so he could run for an open seat in Congress, he triggered a contest a year early. City Council member Kevin Anderson faces Dunbar leader Jacquelyn McMiller in a November runoff. Anderson rose to second in command of the Fort Myers Police Department before winning his current Ward 2 seat. That pits a retired cop against the woman who would be Fort Myers’ first Black mayor. McMiller aims to root out corruption and bring attention to the city’s poorest communities. “We have a long way to go,” she says. Anderson said he wants a city less interested in crime stats and more focused on public service. “An open, honest dialogue is what makes a difference,” he said.

Conservation Collier

This vote may just shape what people visit in Naples for years. Taxes in Collier County always have a tough time at the ballot box. Expect another close race when voters weigh in on reinstituting the Conservation Collier levy. The tax originally went into effect in 2003 and expired a decade later. Over the time of the tax, the county bought 4,345 acres of land to preserve. When commissioners in 2018 considered simply restoring the tax by board vote, though, state lawmakers nearly revolted, with Rep. Byron Donalds going so far as to say he wouldn’t fight for local spending if the action moved forward. Instead, commissioners put the matter back up as a ballot referendum, to be decided by voters Nov. 3.  

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South FL Electioneering at the Southernmost point…

Fort Lauderdale Mayor

It’s time to take the Sawgrass Expressway back east, through the Everglades and into a completely different type of swamp. Playing nice never was part of Mayor Dean Trantallis’ public profile. Confronting challenger Kenneth Cooper, a lawyer and economics lecturer, about back taxes in a recent debate won’t change that image. Not that much could. Just this year, the Mayor wrestled the county over gym reopenings in the pandemic. He rose to prominence when he became Fort Lauderdale’s first gay City Commissioner in 2003 just as the municipality threatened to shut down public lavatories to “reduce homosexual sex in bathrooms.” He later became the city’s first gay Mayor, defeating a former Police Chief. The last couple of years have been history making for LGBT pols winning mayorships in major American cities from Tampa to Chicago. Trantolis looks to hold onto the gavel.

Pompano Beach Mayor

Jaunt north on A1A to reach a mustsee suburban sight. Mayor Rex Hardin faces two challengers this year, civic association leader Todd “Bulldog” Hennen and educator Joseph Wells. Having come into office in a tight race in 2018, Hardin, a former City Commissioner, heads into November with something to prove as he seeks a first full four-year term. He’s banking on voters feeling enthusiasm for an uptick in development during his tenure, but as can be expected, not everyone is thrilled to see cranes in the air. Tennen has slammed sales tax increases and ballooning in-

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frastructure costs all associated with growth. Wells similarly sees high taxes and overdevelopment as problems for the city.

Doral

Jump on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike to ride into the 305. Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermúdez made headlines feuding with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez over COVID-19 response, with the registered Republican even making it into a Democrat-funded ad dissing the county leader’s run for Congress. Now Bermúdez faces two opponents aiming to deny him another term leading the South Florida city. Doral Chamber of Commerce CEO Manny Sarmiento brings solid business support into the race, while actor Victor Camara boasts a history of philanthropic work over nearly two decades within the city. As the first elected Mayor of Doral in 2003, Bermúdez has plenty of name recognition in the young municipality, but it’s 2020 and anything can happen in November.

Key West cruise referendum

You’ll want to drive the Overseas Highway to get here this year. Few industries suffered as much bad PR and economic hardship from the pandemic as cruise lines. Now, one of Florida’s most popular ports could turn the largest luxury liners away. Key West voters long felt an uneasy relationship with the tourist-filled vessels docking by Mallory Square. If a referendum passes, no ship carrying more than 1,300 passengers could anchor there, and no more than 1,500 could disembark from the port each day. The spread of COVID-19, which early in the pandemic infected large numbers of people trapped at sea, fueled rhetoric demanding only “safer, cleaner, smaller” ships in the Conch Republic. But some estimate that could cut the number of annual visitors by 95%, a huge blow to local hospitality.

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Final Destination

Grab a Margarita and enjoy a shot of green flash at sunset in the purplest of states…


PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR FLORIDA’S BEST COMPANIES ™

TUCKERHALL.COM | TAMPA: 813.228.0652 | JACKSONVILLE: 904.493.5006 Fall 2020

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R O U N D TA B L E :

UNTOLD

STORIES FROM FLORIDA’S BLACK

LOBBYING CORPS by trimmel gomes

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obbying takes on a deeper meaning for many Black lobbyists. They say contrary to popular belief, lobbying is less about making a lot of money to wear Gucci loafers, drive a BMW or Mercedes, fly private planes between mansions, work downtown, and endless rounds of golf at the country club. That may seem hard to believe considering Florida lobbyists pulled in an estimated quarter of a billion dollars in 2019. But many in the Black lobbying corps say they operate more selflessly with a sense of purpose and obligation for making sure minority communities have a seat at the table. While Black lobbyists say they are beginning to see progress in a field dominated by their White counterparts, they say the road to industry equity remains long. “I’ll tell you for Black lobbyists, we’re still in the minority and I mean that intentionally in that you can walk in many, many rooms, especially for those of us who are private sector, and you represent groups, trade associations, and sometimes you’re the only one in the room and you’re not naive to it but it’s that reality,” said Darrick D. McGhee Sr., lobbyist for Johnson & Blanton. The number of Black lobbyists remains shockingly low. Less than 2% of the registered lobbyists in Florida are Black. But this small, interconnected group has an outsized influence, and they are commit-

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photography: mary beth tyson

ted to expanding their footprint on policy decisions in the Sunshine State. With social distancing concerns at the forefront, we recently assembled four African American lobbyists, with varied experiences and ideological differences, for a candid discussion about lobbying while Black.  

more than meets the eye The state of Black lobbyists in Tallahassee is under renovation, at least by a strong undercurrent of young lobbyists hoping to shake up a top-down style of engagement and what they see as outdated expectations and stereotypes. “We’re still trying to find ourselves and kind of release some of the stranglehold from the old guard,” said self-described “Hip Hop Lobbyist” Phillip A. Singleton, who in 2010 became the youngest African American lobbyist in Florida’s history at the age of 24. “We’re more identifying ourselves as being more than just talking to the Black Caucus. I think we’ve been kind of put in that box by other lobbyists that are Black or even clientele or people who are looking for representation in this Process, and they put a stigma on you that says you’re Black, you got to be a Democrat, you can only talk to Black Democrats…. So, I think that’s where we are trying to break that stigma that we’re more than Democrats,” Singleton said.


Darrick McGhee, a lobbyist at Johnson & Blanton, works to ensure Black lobbyists are supporting each other in the process.

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r o u n d ta b l e As a Republican, McGhee rose through government ranks, becoming the first African American legislative affairs director for a Governor in Florida’s history under former Gov. Rick Scott. He says, unfortunately, Black lobbyists are often seen as a monolithic group. “Because our number is small, forget about ideology, our number is small,” he said. “So, if one of us gets a bad rap, it’s like almost all of us are looked at in a certain manner, whether it is knowingly or unknowingly.” Joe Anne Hart is an in-house lobbyist with the Florida Dental Association. She recalled participating on a panel with the National Association of State Lobbyists and was surprised to learn how common the practice was for Black lobbyists to be hired for lobbying Black lawmakers, whether it be in Washington or across the country. “I heard it echoed in other states that there are a lot hired as Black lobbyists to lobby the Black members. And I just think that’s an interesting thing because I don’t think White lobbyists are hired to lobby White legislators.” Hart said it’s part of the general misconceptions about lobbying that need to be vetoed. “I think that when Black lobbyists are in the room, you need to know that we’re going to be professional.  We’ve done our homework. There’s a sense of integrity in what we’re saying.” 

trust is key The business of lobbying is all about relationships. Hart explained how her success comes from the many genuine relationships she has been able to build throughout her many years in the Process. “Your reputation means everything. Your word is everything in this process. And that’s why I mentor folks when I talk to them about this Process,” she said. Hart shared some of the secrets she uses to establish trust with lawmakers. With the regular turnover in Tallahassee compared to other state capitals,

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Alan Williams, a former state Representative and lobbyist at Meenan P.A., said he doesn’t think of himself as a Black lobbyist, instead he said he is “a Black man who lobbies.”

relationship building becomes a key part of regular life for Florida lobbyists. “I definitely like to always share both sides when I meet with a legislator. I always go in there and let them know what our position is, but I also tell them what the other side is. And I think that I’ve been doing that for 20-something years. It’s so appreciated from the members. I feel like when I walk in a room, I am noticed — either by a White legislator or a Black legislator — they’re legislators. And at some point, in time, I have met with them, and I built the relationship.”

a legacy of trailblazers The Black lobbying corps is interconnected with several trailblazers who’ve broken barriers, and there is continued effort to nurture and grow the ranks through mentorships and networking opportunities. Former Rep. Alan Williams, now a lobbyist with Meenan P.A., was quick to point to two trailblazing women who paved the way for him and other Black lobbyists: Yolanda Cash Jackson

and Pamela Burch Fort. Jackson is among the power elites in Tallahassee. She concentrates on state government funding and appropriations as a shareholder at Miami’s Becker & Poliakoff. She recently succeeded in making Florida the first state to honor an African American woman in the U.S. Capitol with her campaign to have civil rights leader and Bethune Cookman University founder Mary McLeod Bethune chosen as one of the state’s two representatives in National Statuary Hall. “When I was chairing the Black Caucus, one of the things I wanted to try and accomplish was to bring all of the African American lobbyists together,” Williams said. “One of the things that I’m proud to be a part of that was started here recently was the National Association of African-American Lobbyists that Yolanda spearheaded.” Fort, the President of the Commerce Group, has built herself into a dominant Tallahassee figure first as a Senate staffer and then as a business lobbyist. Fort’s work extends past the Capitol with in-


volvement in a number of civic groups. “Pamela Burch Fort is for me  kind of the strategist, right,” Williams said. “When you think about it, it’s very unassuming. She has her fingertips on some of the most important policy work over the past 20 years, whether it be reapportionment, whether it be a lot of the Florida initiatives of that type of stuff.” Everyone at the roundtable acknowledged the work of Black lobbyists and legislative staffers who helped pave a way to success. Like Thornton J. Williams, Art Collins, John Thomas, Danielle McBeth, Davin Suggs, Jackye Maxey, Desinda Wood-Carper, Ecitrym LaMarr, Eli Nortelus, Jasmyne Henderson, Monesia Brown, as just a few currently making waves in the Process.

we’re in this together! “My greatest desire is to avoid the pitting against each other — where I’m competing with Alan on everything ver-

sus me supporting Alan. And I think that’s the danger that we could find because our numbers are so small,” said McGhee, who’s concerned that because the Black lobbying corps is so tiny, it might force a crab in the bucket mentality. “I called Sean Pittman when I first went private…. Sean was representing FAMU at the time. But I called him, and I called Yolanda with this simple conversation of ‘I’m now private, a lot of money is to be made by all of us. Here’s what you will never hear. You will never hear that Darrick McGhee has been calling your client, trying to take your client from you. I’m not going to be that person.’” McGhee said he continually sees his White colleagues support each other with business referrals and open doors for collaborative opportunities. He wants to make sure that spirit, which is part of the community of Black lobbyists, remains strong going forward. Pittman, an influential lobbyist with

his independent firm, Pittman Law Group, has been a counselor, employer, and mentor to many current lobbyists. Hart recalled she sought advice from Pittman and former Tallahassee Mayor John Marks when she weighed going to law school against becoming a lobbyist. “Having that conversation with John Marks and then talking to Sean, I decided I wanted to be a lobbyist and took my first job with the Association of Counties. And again, given that opportunity, I’ll never forget,” said Hart, who emphasized the importance of mentorship. “Looking at who your mentors are, and they don’t necessarily have to be Black. My mentor is ... Mary Kay Detzner, love her to death, and Carol Bracy.” Hart said with all the help she has received from power players before her, she’s eager to pay it forward with the next generation of Tallahassee’s power elite. “They all at some point, you know,

Phillip Singleton, the self-described “Hip Hop Lobbyist,” said Black lobbyists are “still trying to find ourselves … and kind of release some of the stranglehold from the old guard” while Joe Anne Hart says success comes from establishing genuine relationships.

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r o u n d ta b l e pulled me over, took me on their way, and gave me a little bit of advice that I still use today. And I think that’s what we all know we share in common in this process, is that those that were before were willing to give of themselves.”

how much progress? Williams thinks there has been positive change regarding attracting new talent into the lobbying pool. “I think you’re starting to see more and more members who are hiring African American legislative aides,” he said. Singleton, however, doesn’t think the progress is where it should be. “How many black aides are actually getting opportunities?” he asked. “They’re not.” As a young and unconventional lobbyist, Singleton talked about how he learned of the consequences of competing with other Black lobbyists when opportunities became scarce. “I’ll be honest, out of maybe the two Black lobbyists who worked for firms and then left and we went on different paths, we end up sort of being blackballed because we didn’t fall in line,” he said. Singleton said there is also an issue of some in the Process who wrongfully predetermine the skill set of Black lobbyists. “If we try to break out of that box and say, ‘I’m not just the black lobbyist.’ [They say,] ‘Guess what, I will go hire somebody else because somebody else is not going to have that much tension.’” Williams agreed that healthy competition is fair: “There’s  nothing wrong with it because iron sharpens iron, and if you don’t want your irons sharpened, then you don’t want to compete and get better than you are not, as an individual trying to grow.”

same quality service, but not same paycheck While race relations and perceptions may be hard to quantify, the disparities are clearer when crunching earnings numbers, even after a track record of winning big for their clients. McGhee said the key thing for him

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and many Black lobbyists is achieving pay equity from many of the bluechip clients who have seen their track records equal or exceed that of others in Tallahassee. “I’ve done my research of knowing what this principal has typically paid in the past, I’ve gotten a phone call with a hey, can you give us a discount?” McGhee said. “It’s not that they don’t have the budget, it’s almost like we have to prove we’re worth that retainer.” Singleton says there is a paper trail of the pay gaps for Black firms in cities and counties across the state, as he offered this scenario: “You have a $150,000 contract, right? They may hire three firms. The three firms are going to take a major portion of that. The Black firm is only going to get $30,000.” They all said it’s time for potential clients and other firms interested in collaborating to be purposeful in respecting the skill set and diversity of members in the Black lobbying corps. “There is that professionalism that you’re going to get when you see Black lobbyists walk into the room,” said Hart. “I think also when we see each other, there’s that level of support. … We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders in this process.” Like a typical family dynamic, they all cheer each other; some call each other and sometimes criticize each other. They all agree on fostering a sense of community and making a difference in the state of Florida.  “I think when a majority of Florida realizes that we’re on the front steps of changing policies that’s going to impact our communities, create jobs in our communities, break the socioeconomic issues in our communities, that’s when we can make a change,” Singleton said. But in closing out the conversation, which could have lasted all day on any of the main or subtopics that we tried to cover, Williams offered some clarity, “I would say for me is, I’m not a Black lobbyist. I’m a Black man who lobbies.”

I think when a majority of Florida realizes that we’re on the front steps of changing policies that’s going to

impact our communities,

create jobs

in our communities,

break the

socioeconomic

issues in our communities,

that’s when we can make a change.

phillip a. singleton


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PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

by rosanne dunkelberger

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For Brecht Heuchan, flying is a chance to enjoy the world.

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T

hrill seeking and safety seem like polar opposites, but lobbyist/data miner Brecht Heuchan managed to get that two-fer during his latest effort to expand his flying skills. At Patty Wagstaff Aviation Safety in St. Augustine, Heuchan took a weeklong course in August that would provide him with an endorsement to land planes with tail wheels and recover from potentially catastrophic problems while in flight, such as stalled spins. Of course, the only way to recover from the latter is to do it yourself. So with an instructor behind him, Heuchan learned how to pull a plane out of a spin as well as other aerobatic maneuvers such as loops, rolls, half-Cubans, hammerheads and wingovers.

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“If you like roller coasters, you would love this,” he enthused. “It’s like the greatest roller coaster ride you could ever take.” Heuchan is a big believer in always trying to improve his flying skills — something he encourages for all recreational pilots — and aerobatics require different and more advanced skills. “I went there specifically to put myself in a stalled spin situation so that I could recognize how to avoid those things. And then once in them, how do you get out? That’s the main focus of the course,” he said. “It is fun. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s all for the greater purpose of just being better and safer — and it is fun along the way.”

Heuchan says his affinity for flight began somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10, “but my dad is a pilot and he flew us around to all kinds of places, even when I was much younger than that.” When his family settled in Clearwater, what is now known as Clearwater Airpark was a 15-minute bike ride from his home. “My dad spent gobs of times at the airport, you know, always tinkering,” Heuchan said. “He’s good with his hands and he had his airport buddies.” One of those buddies would take Heuchan for aerobatic rides in a Piper Cub. “We were doing all this stuff in this little airplane and I was just along for the ride thinking, ‘Oh, this is cool!’ But I


“If you like roller coasters, you would love this. It’s like the greatest roller coaster ride you could ever take.”

had no appreciation and knowledge for what we were even doing back then,” he said. When Heuchan was a teenager, his father purchased land in Lake County and created a tree farm with a landing strip in the middle. While his dad let him take the controls when he was younger, Heuchan didn’t become licensed to fly until he was 38 years old. The inspiration came — as it probably has for many an intra-Florida traveler — after a creeping delay at an airport turned into a canceled flight and an overnight out-oftown stay. “That night, I said, ‘That’s it. I’m not doing this again.’ Within a week of that trip, I had started my flying lessons,”

he recalled. “It took me maybe eight months to do it. People can do it faster, but if you’re working and you have a family … for me, that was about as fast as I could go. And then I went immediately in to get my instrument rating.” While freedom from the tyranny of airlines is a plus, personal piloting is not a panacea. Heuchan said he is still at the mercy of the weather and the limits of his abilities. And no, it’s not cheaper than commercial, unless he is able to fly a few others (something he is able to do because he got his commercial rating) who will split the cost. The advantages, however, are worth it, he said. “Our middle kid, Brecht Jr., played football here in town on Friday nights.

Julianna, our college-aged daughter, played soccer for Randolph-Macon College, often on Saturdays, 700 miles from here. That’s a 12-hour drive right on a good day. So, we would go to the football game on Friday night. And then at 6:30 on Saturday morning, we departed to the Tallahassee airport bound for Northern Virginia.” His youngest son, Caleb, is still at home in 10th grade, but his two older children now both attend Randolph-Macon in Ashland, Virginia, a 3½-hour flight away in his Cirrus SR22 plane. Heuchan (his full name is pronounced Brekt Hutchin) is President and owner of Contribution Link, a political data analytics firm, and President of The Labrador Company, a lobbying firm.

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A soft spot for Labrador retrievers inspired his company name as well as charitable work with rescue groups, using his plane to shuttle the dogs from rural animal shelters to urban areas where they stand a better chance of being adopted. His businesses are in a repurposed Tallahassee firehouse, which retains some of its concrete block ambience as well as a collection of black-and-white historical photos of the site and equipment. It also houses some of his toys, including a behemoth vehicle he has dubbed the Millenium Falcon, parked where the firetrucks used to sit. Because his children all were involved in travel sports, it was originally used as a passenger van to carry up to 15 kids and their equipment, but he has since rebuilt it into an RV complete with beds, shower and toilet. “I’m pretty handy, but I had no experience doing anything like that,” he said. “But there’s a crazy amount of information on YouTube and Pinterest” courtesy of folks in the tiny home community. Heuchan leads a busy life, but flying provides a chance for him to break free and enjoy the world. “I still fly for work and there’s definitely a ton of freedom involved in it because you’re not on someone else’s schedule, there’s no TSA, there’s no sitting there wondering if (the airline) is even being truthful about what’s happening,” he said. “The thing that I still marvel at — it doesn’t matter how many times I go up there — it’s still like, ‘Wow, I’m up here in this machine and I’m just flying around, thousands and thousands of feet above the Earth’s surface.’ The stuff you can see from there is amazing and, depending on where you go … you may not hear or talk to anybody for hours at a time.” Brecht Heuchan, President of Contribution Link and The Labrador Company, trains with an instructor during a recent week-long course to expand his flying skills. Heuchan said flying is a chance for him to break free and enjoy the world.

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But for all that we watched and waited and learned about hanging chads and butterfly ballots, the entire story of Recount 2000 wasn’t told — wasn’t even known — as it happened. With 20 years of hindsight, many of the Florida players in the recount process reflect, in their own words, on what happened during those eventful days. And they predict what might be ahead this Nov. 3 — and beyond.

36 Days in 2000 An oral history

THE PLAYERS Then and Now

by rosanne dunkelberger Mitchell Berger

2000: Senior adviser to the Gore-Lieberman campaign 2020: Founder, co-chair and partner, Berger Singerman law firm practicing in complex business litigation

Sally Bradshaw

2000: Chief of Staff for Gov. Jeb Bush 2020: Bookstore owner and Gadsden County chicken farmer

I

f you were part of The Process in Florida — or just had a passing interest in politics — chances are you remember where you were the night of Election Day 2000. I do. Working for the Tallahassee Democrat at the time, I was assigned to cover the congressional race of incumbent Rep. Allen Boyd. While waiting for returns at the Democratic state headquarters, one of the networks called the presidential race for Al Gore. Much hoopla ensued, along with the tossing of T-shirts and buttons to the partisan crowd, declaring “Bushwhackers. 1 down, 1 to go.” Boyd won handily but by the time I got back to the newsroom to write, the consensus was Florida was “too close to call.” I was able to get home early, but my bureau chief husband had a longer night covering statewide races. I was asleep in the wee hours of Nov. 8 when he arrived home and woke up just long enough for him to tell me the race had been called for George Bush. The next morning, I turned on the news to discover the status was, once again, too close to call. And so it would remain for 36 more days. Somehow, the usually dry-as-dust process of vote counting would become an ongoing drama, and Florida’s usually low-key capital city became the white-hot center of the universe. Media from around the world descended on Tallahassee to breathlessly report on who would ultimately be named Leader of the Free World. All this occurred 10 months before 9/11, so security was lax and pretty much unnecessary because people behaved, even when their opinions were polar opposite. Strolling around the plaza between the Historic and new Capitol buildings, and the dolphin sculpture and the Supreme Court, you would see a lot of familiar television faces, as well as second stringers who are now news anchors, Pulitzer Prize winners and bestselling authors. You could sit in on hearings and press conferences (or go to any local fancy restaurant) and see heavy-hitting pols and lawyers like Warren Christopher, David Boies and James Baker. The time may have signaled the birth of the meme. My personal favorite was of a protestor holding an obviously Photoshopped sign that said: “Shiny objects distracted me and I voted Buchanan.”

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Tom Feeney

2000: Incoming Speaker of the Florida House 2020: President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Florida, currently finishing a book about the 2000 recount

George w BUSH President of the United States 2001-2009

Rick Flagg

2000: Owner of Florida Radio News and reporter for Clear Channel radio group 2020: Dean of the Florida Press Corps

Scott Maddox

2000: Mayor of Tallahassee 2020: Awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to fraud

Barry Richard

AL Gore Vice President of the United States 1993-2001

2000: Lawyer representing George W. Bush during the recount 2020: Shareholder, GreenbergTraurig law firm, based in Tallahassee

Ion Sancho

2000: Leon County Supervisor of Elections 2020: Elections activist

Mac Stipanovich

2000: Strategist for Secretary of State Katherine Harris 2020: Retired lawyer, raconteur

Craig Waters

2000: Spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court throughout the election recount 2020: Still Director of the Public Information Office at the Florida Supreme Court

SCREVEN Watson

2000: Executive Director, Democratic Party of Florida 2020: Lobbyist, Consultant to Democratic candidates

Charles “Charley” Wells

2000: Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court 2020: Retired, author of the book “Inside Bush v. Gore”


Election Day and the long night after Mitchell Berger — “My day started off in Florida. The morning of the election I got a phone call from Les Alexander. He owned the Houston Rockets then and lived in Palm Beach County. He said: ‘I just voted for Pat Buchanan.’ I was one of the half dozen or so people who called (Gore’s Chief of Staff) Mike Feldman to say he couldn’t concede because of the irregularities in Florida’s vote counting. By the time I flew back into Tallahassee, I was up 30 hours.” Charles Wells — “I voted at 7 a.m. in Tallahassee …

and proceeded then to the court. We had oral argument that day, and by the time I got back up from our conference after the oral argument at about 1 p.m. there were news flashes that some disputes had arisen, primarily in Palm Beach County having to do with the form of the ballot being used, which became known commonly thereafter as the ‘butterfly ballot.’”

Barry Richard — “I was a registered Democrat. I always have been. I cast my first vote for my father, who was running for City Commission in Miami Beach, and for Jack Kennedy. However, I have always separated my law practice from my political and ideological beliefs. I have had a pretty much nonpartisan practice, so I’ve represented both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, one year I represented Bill Nelson, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, and (Jeb) Bush, who was running for Governor in the same election cycle.

Mitchell Berger Founder Berger Singerman Law Firm

“Unlike today, campaigns were not lawyered up before the election and suddenly everybody was scrambling to get lawyers. My understanding … was that George W. called his brother and asked him who to hire in Florida — and he was told to hire me. It was basically the next morning, because there had already been one lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County over the so-called butterfly ballot. “I would have represented either of the contestants. Though I preferred Gore’s position on most issues, I thought they both were good human beings who had good records and who legitimately cared about what was best for the country. They just had different views as to how to get there.”

Sally Bradshaw — “I can remember it clearly because I was literally barefoot and pregnant at home when the returns started coming in. My last day of work was going to be the Friday after the Tuesday election. I had planned to come home and work on the nursery, that kind of stuff. And then the recount occurred, and all bets were off. It ended up, my last day was the end of the week after the Supreme Court ruled.” Sally Bradshaw Former Chief of Staff for Gov. Jeb Bush

Ion Sancho — “Our election went fine here [in Leon County] in 2000. The way our elections run is that [county elections supervisors] are all insular, so I really did not know what was going on in other counties. During Election Day, you’re completely swamped as an election official, making sure your own jurisdiction pulls it off properly. I was not aware of any of

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F E AT U R E

looked like a giant flea market in the Capitol courtyard. There were so many of these pop-up canvas coverings that had anchor people sitting in them and lights. In broadcast we have this thing called a multi-box. If you only have one microphone on the podium, everyone can plug in and get the sound. I have never seen as large a multi-box as was used in this thing. It ended up having hundreds of possible connections and looked like an old 1950s computer, it was so large.”

the problems until after we had counted the votes in Leon County and I had gotten home, and then I started getting calls from people around this state saying: ‘Hey, some weird stuff is going on here and can you help us?’”

Tom Feeney — “We hosted an event, probably out of the majority office, and then eventually went up to the Speaker’s office. We knew it would be a long night watching close elections. I was focused primarily on a list of 25 or 30 competitive statehouse races. Part of my goal going into the night was I need to call people that just got elected. I wanted to be one of the first to call, you know, Joe Smith, and say ‘Congratulations. You’re now a member of the Florida Legislature.’ “I knew it was going to be a late night, but not for the reasons that turned out to be. The next morning at 4 or 5 o’clock, I’m made aware that, if the election is not finally resolved …. there may be a role for the Legislature to play.” SCREVEN WATSON — “I had been in Miami the day before Election Day, and we had done a concert with Bon Jovi and Stevie Wonder out of Miami Beach …. a get out the vote (and then) I came home (to Tallahassee). Before my first cup of coffee, about seven in the morning, the phone rang, and it was Lois Frankel, the Democratic leader of the House at that point, … and she goes ‘Crap. I think I just voted for f---ing Pat Buchanan.’ That was my first call.”

The recount begins Mac Stipanovich — “I was in a Latin class on the Thursday after Election Day when my phone vibrated, and someone said ‘Can you get into Katherine Harris’ office and help her? She’s understaffed for this kind of thing.’ “Until it was all over, and sometime after it was all over, I had no profile. No one knew I was there until people started writing books after the fact. My presence as an adviser to her during all of that would not have inspired confidence that there was a nonpartisan, unbiased effort underway. “Her office windows at the time faced out onto the plaza toward the Supreme Court. To prevent protesters and passersby from looking into that big conference room, we taped the windows up with cardboard, ordered the usual raft-load of pizzas and Cokes and sat at a long conference room table and fought it out from there. Usually, after the sun set, I would be driven out of the Capitol and back to my car so that no one would see me.” Rick Flagg — There’s a videographer here in town named Kevin Deyo who’s done news and production for years. The way he described it is the regular reporters who were assigned here — the members of the Tallahassee press corps — we were like the shock team that got thrown up on the beach on D-Day: ‘We’ll send reinforcements, but right now you got to get out there and cover this thing.’ And we covered it as best we could. “When the first TV trucks started showing up, it

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Tom Feeney President and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida

Craig Waters — “I think the time when it really hit me in the face it was when the Florida Supreme Court enjoined Katherine Harris from certifying the election. Up until that point, we honestly had been operating under the assumption that the issue would not linger in the state courts very long, that it would quickly gravitate to the federal courts. Turned out the opposite was true. I don’t think any of us really were that aware early on how messed up the Florida statute was. The Florida statute that existed that time created this impossible puzzle for courts to try to disentangle. It was a Gordian knot in a lot of ways. You had 67 different county canvassing boards that could apply 67 different standards.” Scott Maddox — “Really, everybody thought it was going to be a couple of days type deal.”

Rick Flagg Dean of the Florida Press Corps

Richard — “I felt confident in the arguments I was making, but it wasn’t predictable what was going to happen. There were valid arguments being made on both sides.” Bradshaw — “Obviously Jeb loves his brother and, of course, he wanted him to be successful. But I think he was also very sensitive to the perception that, as Governor, he should not drive the process — that could actually hurt his brother. He really tried to focus on the business of the state. It was hard. It was distracting.” Feeney — “If the Legislature said we’re going to pick our slate of electors by lottery or with a dartboard or with a flip of a coin, guess what? That’s constitutional law.”

Brushes with greatness Maddox — “I ran into Warren Christopher on Monroe Street asking me where to buy pajamas because he didn’t think he was going to stay overnight.” Waters — “(Shepard Smith) was wearing the makeup we now associate with the President ... painted a color that, in normal light, looked orange. I realized after seeing the broadcast on television, that on TV it looks like a good tan. I vividly remember doing the interview with him and thinking ‘I’m being interviewed by someone who looks like they are a University of Florida fan.’ “I did an ‘interview’ with Diane Sawyer. They sent a surrogate who sat with me and asked the questions. When it was broadcast, they spliced in Diane Sawyer. I never saw her. Never talked with her or anything. It just looked that way on television.”


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The recount continues Feeney — “The Florida Supreme Court essentially said you have to count every ballot. ‘We’re going to keep counting votes until we get this right and every vote is counted.’ Well, guess what? That wasn’t the law on Election Day. You had a five-day count, period.” Maddox — “We had every hotel room booked. We had over 100 satellite trucks in Tallahassee. Then in the midst of it, the FSU-Florida game hit and all the hotels had previous reservations, so they were booting out all the members of the press. I did a community-wide call and asked for people to take members of the press into their homes. We had press members from all over the world living in people’s spare bedrooms throughout Tallahassee. I wanted Tallahassee to put its best foot forward. And it did help our economy. It was like having a home Florida State game that lasted 36 days.”

Scott Maddox Former Mayor of Tallahassee 1997-2003

Berger — “We won everything in Florida, and no one ever gives us credit for that. Even though Jeb Bush was Governor and Katherine Harris was Secretary of State, somehow we were managing to start counting votes in 67 counties before the United States Supreme Court entered an injunction against going forward.”

Flagg — “Information became so much harder to

come by after the recount began. We couldn’t just go in and talk to our usual sources and find out what was really going on. Everything had to go through a public information officer. Everything had to be signed off on by the Governor’s office. Information just came to a halt. And it got to the point where the only information we could get were those daily news conferences that were held by the opposing sides, the Republican and the Democratic legal teams.”

Richard — “There were 47 cases. The parties them-

selves only filed one suit each. All of the other suits were filed by third parties. We filed a suit early on in federal court, which actually never progressed anywhere because the federal courts deferred to the state until the Florida Supreme Court made a final decision. A reporter asked me: ‘How can you handle all these different arguments? All these different cases?’ And I said: ‘This is the Mr. Potato Head of litigation. It’s the same issues. They’re just mixed up differently in each

case.’ This was unlike any litigation, probably ever before. A case would be filed and within hours we would be in hearing and then, again within hours, we’d be in the appellate court. Everything was moving at lightning speed because we had a deadline of Dec. 12, the so-called Safe Harbor day. “I have argued before the U. S. Supreme Court four times successfully. But this was not one of them. I couldn’t leave Tallahassee. There were two cases still sitting in the Florida Supreme Court, either one of which would have given the election to Gore without any federal appeal because they didn’t involve any federal issues, and there were enough votes being challenged so that if they had won either one of them, Gore would have been President. “Actually, there was little chance that Gore was going to win once the Secretary of State had certified a delegation for Bush.”

Barry Richard Lawyer representing George W. Bush during the recount

Waters — “We had been live doing livestreaming since 1997 … but I don’t think people really realized the impact of something like that in a news story … until Bush v. Gore happened. All of a sudden, people around the world were able to watch the livestream in real time as it was happening and make their own judgments.” WATSON — “I remember getting a call from … a psychic in Germany (saying) they knew where ballot boxes were. We all stood around the fax waiting for the psychic from Germany to tell us there are. It came through and it was a crudely drawn map with a Big X like a pirate ship map somewhere in the Panhandle. I wish I had kept it.”

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On that “Recount” movie Stipanovich — “It just wasn’t fair. They picked Bruce McGill, who’s about a foot shorter than me, to play me and they picked Laura Dern, who’s about a foot taller than Katherine, to play her.” Berger — “My most noted legal accomplishment was captured in the movie. I was the first one to point out that Bush v. Gore was not to be considered a legal precedent. According to the United States Supreme Court, the last line of the decision makes it clear that no one can cite it as precedent. Which means they knew they were being very disingenuous.” Sancho — “The last time I saw it, I was so aggravated my spouse banned me from watching it anymore because she was afraid I was going to throw a chair through the television. In the movie, they bring up the fact that a person had been identified as a felon and wasn’t allowed to vote — but they weren’t a felon. And they make the correct statement, which is, ‘We can’t count a vote that wasn’t cast in the election. There’s nothing we can do about that.’ That’s true. All of these individuals that were barred the right to vote had no right to redress. And that ended up causing legislation to be placed into the Help America Vote Act, which passed in 2002, and basically created the provisional ballot.”

Epilogue

WATSON — “I did an NPR podcast a couple of

months ago, and I took my daughter. When it was finished, my daughter’s like, ‘I didn’t even know any of this. And why weren’t you in the movie?’”

Brouhahas Berger — (On the so-called Brooks Brothers Riot

in Miami) “There was property being destroyed. Doors were being pounded upon. Joe Geller (Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman) was arrested, supposedly he was eating chads. People felt threatened. What’s going to happen if, on Election Day, people go down the line and start coughing on people waiting to vote? That’s the modern version of the Brooks Brothers riot.”

Waters — “The first thing I got from the New York Times was a demand letter from one of their New York attorneys demanding access to documents, access to everything. I got the attorney on the phone and I’m trying to explain to them: ‘You don’t understand. This is Florida. You already have access to all of that.’” Feeney — “When I was asked (by a reporter) what’s the Florida House going to do if the Florida Supreme Court says, keep counting votes? I said, ‘Well, in this case we would simply, potentially just ignore the Florida Supreme Court, which is arrogant and obnoxious. But it’s what the Constitution calls for.’”

Ion Sancho Former Leon County Supervisor of Elections

Mac Stipanovich Former Strategist for Secretary of State Katherine Harris

Stipanovich — “I believe when you counted the votes among those who voted properly that day under any means used at that time to determine how a vote was properly cast, George Bush won. But I believe a majority of Floridians who went to the polls that day attempted to vote for Al Gore.” Waters — “One of the strangest episodes I’ve had in my life (was when) I kind of sneaked up on the press. As soon as they see me, all of a sudden, the microphones come out and people are switching to turn equipment on, and they’re jabbing microphones in my face. “I came away from that a little more appreciative of the problems of famous people. It lasted for 36 days and lingered for a little bit longer, but it went away. I can’t imagine having to live with that your entire life. When I read these stories about Harry and Meghan or whoever …. I’m actually glad I’m not in that fishbowl anymore.” Maddox — “Probably the most profound thing that resulted in it for Tallahassee is we no longer had to spell the name of our city.” Richard — “I don’t think anybody was really thinking beyond the moment we were in. It was Kafkaesque. Tallahassee is the state capital where a lot of stuff is going on, but it’s essentially a sleepy little town. Overnight, we were transformed into this media center of the world. And the day after the Supreme Court’s decision, it was like nothing had ever happened.” Feeney — “I was just one tree in a forest of history.”

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the fact that states have no requirement to guarantee that every citizen has a right to have a vote cast and counted for the office of the presidency. You’re only as good as your state legislature provides for you. You can have a great state legislature that’s committed to counting all the votes … or you can have one that has so many loopholes and hoops that citizens have to jump through that large numbers of them fail to cast a proper vote. But there’s no right to have your vote counted, protected by the United States Constitution, and that’s something I learned out of the 2000 election.”

Feeney — “I think we have become an increasingly divided country where too many people are screaming past each other on both sides. I don’t blame any particular side solely. I do think we’ve become more litigious. I think one of the lessons some people took out of the Bush/Gore issue was that the more street protests you do and the more lawyers you have and the more lawsuits, the better for your side. I’m hopeful, but I don’t know if I’m completely optimistic.” Craig Waters Director of the Public Information Office at the Florida Supreme Court

Sancho — “In 2000 … there was no such thing as a provisional ballot. The story of the felons purge was completely not included in all the stories about the 2000 election because it was not discovered until after the election. Florida spends $35 million annually to educate their citizens on how to play the lottery. The State of Florida had no budget — spent no dollars on a statewide basis — for voter education, telling citizens on how to vote properly or what the regulations were in Florida.” WATSON — “In some ways it was the beginning of

tribalism, where people dug in.”

ScrevEn Watson Lobbyist, Consultant to Democratic candidates

2020 and beyond Berger — “I’ve been doing this for 44 years. I’m not pessimistic, I’m realistic. We started off with an idea in 1787 that said slaves counted as three-fifths of a person to the Electoral College but couldn’t vote. No women could vote. Some states didn’t use the popular vote when choosing the Electoral College. We’ve come a long way from there, but we’ve got a long way to go.” Sancho — “When I retired in 2016 I kind of disap-

peared for a while …. I didn’t re-emerge until 2019. I started getting back in elections — observation and stuff like that — and I received an email from a supervisor of elections who basically told me that I didn’t know when to ride off into the sunset, and I should keep my mouth shut because I’m still causing him trouble. You know what? If the truth causes you trouble, that’s your problem, not mine. “Today’s epidemic of voter suppression is due to

Charles Wells Former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court

Flagg — “In a way, Florida still hasn’t lived down the reputation of 2000, even though, if you look at it, a lot of our elections have been pretty smooth since then. But it always seems like every big year there’s one or two counties somewhere that just screw the pooch horribly. And then all those bad memories come rushing back. “My wish is that we’re not that busy, that it’s over before midnight. But I have this horrible feeling that no matter what happens, no matter who wins, it’s not going to be over for at least a month after the election. They may not have a real issue, but they’re geared up. They’ve got the attorneys on staff, ready to go. So why not roll the dice?” Richard — “I don’t think that we’re going to have a repeat, because problems that were peculiar to 2000 have been corrected. The Legislature fixed the statutory problems, and nobody uses punch card ballots anymore. Another big difference from 2000 was what we were litigating over. First of all, it was after the election …. The battle was over with everybody. Nobody was suggesting there was any fraud or that the system was corrupt. “(In 2000) I was asked a number of times by reporters if I thought either candidate would be able to govern after that. What I told them — and I truly believed — was: ‘When this is over, everybody’s going to go back to work, satisfied that we have a President, and everything will go back to normal.’ I don’t think that’s going to happen this time.” Wells — “I think (the Electoral College) has outlived its usefulness. But my opinion is it’s not going to be changed because of the fact that the small states have the advantage in the Electoral College and it requires their votes in order to change it. It’s not going to be changed, and so you’ve got to work through it.” Waters — “The Florida Supreme Court started using social media in 2009. That was also viewed as controversial. There are a lot who still refuse to use social media because they view it is somehow beneath the dignity of courts. I don’t share that belief.”

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Most Influential People in Florida Politics curated by peter schorsch

advocates counselors industry leaders legends lobbyists media players thought leaders titans

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W

henever we announce the INFLUENCE 100, we say influence is difficult to quantify, but you know it when you see it. You’ll “know it” when you peruse

this latest edition of the 100, a review of the most influential people in Florida policy and politics. No doubt about it, 2020 has been a unique year. COVID-19 was just background noise when the Legislature began Session in January. Now, it has decimated key elements of the state’s economy — and touched, sometimes profoundly, the lives of every Floridian.  And while police killings of blacks and other people of color had created simmering resentments in years past, the death of George Floyd kicked off a summer of righteous anger that shone a bright light on the subject of systemic racism in the nation. The best of Florida’s top influencers are able to navigate these uncertain times.  Once again, the list covers campaign consultants and the people they get to open their wallets. The people who decide who becomes a candidate and who stays home. Then there are the ardent advocates. The media elite. The people who make “The Process” in Tallahassee work. You know, the ones who decide which bills get filed — and which ones never see the light of a Capitol copy machine. As before, don’t expect to see anybody in elected office, running a state or other government agency, or running for office.

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Jon Adrabi / PLAYER Jon Adrabi is Florida’s very own “local, national guy” when it comes to fundraising. If you’re a U.S Senator running for reelection or a candidate for Congress, he is your first call to pull fundraising dollars out of the Sunshine State. He has a foothold in the Southeast, partly from relationships built during his time as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 national deputy finance director. He advises all the alphabet soup organizations in Washington on how to get money out of target-rich Florida: from the DGA to the DNC to the DCCC. At times he has worked for candidates, the “hard side” entities, and at other times, he picks up big checks for national independent expenditures. Because of his endless connections to Florida and national donors, local candidates compete to be added to his client roster. Most recently, he joined Daniella Levine Cava’s mayoral campaign to bring national prominence to what is largely a local campaign. While a successful consultant, his biggest accomplishment is that of devoted family guy. He lives in Miami with his wife, Abra, and their two daughters, Maya and Dora. Most days he is counting campaign checks, but on Wednesdays it’s all about doughnuts and daughters. — Ashley Walker, Partner, Mercury Public Affairs

Mat Bahl / KEY STAFFER Mat Bahl is an influencer of influencers. Without fanfare or self-promotion, he has strategically guided, mapped out, and executed the ambitious plans of elected leaders for nearly two decades. He has often received far more blame and not nearly enough credit for his tremendous impact on the Process. In a world where many people think they are the smartest person in the room, Mat Bahl actually is. I have watched with admiration as Mat implemented institutional changes that created a better work environment for the professional staff of the Florida House and dramatically improved the way members of

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the public interact with their elected leaders. A master of three-dimensional chess, he has spearheaded campaigns, both political and policy-driven, that have made positive changes felt in the day-to-day lives of people across our state. On a personal level, Mat has been generous with his time and approaches every conversation as a problemsolver. He listens patiently and responds directly, which is a refreshing style in a world that operates with a great deal of polite resistance. He also has a wonderful sense of humor, an attribute I greatly value. I feel fortunate to work with him over the next two years. — Kathy Mears, top adviser to Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson


Amy Baker / WONK Whether you’re entrenched in the legislative process or are one of 20 million people living in Florida, you have been directly impacted by Amy Baker. Florida, the third largest state in the nation, can remain competitive only with a robust economy — which, in turn, can be built only upon the foundation of strong and verifiable economic data and trends. Amy has led Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research steadfastly and brilliantly for decades. That’s because she is a proficient, steady, thoughtful, nonpartisan, and dedicated public servant. Amy has served the state and our taxpayers with honor, distinction, and credibility. Most notable is when presenting such information to elected officials, Amy may disagree without being disagreeable. And in today’s politically polarized times, this is valuable and refreshing. She has consistently partnered with Florida TaxWatch in our independent public policy research and subsequent reports, briefings, and recommendations. Amy has graciously served as an instructor to the TaxWatch Institute for Florida Citizenship each year and is so widely respected because she serves in this leadership role with sophisticated style. Congratulations on being named to the INFLUENCE 100. — Dominic Calabro, President, Florida TaxWatch

Tim Baker / PLAYER Tim Baker and I first connected over our shared values as conservatives. Our friendship was cemented when after a long day of shooting commercials, we made plans to grab dinner. We drove separately to the restaurant and I waited for him to come inside. When he finally came in, he apologized for the delay, explaining he had been on FaceTime with his wife, Jessica, and children, Brooks and Olivia. Tim explained that he wanted his children to see him before they went to bed. As a husband and father who does the same thing when I’m on the road, I recognized a kindred spirit. And just as he was trained to do in the Marines, he throws himself fully into the mission. Because for Tim, each and every one of these campaigns is the front line for freedom. Perhaps the greatest asset Tim brings to any mission is his candor, his tell-it-like-it-is approach to leadership. He’s trustworthy and fiercely loyal. He’s a ruthless strategist and tactician, balanced with a laid back demeanor and the dry wit common to a lawyer. And that is why he’s one of Florida’s most influential player. — Ray Rodrigues, state Representative, District 76

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Rodney Barretto / PLAYER Those that know Rodney Barreto describe him as someone who is solutionoriented and positive. His motto is “attitude is everything,” and this upside approach has made him an outsized figure in Florida politics with some even calling him “Mr. Super Bowl” — a reference to his successful efforts bringing three Super Bowl games to Miami and his dedication to doing big things. From first launching his career as a police officer to now chairing the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Rodney has more than 30 years of civic leadership and working to improve the community. He has impacted South Florida in a multitude of ways — as a prolific fundraiser for top GOP leaders, as an influential business leader, and most recently as an entrepreneurial developer who re-opened the Red Fish Grill in historic Matheson Hammock Park. His profile is as diverse as they come. He evolved to take on new challenges and reach new heights as a professional and community leader. He has also taken on the new title of “Pops” as he and his wife, Shelia, focus on being grandparents to two granddaughters, which are the center of their universe. — Ashley Walker, Partner, Mercury Public Affairs

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Heather Barker / PLAYER Many consultants in powerful political circles are quick to let the world know how important they are, but not Heather Barker. She selflessly works to promote the Governor without any expectation or yearning for notoriety. Heather is a smart, loyal, and effective team member who plays a critical role for the Governor. I know she will be embarrassed by this recognition, but it is well deserved. — Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting

Sarah Bascom / GREAT COMMUNICATOR Sarah Bascom combines a healthy respect and skepticism for the press; an appreciation for the importance of shedding the most positive light on the position of her client; a sixth sense for what the ultimate audience of readers or viewers will appreciate and believe; a robust policy experience, gained from her work with policy titans like Jim King, Bill Galvano as well as new leaders, like Gov.  Ron DeSantis  and incoming Speaker  Chris Sprowls; and a practical understanding of the optimal opportunities to move voters in the direction of supporting those policies. She combines a balance of zealous loyalty and passion for her clients while strictly adhering to principles of integrity and honesty that have elevated her to become a titan in her own right in the field of media and communications. — Tom Feeney, President, Associated Industries of Florida

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Katie Betta / GREAT COMMUNICATOR Katie Betta is one of the most accomplished, polished and talented communicators in Florida. During my presidency, having her in the room was a requirement when making important decisions on complex matters. For more than eight years, Katie has served the Florida Senate and the people of Florida, leading communications and media relations for four Senate presidents, so far. I am honored to have had Katie on my team and continue to look to her for valuable counsel and advice. Katie’s knowledge of the Senate, her keen instinct and her unwavering dedication to her profession have made her a sought after adviser by many who have led the chamber. Congratulations, Katie, on once again being named a top influencer in Florida. Well deserved! — Bill Galvano, President of the Florida Senate

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Brewster and Amanda Bevis / POWER COUPLE “You’re a smart, savvy woman, who could easily consider world domination as a next career move.” While it may be a funny West Wing quote, there are few that embody that as much as Amanda Bevis. Amanda isn’t just the best communications strategist in the business, she’s one of the best people you want in the foxhole next to you when the bullets are flying. She worked in the Bush White House, DACS, Adam Putnam campaign, and helped craft many a political strategy or message, but the house she runs best is the Bevis house. Outside of her duties running a top tier communications firm, I know she is most proud of the four boys she is raising: Liam, Drew, Ford, and her husband, Brewster. If you’ve been in the halls of the Florida Capitol for even the shortest of times, you have no doubt run into Brewster Bevis, or Triple, as his friends call him. Brewster was a Bush/Cheney alum having been a presidential appointee during the Bush administration. He also worked for the Association of Builders & Contractors. As Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs for AIF, there isn’t a pro-business piece of legislation that Brewster hasn’t had a hand in. When not working for the men and women of Florida’s businesses, you can find him passionately advocating for the causes near and dear to his heart, like the March of Dimes helping premature babies in Tallahassee. Brewster’s Tallahassee roots are as deep as the live oak trees that line the beautiful canopy roads and there’s nothing he loves more than sharing memories in the woods with his three boys. But one of the things you should do today: Follow his epic tweets on Twitter. — Justin Hollis, The Southern Group

James Blair / PLAYER There are generally three attributes that successful people in the Process possess, and most only have one. First, talent. Second, loyalty. And, third, political wisdom. James  Blair  has all three. His talent is off the charts, his loyalty unmatched, and his political wisdom is far ahead of his time. One of his former employers said, “James Blair might just be one of the finest human beings I have ever met.” If you have had the opportunity to meet  James, you know this is true. A lot of influencers disappear, but what’s certain about James is that he will go as far and as long in the political realm as he desires. And, it doesn’t hurt that he’s married to the most up and coming political fundraiser in the state, Samantha Blair. — Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Education

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Ron Book / LOBBYIST Some people come to Tallahassee and never make an imprint. Ron has a legacy. Within Florida political circles across our state, the name Ron Book is synonymous for being at your desk, working, at 5 a.m. With no firm website, Facebook or Twitter, the fact that Ron can operate at such a high level is a testament to the effort he puts forth on behalf of his clients. I think he still uses a Rolodex, but no matter, he gets the same work done as some of the 20-person firms. When you arrive at the Capitol early in the morning, he is there before you and leaves after you. He is always on, hovering around in committee rooms, marching out of the “Speaker’s” Office. And he fills out speakers’ cards too. He floats from meeting to meeting. You won’t be able to talk to him, he will be on his cell phones, one in each hand, simultaneously. If you go to his office, don’t ask about his collection of presidential memorabilia, unless you have an hour to spare. From his advocacy in the statehouse to his nonprofit activism, especially on homelessness, much like his suits, he is one of a kind. — Jared Moskowitz, Director, Florida Division of Emergency Management

Carol Bracy / LOBBYIST I knew I had hit the jackpot in 1994, when I joined the Florida Association of Counties as their Legislative Director. They had a very young and talented lobbying staff, but one person stood out among the rest: Carol Bracy had a drive, knowledge and eagerness to be one of the best in the business. After I became Executive Director of the Association, I knew immediately that Carol would be the best person to fill my old position. In 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Toni Jennings as his Lieutenant Governor, and Carol got the call to be her Chief of Staff.

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She garners such respect among elected and appointed officials and staff alike. When Jennings left office, Carol joined Smith and Ballard, now Ballard Partners, in 2007 and has truly hit her stride. Carol’s lobbying abilities speak for themselves, but her leadership and organizational skills were noticed early on by Brian (Ballard), who promoted Carol to Vice President and Managing Partner of the firm. Carol stands out as one of the best because of her passion for public service, her honesty in dealing with officials and her unique ability to be successful many times against the odds. — Mary Kay Cariseo Detzner, Director, Nemours Foundation


David Browning / LOBBYIST

David Browning is unquestionably a top influencer in Florida politics. His energy, creativity and smart wit coupled with his keen understanding of the Legislative Process make him an ideal candidate for the distinction. Early in his career, David built campaign war chests for many of the top Republicans in the state. Dozens of campaign victories in the executive and legislative branches were made possible through David’s fundraising efforts, including the House’s supermajority takeover and Gov. Rick Scott’s defeat of Charlie Crist in 2014. Leaders in the Senate like Mike Haridopolos, Andy Gardiner and John Thrasher also had David on their teams. For the last decade, his influence has evolved from campaign finance to lobbying. As a Partner at The Southern Group, David advocates on behalf of global brands, negotiates legislative measures that benefit Florida and remains a go-to for political analysis. If you know David, then you know his brain is constantly on the move. It’s always churning, coming up with the next client, the next move or the next great idea. David’s not only an influencer, I’m proud to count him as a friend. — Kathleen Passidomo, state Senator, District 28

Paul Bradshaw / LOBBYIST I knew years ago that Paul Bradshaw is offthe-charts smart — having provided me with great advice, strategy and execution in a race for Governor. It was not until I joined The Southern Group eight years ago that I recognized how much he was much sought out by political figures and business leaders for his unique insight. A look at The Southern Group’s client list speaks volumes. While leading The Southern Group since its founding, he also established himself as a shrewd businessperson. He has multiple real estate holdings, a state-of-the-art university housing project using ship containers and a chicken farm of unique chickens sought by customers worldwide. Paul is very much a private person, not the typical back-slapping, attention-seeking person that is the mold for most people involved in the political process. He has an equally influential person in his wife, Sally. Together I can’t think of a couple that yield more political influence. In founding The Southern Group, Paul established the footprint on how to set up a political consulting firm — a model that is now followed by all the governmental affairs operations in Tallahassee. Paul has a sense of humor to rival Churchill: Very quick and always a great laugh. I am very happy to have Paul and Sally as great friends. — Jim Smith, Partner, The Southern Group

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Dean Cannon / LOBBYIST Many are familiar with Dean Cannon’s tremendous success and ongoing influence as an attorney, lobbyist, and chairman of GrayRobinson. Dean is also an extraordinary political force whose influence is in large part responsible for the success of the Republican Party for more than a decade. Dean’s influence led House Republicans out of a period of crisis to a supermajority. He built a coalition that changed leadership at the Republican Party of Florida, resulting in the most successful election in modern history. He went on to serve as a strong, conservative Speaker of the House, leading Florida out of the Great Recession. The people of Florida are still reaping the benefits of Dean Cannon’s decisive leadership at a critical time in our state’s history. His political and policy successes made his speakership a model, and I have often sought his advice. Dean would be the first to tell you his myriad accomplishments would not have been possible without the influence of his beloved wife, Ellen. Dean is a political and legal force, but his character is reflected most in what he holds as his highest honor, husband to Ellen and father to Dean III, Katherine, and Sarah. — Bill Galvano, President of the Florida Senate

Kevin Cate / THOUGHT LEADER There’s no more gifted storyteller in politics than Kevin Cate. Not only does he have a deep understanding of his audience, but he understands how to bring out the true voice of the candidates he works with. When you watch his commercials, it’s like listening to your favorite album — it gets better and better and makes you want to experience it again and again. Kevin is not only creatively gifted, but he is one of the hardest workers I have encountered. He drops everything to be a friend, confidant, and strategist. You will always want him on your side. — Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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120 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301 O: (850)727-7087 | F: (850)807-2502 WWW.RAMBACONSULTING.COM

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Kelly Cohen / LOBBYIST The fact that Kelly Cohen has become synonymous with Orlando is a testament to her deep connection to her city. Orlando’s rise mirrors her ascendance as an influencer. There’s no one today who has their finger on the pulse of Central Florida more than her, as her relationships and experience are virtually unmatched among community leaders. Kelly takes pride in her craft and is cognizant of her unique place in the political ecosystem. She’s also one of the many heirs to a tradition of strong women making things happen in Central Florida. The road paved by the trailblazing women who led this region in the ‘90s ensured that modern Orlando is more open, inclusive and accessible. Kelly and her peers are continuing that legacy. Kelly is a unique talent who possesses all of the necessary traits of an effective advocate: political acumen, policy smarts, invaluable relationships, enviable client development skills, and the respect of the region’s key interest groups. Simply put, if you are building a team to get something done in Orlando, you need Kelly Cohen at the table. — Adam Babington, Vice President of External Affairs, Walt Disney World

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Rachel Cone / LOBBYIST She has been called a steel magnolia. I just call Rachel Cone a won’t quit, get it done professional and friend. Her charm and Southern accent are genuine. She cares deeply about people doing the right thing. But behind the grin is a granite-like passion and determination to deliver for the people she serves. It has been a privilege to watch her bloom over the course of her incredible career. Starting out as a hard-charging journalist, she shifted to a career in politics. As the former Mayor of Jacksonville, I, and all the people in our city, were the beneficiaries of Rachel’s pivot. She listened well, studied the issues and was strategic in her thinking. Those are the gifts that caught the attention of then-Gov. Rick Scott, setting her on a course to Tallahassee’s blue chip status:

First as Communications Director for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, then as Deputy Chief of Staff in the Governor’s office and finally as Secretary of Transportation. Lobbyists, business leaders, elected officials and agency heads will tell you they always got an answer, even if it was one they didn’t want to hear. Rachel’s not a games player. She’s a straight shooter who tells it like it is, but always with a smile. Now as Managing Partner in The Southern Group’s Tallahassee office, she’s a leader among leaders. In the nearly 10 years since her arrival in Tallahassee, Rachel has made an impact, generating a wave of influence and respect that earns her a spot in the rarified air of Sunshine State politics. — John Peyton, former Jacksonville Mayor

Michael Corcoran / LOBBYIST

For more than a decade, Mike Corcoran has quarterbacked the lobbying, advocacy and government relations efforts across our entire portfolio of companies. Over time he has become a trusted adviser, confidant and friend. Mike is straightforward, hardworking and honorable. He shoots straight and operates with the highest level of integrity. Mike’s an honest guy, not an ego guy. His laser focused intensity and strong character are key reasons he has been successful. In my experience, Mike has the best mind available when it comes to Florida politics. His political judgment is informed, nuanced and reliable, and he knows the political process inside and out. He also knows people, and politics is all about people. In that respect, Mike is truly exceptional. The depth and reach of his relationships across Florida, at the national level and beyond, are second to none. Mike always knows who to call to get results. He’s an extremely skilled negotiator, knows how to close a deal and how to make sure each party achieves what they need to succeed. If you spend more than five minutes with Mike, you find out where his heart truly lies. Mike’s commitment to his faith, his family and his friends is first and foremost. Mike is also a genuinely nice guy whose main motivation in life is helping others succeed. People rely on Mike because they know they can trust him. I do, and I’m sure anyone else who knows Mike feels the same way. — Jeffrey Soffer, Chairman and CEO, Fontainebleau Development

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Ben Crump / ADVOCATE Ben Crump has become a household name because he understands that to win in a court of law you first have to make your case in the court of public opinion. And he thrives there, speaking truth to power – with a bullhorn. His representation of Black people who were killed by police or vigilante violence — Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and more – has made him a well-known face and a regular interview subject on national platforms like CNN, MSNBC, the Breakfast Club, and TMZ. But when the time comes to make a case in court, there is no more passionate and persuasive a legal advocate than Ben Crump. Recently, he achieved a massive jury verdict – which also happened to be the largest ever in a Zoom trial – with $411 million for a man

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who was partially paralyzed when his motorcycle collided with  a truck  parked in an interstate  emergency lane with no lights or flashers on. And the historic $12 million settlement he won in the Breonna Taylor case placed the greatest value ever on the life of a murdered Black woman and included a sweeping slate of police reforms. He’s been called “the hardest working lawyer in America,” “the lawyer Black families have on speed dial” and “Black America’s Attorney General.” And he’s making “Black Lives Matter” not just a slogan or a movement, but a reality. — Dr. R. B. Holmes, Jr., is the pastor of the historic Bethel Missionary Baptist Church


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Ana Cruz / LOBBYIST As this current election year shows us, politics – especially in Florida – can be a rough and tumble sport. For many, politics is a zerosum game where either you win or you lose and nothing else matters. But for the true masters of politics, those who have staying power and achieve success, politics is not just about results – it’s about the relationships and experience you gain along the way. For Ana Cruz politics has been a way of life, and she, better than anyone I know, understands the true value of relationships. Relationships are how you get things done, how you win elections, and how you leave a lasting impact on those around you. If you have been involved in politics over the last 25 years, you know Ana Cruz, and you likely have a story about how she went above and beyond to help you when you needed it most. Nothing better epitomizes her graciousness like her mentorship of the next generation of women in politics. She has dedicated her career to the empowerment of women in the political process and her efforts to foster a better future for women speaks to who Ana is at her core.  Ana built her reputation and a successful career through a thoughtful and pragmatic approach. She understands that no one person or one party has a monopoly on good ideas, and she constantly looks to find the best in each and every person she meets. Ana builds coalitions of the willing – those individuals who, like her, actually want to tackle problems and produce better outcomes for her community and for her clients.  Her brilliance, her kindness, and her straightforward style is what led her to where she is today – Managing Partner with Ballard Parters, Florida’s (and now one of Washington’s) most successful firms where she represents clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local nonprofits that help her give back to the community she loves.  As a fellow citizen of Tampa, I think I speak for all of us who call this wonderful place home when I say Ana Cruz is our trailblazer, our advocate, and our First Lady. She exemplifies how politics, policy, and public service can truly be noble pursuits and the best way to affect change, and I am personally fortunate to call her my friend. — Chad Chronister, Hillsborough County Sheriff

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Casey DeSantis / ONE OF A KIND At a recent campaign rally in Sanford, President Donald Trump made a statement regarding Gov. Ron DeSantis I think people on both sides of the political aisle, and even our friends at Politifact, would agree with. President Trump said: “His wife, Casey DeSantis, is better than him.” No offense to our great Governor, but I think he would concede that Casey is truly the heart of the DeSantis administration. The influence, but more importantly the impact, our First Lady has had on our state over these last two years can be seen not only in the halls of the Governor’s Mansion and Executive Office where she serves as a top adviser and confidant to our Governor, but in homes across our state where children and families have benefited from her clear vision and spirited tenacity for family-centered public policy initiatives that reduce bureaucratic red tape and cut straight to the core of important issues facing our communities. From family mental health to child protection and a whole host of other issues, she utilizes her innate compassion, class, and grace to first listen, and to then advocate for meaningful, common sense solutions. Florida is surely better for her service, and our First Lady is just getting started. — Wilton Simpson, Senate President-designate and state Senator, District 10

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Matt Dixon / MEDIA I could talk about Matt Dixon’s immense talent or his propensity for scoops (especially because he hates that word), but what always struck me the most is that deep down, he’s a decent guy. Even when he wants to strangle a co-worker. Not too many years ago, the now dearly departed Tampa Tribune, where I worked, and the then-Scripps newspaper chain, where Matt was with the Naples Daily News, created a combined Tallahassee bureau. It was after the model of the Herald-Times bureau, or “Death Star,” as a certain member of the press corps termed it. Someone else christened us as “Scribune.” Every Friday morning, Matt and I would gab about the events of the week for a podcast. One episode, I got a little too exuberant and started singing. It speaks to Matt that though he winced, he never once complained, even though his better sense of judgment made him edit out my crooning. He spent a lot of time on barstools to get to know people in The Process and become the plugged-in journalist he is today. But he’s the same guy who’ll have your back when you’re in a pinch or buy you a beer when you’re feeling down. And because he’s actually crazy enough to think he can change things, he does. —Jim Rosica, news director, Tallahassee Democrat and Florida capital bureau coordinator, USA TODAY Network.

Carol Dover / INDUSTRY LEADER It takes a unique skill set to successfully lead an organization tasked with protecting, educating and promoting the diverse interests of Florida’s leading industry. Such a leader must be tireless in the face of adversity, be a fearless advocate and constantly demonstrate grace under pressure. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, which represents the interests of a nearly $112 billion industry that employs nearly 1.5 million people across the state, is fortunate to have just such a leader in Carol Dover. During her tenure with FRLA, Carol has deftly helped her members navigate one crisis after another. Whether it be the downturns in tourism because of events like the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill or any number of major hurricanes, Carol is always at the forefront of the recovery efforts. Her ability to bring people together, to find consensus and graciously push politicians, CEOs and policymakers toward common goals, has undeniably helped achieve historic success for tourism in Florida as evidenced by the record 131 million tourists who visited Florida last year. And while this year has presented unimaginable challenges for her industry, one fact remains: Carol will face them and conquer them with her characteristic grace. — Andy Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton

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Eric Eikenberg / ADVOCATE I have known Eric Eikenberg for many years, and I have always considered him a man with unwavering passion, commitment to a cause, and a deep-rooted love for his state and its precious resources. Eric was only 26 when, as chief of staff to the late Congressman Clay Shaw, he helped implement the biggest environmental restoration strategy in history, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Today, as CEO of The Everglades Foundation, Eric has been key to executing that plan, helping secure $200 million from Washington for restoration projects in 2019 and a presidential budget request for $250 million more in 2020. He and the Foundation have scored even greater wins in Tallahassee, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has put restoration projects on a fast track — and backed it up with a commitment of $2.5 billion over four years. Savvy in the political arena, Eric has built an effective coalition that extends far beyond traditional environmentalists to include boating manufacturers, outdoor recreation retailers and others. “Florida’s economy is based on clean water,” Eric says. For The Everglades Foundation, it has been a winning message. — Jack Nicklaus, professional golfer and recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Lincoln Medal.

Gary Fineout / MEDIA Like most great reporters, there is a sizable chunk of Gary Fineout’s brain that is batshit crazy. That, I suspect, is how he has maintained more than two decades in Tallahassee not just a perpetual indignant streak, but also his relentless addiction to information. That drive to understand a bill better than its sponsor does, to plant his cheek against the door of a closed caucus meeting, to keep digging for intelligence to ensure substantive reporting supplants superficial reporting is what makes Gary probably the best state capitol reporter in America. But it must take a toll and probably explains why the guy is so damn grumpy all the time. He is the Tantalus of Tallahassee, cursed with an all-consuming thirst for information that can never be properly quenched. Gary has never fit comfortably in the many media outlets who employed him – The Associated Press, Miami Herald, Daytona NewsJournal, Tallahassee Democrat, New York Times regional chain, and now POLITICO, usually because he cared a lot more about what was happening than his bosses. Still he endures, a universally respected, equal opportunity pain in the rear to anyone getting in the way of his ferreting out the truth. Thank God. — Adam Smith, Senior Vice President, Mercury Public Affairs; former political editor, Tampa Bay Times

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Ben Gibson / TOP LAWYER Election time in Florida means lawyers get to have all the fun. And who’s having a better time than Ben Gibson, who has emerged as a go-to adviser for the GOP? Ben cut his political teeth beginning in 2008 as an aide to Speaker-designate Dean Cannon who was running House campaigns. He spent the remainder of the decade doing just about every interesting and important thing a Florida political lawyer could do. Lawyer in the Florida Legislature? Check. Attorney for Gov. Rick Scott? Check. Early supporter, adviser, and eventual transition general counsel for Gov. Ron DeSantis? Check. Leading role in hundreds of judicial appointments? Check. Start a solo practice and turn it into an overnight success? Check. Represent the RNC, NRCC, and NRSC during election cycles? Check. Join Shutts & Bowen, one of Florida’s most influential law firms? Check. Serve as general counsel to the RPOF? Check. Serve as the State Board of Education’s youngest member? Check. Marry the amazing Jordan Gibson, a rising political star in her own right? Check. Ben has done in a decade what most can’t accomplish in a career. Eight years ago, Speaker Cannon told me that if I hired a young lawyer named Ben Gibson to work in Gov. Scott’s legal office, I would never regret it. He was right. Ben — one of the most dedicated, unflappable lawyers I know — has become a star. His light will shine brightly in Florida legal and political circles for years to come. — Jesse Panuccio, Partner, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and former Acting Associate Attorney General of the United States

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Jeff Hartley / LOBBYIST Jeff Hartley has been responsible for helping to grow us from a very small company, representing a handful of clients, to one of the most wellknown and respected firms in Tallahassee. Jeff grew up in the political process. Early in his career, Jeff hit the campaign trail for weeks at a time to manage highly targeted House Republican campaigns around the state. He was responsible for coordinating all fundraising efforts, policy positions and public appearances, as well as media events and direct mail buys. Through those campaigns and his early years patrolling the halls of the Capitol, Jeff learned to understand the value of relationships among members of the Legislature and their professional staff. I am so proud to have been partners with Jeff for all these years. Jeff is a brother to me. As he recently pointed out, we have spent the bulk of our political careers together.  Thank goodness he is incredibly likable (which is a great counterbalance to me!) and can make anyone feel at ease in any situation, no matter how contentious. Jeff has a knack for understanding people and connecting with them effortlessly. Jeff is a diligent team player who never flinches or blinks an eye, no matter the task at hand. Jeff has had a tremendous impact on policymaking and politics in Florida. I have been fortunate enough to work with him over the course of my career and can’t wait to watch him leave an even larger footprint on this Process in the years to come. — Matt Bryan, President, Smith Bryan Myers

Adam Hasner / INDUSTRY LEADER The advice still rings in my head: “When you’re someone’s travel aide, you get to know them better than anyone. You’ll either become lifelong friends, or you’ll never talk again. There is no middle ground.” Adam Hasner and I put 75,000 miles on my car, crisscrossing the state going from barbecue cookouts to Republican Party meetings. I learned more during those car rides than in any campaign I’ve worked on since. What I saw was someone who was smart, personable, and intense. He’s equal parts political strategist, policy wonk, and inspirational speaker. He’s

as comfortable going down a rope line talking to activists as he is talking intricate details with policy experts. Now he’s successfully transitioned into the private sector working in one of the most politically difficult industries in America. Constantly under attack, it’s an industry that would melt lesser men. But those at the GEO group have undoubtedly learned what I’ve known for years — when the fighting starts, there is no one you’d rather have in your foxhole than Adam Hasner. After our time together, it could’ve gone either way, but I’m proud to call Adam and his wife, Jillian, friends. He is a worthy addition to the Influence 100. — Brad Herold, Vice Something Else Strategies

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Alex Heckler / PLAYER You may not know my former business partner, Alexander P. Heckler, but you know who does? Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and every Democratic Governor in the United States. A top-level member of the Biden-Harris Finance Committee and two time treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association, Heckler is a force of nature in Democratic politics. But beyond his national portfolio he’s also one of the top government affairs professionals in Florida, managing LSN Partners with a practice focused on the local governments of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Heckler is one of the smartest, most creative lobbying strategists working today, as evidenced by the blue chip clients he represents before Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach and throughout South Florida. He’s also one of the kindest, funniest, most loyal people you’ll encounter in this business. — Ben Pollara, Partner, Converge GPS

Ryan Houck / PLAYER In today’s crowded media landscape, creative needs to be interesting. Ads must connect on an emotional level and drive the debate. This is doubly true when it comes to political ads. All too often, we see the same cookie-cutter spots rushing by as we skip past them with our DVRs. That’s when Ryan goes to work. There are just some people that you always want on your team, and Ryan Houck is one of them. An honorary member of Generation X for his appreciation of movie quotes and classic video games, his millennial idealism shines through in his work. With the viral video “If I wanted America to Fail,” Ryan and his team at Consensus generated more than 2 million views on a video extolling the virtues of the free market that would have made Ayn Rand herself proud. With that it was off to the races, building a list of clients that would put him at the center of most of the competitive legislative races in Florida for the past decade. Ryan has served as the driving force behind the creative for many of the members of the Florida Senate, countless House members, Attorney General Ashley Moody and statewide ballot measures. He and his team know how to take complex issues and boil them down into a meaningful message that moves votes,  all while letting the general consultants and pollsters think it was their idea. If you are looking to influence politics in Florida, Ryan is a team member you want.  Also, he’s got a great high score on Donkey Kong. — Jim Rimes, Co-founder, Enwright Rimes Consulting

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Nick Iarossi / LOBBYIST No word can be more descriptive of the nature of the Nick Iarossi approach to business and life. In the rough and tumble and often emotional nature of public policy, “poise” is in NIck’s spiritual equilibrium and grants him the qualities of dedication, focus, and grace under pressure in his effort to achieve a winning outcome. Like a quarterback, Nick takes on each project with a game plan. Nick commands a presence in any room with an affable confidence and approachable demeanor. I admire Nick for his work ethic, intensity and his

desire for excellence in every detail of his professional and personal life. Any greatly respected leader, friend or colleague is one who others often seek for input and advice. Often, Nick will give you uncomfortable but necessary advice. But it is that very candor and wisdom that cements your trust in him. Nick has accomplished so much in a short period of time. Although I have been a small part of his journey I am anxious to see what the future holds for him, his company and his wife and brilliant daughters. — Andy Abboud, Vice President for Government Relations, Las Vegas Sands

Erin Isaac / PLAYER Erin Isaac sat at my kitchen table the morning of our first debate with just a laptop, fueled by an endless stream of Diet Coke. As a Green Beret, I’d like to think I‘m pretty skilled in the art of disciplined preparation, but admit I can be a bit of a policy wonk. This quickly became an issue when cramming solutions into 60 second answers. As we rolled through complex policies and political landmines, she sensed my frustration with the narrow debate parameters and her annoying habit of responding to my in-depth policy questions with tactical answers. “You’re a messenger, there to deliver your message. That’s the mission,” she would say. Months later, Erin spent election morning fending off an attack on my family by the opposition. When she called to report the journalist wouldn’t be writing anything and had apologized for wasting our time, she quickly dismissed the day’s events as part of the mission because, as Erin is fond of reminding us all, you can’t govern if you don’t win. In politics, there are mercenaries and there are warriors. Erin Isaac is a warrior. The interview works both ways when meeting her because she only works with people and for causes she believes in. She is committed to the conservative values she was raised on and with each campaign, each political mission, Erin is making an investment into the world she wants her 5-year-old son to inherit. — Mike Waltz, U.S. Representative, Florida’s 6th Congressional District

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Yolanda Cash Jackson / THOUGHT LEADER I have heard her referred to as one of the best female lobbyists. I have heard her referred to as one of the best Black lobbyists. I have heard her referred to as one of the best Black female lobbyists. All of these things are true, but the real truth is that Yolanda Cash Jackson is one of the best lobbyists in Florida, period. Yolanda is a take-no-prisoners advocate for her clients, but what makes her so special is her advocacy for her community. She likes to call herself “just a girl that grew up in Liberty City (a historic African American area of Miami),” because she never forgets it. As a managing partner at Becker, she fights for cities and communities that many times don’t have the resources to fight for themselves. In 2019, she started the National Black Lobbyist Association to promote diversity and inclusion in the lobbying corps at state capitols. Yolanda Cash Jackson has left a legacy for all to follow. — Oscar Braynon, state Senator, District 35

Alia Faraj Johnson / GREAT COMMUNICATOR For media savviness, dealing with crisis and planning strategically, there may be no better person in Florida politics than Alia Faraj-Johnson. She has become the go-to media person in the Republican Party of Florida, creating relationships with members of the press corps throughout Florida and nationally. Her skill working with anyone, calm demeanor and reliability are why so many in the political and media realm recognize her value. She is widely respected in the Florida press corps as a professional who understands what media members are seeking. She’s timely and precise. Alia does not rattle under pressure and is able to knife through complicated situations to identify strategies and create a pathway

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to resolution. She also understands when her place is as a deft spokesperson and when it is all quietly behind the scenes. The results are what people in the know appreciate. After serving as the managing director of Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Florida public affairs practice and now running Alia Strategic Group, Alia has developed an extensive network of relationships with Florida influencers, from the media to all levels of state government. Whether dealing with a crisis, seeking strategic thinking help or in need of media counsel, there are few if any more respected than Alia. — Joe Gruters, state Senator, District 23


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Christina Johnson / GREAT COMMUNICATOR Christina Johnson has more than 30 years of experience in the political and communication field through numerous political campaigns and issues management projects throughout the country. Her success speaks to her consistently high level of effective and creative work across a number of corporate and political clients. Christina lights up every room she enters with her charismatic personality. Her energy is magnetic, but behind her beautiful smile is a fierce advocate for her clients. She is calm under pressure. From political campaigns policy battles to crisis communications, she has never met a challenge she can’t face. Even when the going gets tough she has the winning attitude. This optimism has led to her expertise being sought after by elected officials, candidates and a multitude of special interests. Christina has been with me in the trenches on numerous issues and is always one of the first calls I make when I need advice. Christina is a bright light in this industry, she is an example of how you can treat people kindly; be joyful and still be successful. She is a role model for many and I am blessed to have had her in my corner throughout my career. Raising a glass of her favorite champagne to toast her accomplishments! — Stephanie Smith, Director of Government Relations, Anthem

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David Johnson / COUNSELOR Mount Everest climbers know that if you are going to climb and be successful, then you will need a Sherpa guide. The Sherpa people are the local guides, known for their skills in mountaineering. If you are going to run for office, then you will need a political guide. I believe there is none more skilled than David Johnson. David — or DJ — has been my political guide for years — and I can’t imagine that I would climb another mountain without him. If I feel that I am dangling too close to the edge, his advice, knowledge and talent, along with friendship and keen listening skills, keep me on track to the summit. Don’t let the quiet, reserved persona fool you. He is absorbing, questioning, looking at details, and then plans are made and we are charging forward or upward. Probably because he has seen it before. It’s fun to hear him say, “well in the race in South Dakota we did this”, or “in Virginia we did it that way.” I used to be amazed that he was running campaigns all across the county, but now I understand that the secret is getting out that DJ can get you to the top of any political mountain. — Aaron Bean, state Senator, District 4

Eric Johnson / PLAYER Eric Johnson is an expert in South Florida politics, which is why he wins so often. He has shown his savvy, smarts and versatility by excelling as the campaign manager and chief of staff to both “firebreathing liberal” Rep. Robert Wexler in Boca Raton and Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in a reddish district in the northern part of the county. Eric moves seamlessly in all the different Democratic worlds, from suburbs to blue collar communities, from New York City retirees to fifth-generation Florida farmers. He is a one-man big tent (which reflects his large brain and not his coat size.) Fearless and direct, Eric will tell you what you need to know even if you don’t want to hear it. Some candidates would prefer a “yes man” instead of a truth-teller, but there is great value in being aware of all the minefields to avoid getting your face blown off. — Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney

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Marva Johnson / INDUSTRY LEADER When you mention the name “Marva” in Florida politics, everyone immediately knows you are talking about Marva Johnson, a fierce leader, inspirational trailblazer and innovator who is respected by all. It only takes a few minutes into a conversation with Marva to sense her warmth, enthusiasm and her “it can be done” attitude especially when dealing with educational issues. Marva oversees the Florida government and regulatory operations for Charter Communications, and she also manages the entire South Region, spanning nine states. Her deep understanding of public policy is unsurpassed — and she is recognized as a thought leader in the industry where she has helped shape the discussion on many high-profile and important issues. In addition to being one of the top executives at Charter Communications, Marva also serves on the Florida State Board

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of Education and has tirelessly advocated for policies to ensure students receive a highquality education. And if that isn’t enough, Marva has been sought after and appointed to several prestigious boards and commissions including the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission, Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, and Chairwoman of the Global Board of Women in Cable Telecommunications. While serving the state of Florida, Marva still makes the time to mentor hundreds of women, including me. She has made a very personal impact on my life, and I’m honored and proud to call her a colleague and a friend. I know I speak for many around the Process when I say it takes a true leader to perform consistently at her high-level while maintaining a cool and confident demeanor at all times. She is truly the definition of a class act and someone you want by your side. — Heather Turnbull, Partner, Rubin Turnbull & Associates

Dara Kam / MEDIA Dara is old school in a new school world. Smart, fair, relentless and fast, there are few like her, and word for word, she is read by more people than anyone in the state, clearly putting her among the elite and at the top of the Capitol Press Corps. — Steve Vancore, President, VancoreJones Communications


Mark Kaplan / THOUGHT LEADER Mark Kaplan is objectively, verifiably, always the smartest person in the room, even if it’s a very large room full of really smart people. I had the good fortune of meeting Mark decades ago when he appeared at a law firm where I was working; he the incandescently brilliant law clerk, me the junior attorney teetering on the verge of malpractice at any given moment. Mark later went on to graduate first in his class at Florida State University law school and then did the usual federal appellate court clerkship reserved for only a handful of the brightest minds in the legal profession. From there he went into Florida government, first directing the state’s entire affordable housing program and eventually rising to become Jeb Bush’s Chief of Staff. After his stint in Tallahassee, he went on to direct Mosaic’s global public policy shop and is now living in Gainesville where he masterfully runs the University of Florida’s government relations arm. Mark is quiet and keenly analytical. He provides excellent counsel and is willing to let others take credit for following it. It’s a formula that suits him temperamentally and has ensured his rapid rise in the public and private sectors. And it’s why, should you find yourself in the same room with him, you should retire to a quiet corner and pick his extraordinary brain. — Paul Bradshaw, Founder, The Southern Group

Fred Karlinsky / LOBBYIST Freddy K is what we call Fred Karlinsky. He is about as smart as he is nicely dressed, and that is saying something. (Although, he did go a little “wild” during quarantine this year and grow a beard!) His mind is a virtual library of knowledge on insurance law — much of which bears his mark — and legislative history. He not only understands how to build a good battle plan for victory, but he isn’t afraid to take some bullets during combat if it comes to that. He will go to war for his allies, which makes sense because he is an excellent friend. He is also a supreme family man who cherishes his wife, Autumn, and his two incredible teenage children: Allie and Spencer. Some may say Fred is a workaholic, but I like to say he is passionate about what he does. He has been working hard in the legal and lobbying world for three decades. It has been an honor to get to know him during my time in the Legislature, then be able to work alongside him at the Constitutional Revision Commission and now get to see him in action as CFO. — Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer

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Troy Kinsey / MEDIA Troy Kinsey is a multi-talented institution of Florida politics. And if imitation is the highest form of flattery, he also knows how to give a compliment. As Spectrum News Bay News 9’s Tallahassee Bureau Chief since 2006, Troy navigates legislative sessions, elections, and everything else Florida, one TV package at a time. A Californian by birth, after graduating from University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism, he adopted La Florida — the state with the most beautiful name — as home. Troy first reported in Gainesville, and then brought his talents to Tallahassee shortly before I was elected Governor. That’s where he earned his nickname, “Tallahassee’s Tina Fey,” through standout hilarious performances at the Florida Capitol Press Corps’ Press Skits — including an imitation truly of “the people.” In addition to his outstanding professional reporting career, Troy is also an adjunct professor of political communication at Florida State University and a pilot, flying and teaching others to fly all across the most beautiful state in the country. His bird’s eye view of Florida politics, his work ethic, and his integrity make him one of the most influential people in Florida politics and a great Floridian. — Charlie Crist, U.S. Representative, Florida’s 13th Congressional District

John Kirtley / ADVOCATE John Kirtley’s fierce commitment to empowering lowincome parents so they can control the educational destinies of their children has changed the life trajectories of countless families, helped propel Florida’s public education system into the top tier nationally and made our state an even better place. Without John, there would be no Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, which now serves 100,000 low-income students each year and is the largest private school choice program in America. Without John, there would be no Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that now administers five of Florida’s education choice programs and just awarded its 1 millionth scholarship. John and Step Up are on the cutting edge of expanding options and opportunities for the most disadvantaged students — and, along the way, redefining public education into something that is ever more studentfocused, parent-driven and teacher-liberating. So many people deserve credit for the rise of Florida’s education system; I’ve had the honor of working with many of them. But there’s no question John and Step Up have played a pivotal role. Thanks to John’s leadership and influence, hundreds of thousands of students have brighter tomorrows, and, God willing, even more will benefit for years to come. — John Legg, former state Senator

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Ron LaFace / LOBBYIST Ron LaFace continues to combine the old school respect of the lobbying profession and the political establishment with a new way of seeing and solving problems. Ron is well known as one of the hardest working people in the Capitol, often logging miles each day during Session to meet with members and staff from early morning until late at night. With a unique subject matter expertise in health care and insurance, Ron is the go-to guy for a dozen Fortune 500 companies that rely on both his political insights and his reputation with the legislative and executive branch leadership. Ron and his business partner Nick Iarossi have not only built a new and iconic downtown office, they have built an impressive and influential lobbying firm that will continue to set the standard in the lobbying profession. — Chris Dudley, Partner, The Southern Group

Jackie Lee / PLAYER Florida is a complicated state, and when it comes to politics, it gets even more complex. You have to appreciate the possum festival in North Florida and why a colada in MiamiDade is the fuel needed to get you through any campaign. There are few political consultants that know how to navigate the intricacies of the Sunshine State as well as Jackie Lee. From field organizer to state director, she is proof the greatest leaders in politics are those who have worked on every role in a campaign. As one of the best-known Democratic operatives, Jackie has been part of numerous successful campaigns in Delaware, South Dakota, Iowa, and for more than a decade, in Florida. In the Sunshine State, she had leadership roles in both of President Barack Obama’s winning campaigns. Jackie also has been on the front lines of reshaping Florida’s political landscape through her successful initiative work — managing the 2010 Fair Districts campaign (Amendments 5 and 6), and most recently, spearheading the landslide passage of Amendment 4 in 2018. Jackie has also worked with several advocacy organizations throughout her career, proving that you can be a change agent at every level. Her impressive resume, however, is not the only reason she is worthy of this recognition. Like a true leader, Jackie believes in team above self, which is why she always chooses to shine the spotlight of success on her team first. Her loyalty, selflessness, and relentless commitment to her candidates and causes are what makes Jackie Lee so deserving of being included as one of the most influential in Florida politics. I couldn’t be prouder to be working with and learning from such a dedicated and fierce leader! — Gabriela Castillo, Vice President, Mercury Public Affairs

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Brian May / LOBBYIST Brian is one of the savviest players in the game of persuasion. He has mastered the art of bridging social, economic, political and community interests to advance reasonable solutions to complex problems. Throughout his career, he has held a variety of senior level positions in both the public and private sectors. This broad based experience has made his advice and counsel an invaluable asset to business and political leaders. While Brian has an in-depth understanding of national and Florida interests, his passion has been to serve as a champion for the “305.” Despite his many professional accomplishments, Brian has always had a strong commitment to faith and family in order to fully appreciate his noteworthy career. — Pete Mitchell

Steve Marin / PLAYER I knew Steve Marin’s voice about a decade before I finally met him. We often worked together, him the Cuban strategist with the most machismo and me, his secret bomb thrower from far away Tampa. When I finally met Marin, he had me stay at his home, like I was family — which told me everything I needed to know about who he really is and what he’s all about. Steve is a master of his craft.  He is more direct than most, honest with his assessment of a situation and a trusted advisor to many past, present and future rising stars in Florida politics.  He executes, delivers what he promises and comes through in a pinch. Together we have been in many battles, to which we have entrusted in each other our reputations, our fortunes and our futures. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  His influence on Florida will be felt for decades to come. Marin is “mi hermano.” — Anthony Pedicini, Strategic Image Management

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Tracy and Frank Mayernick / LOBBYISTS Tracy and Frank Mayernick have built a very successful “boutique” lobbying firm in very short order. Each has varying qualities and skills. Frank can get chatty and quite feisty sometimes, but that is because of his genuine nature, as well as being a fierce competitor. And I think Tracy is the top female lobbyist in Tallahassee (ole Frank outkicked his coverage) and among the best, period. Their client list includes many wall hangers and major companies, but also is inclusive of nonprofits and reputable organizations that serve our most vulnerable Floridians. These folks have immense confidence and trust in Frank and Tracy no matter the complexity of an issue or objective. The Mayernick firm does get labeled as “Senate lobbyists,” particularly after a quite impressive run that was benefited by a rather close relationship with a former presiding officer. When measuring business owners on their integrity, experience, determination and how they manage relationships, it is easy to see that Frank and Tracy will have continued success no matter the political party or chamber or presiding officer. Most importantly, their marriage is as strong as I have ever seen and their world revolves around their two loving daughters, Addison and Kennedy. — Travis Cummings, Representative, District 18

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Darrick McGhee / THOUGHT LEADER The Sunday after George Floyd was killed, the only person I wanted to hear talk about it was Darrick McGhee. My husband and I tuned into the Sunday morning service for the church he pastors via Facebook and he preached with tears streaming down his face. He spoke from a heart for justice. A heart that was broken by injustice and evil. He spoke with a passion for his fellow man, his family, and a love for God that really sums up who Darrick is — a man and as a brother in Christ called to defend the vulnerable. If you watched that sermon, you will know all you need to know about Darrick. If you haven’t, I will tell you that he is a loyal friend and colleague. He knows that he is called by God to leave this world better than he found it. He is brave. He is focused. He is disciplined. He will work tirelessly for those on his team. And while everyone he knows will tell you that he is “a nice guy,” he is really only performing for an audience of one – God. That’s a remarkable legacy in action. — Melissa Sellers Stone, CEO, Cavalry Strategies and former Chief of Staff to Gov. Rick Scott

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Kathy Mears / KEY STAFFER Kathy Mears came to prominence in Tallahassee as part of Speaker Dan Webster’s team at the dawn of the Republican Revolution, and over the years she has served in the highest of positions in all three parts of the State’s policymaking machinery (House, Senate, and the executive branch). She has been on the front lines of some of the most important decisions of the last 20 years, and yet, she has never lost her enthusiasm for the work of state government. Kathy doesn’t float through jobs, she embraces opportunities. She is endlessly curious about policy, frequently fascinated by people, and amazingly approaches every day as if there are new adventures to be found just around the next corner. She is strong but never unkind; irreverent but never disrespectful; smart but never closed-minded. She gives her entire heart and soul to every task — big or small — and in the process lifts up all those around her. She came to Tallahassee as a part of a revolution, but Kathy Mears has become the consistent, beating heart of Florida’s government. — Mat Bahl, top adviser to House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls

Glenna Milberg / MEDIA From explaining the potential impacts six constitutional amendments could have on Florida’s 21 million residents, to posing difficult questions to presidential candidates, Gov. Ron DeSantis, members of Congress and local elected officials, one of the voices South Floridians trust the most for information is WPLG’s Glenna Milberg. Growing up in Miami, I watched her first on WSVN and then on WPLG and worked with her throughout my four years as Miami-Dade County Communications Director. Glenna always works to present all sides of a story in a balanced manner so that its viewers could have the information necessary to form an opinion on a government official, candidate for public office, policy or issue affecting the community. Even when you preferred that she not run with a particular story, you knew she would be fair and present relevant information. Like her diverse community, her reporting has been on issues beyond politics. From powerful hurricanes, to Cuban and Haitian immigration, crime, community unrest and the Covid-19 crisis, Glenna’s reporting has kept residents in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties informed. She is a model for future journalists to learn from and for the community she reports for to respect and seek out. — Mike Hernandez, Senior Vice President, Mercury Public Affairs

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Nate Monroe / MEDIA As U.S. Sen. Cory Booker observed, “There are two ways to go through life — as a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer just reflects the world…mimicking the climate. But a thermostat sets the temperature.” Florida Times-Union columnist Nate Monroe is a thermostat. In 2013, Nate arrived in Jacksonville after covering politics and government for the Pensacola News-Journal. In the less than seven years he has progressed from new Northeast Florida resident to City Hall reporter to twice-weekly metro columnist, Nate has become a major force in shaping local political and governmental debate. His columns and social media posts raise public awareness, stimulate robust community discussion, focus reader attention, and generate additional news coverage. This is not to suggest that Nate is universally beloved. While regular exercise lowers blood pressure, Nate often raises it. As I can verify from personal experience, he can be a thorn in the side of local government officials and other community leaders. His blunt, take-no-prisoners style is not for everyone. Yet it is Nate’s determination to challenge the status quo, plus his analytical and writing skills, which leave an indelible mark on the issues where he opines. With every word, Nate Monroe sets the temperature. — Chris Hand, lawyer, author and former Chief of Staff at the consolidated city of Jacksonville

Karen Moore / GREAT COMMUNICATOR To know Karen Moore is to know influence with integrity. You’ve seen her work: At her eponymous marketing and advocacy agency, Karen is a visionary, leading her team to ever-higher acclaim. Moore is entrusted with positioning some of the state’s toughest and most complex policy issues, spurring the prestigious O’Dwyer’s to rank the agency No. 1 in Florida for public affairs this year. Moore also leads integrated marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 brands. As President of Florida’s Chamber of Commerce, I’ve often watched people get credit for leading different initiatives or for earning an award only to find out that it was Karen working behind the scenes, using her special influence, to make the right things happen. In the decades I have known Karen, I’ve seen her consistently impress those around her with her ethics and expertise as an entrepreneur, communications specialist, speaker and crisis consultant. I’m proud to have her sit on the Florida Chamber Foundation Board of Directors, where she has personally embraced our Path to Prosperity for All ZIP codes initiative, including the 32304 ZIP code in her Tallahassee backyard. This year alone, in this one ZIP code, Karen and her team helped provide 23,000 meals to children in need. Karen is as influential and precision-driven as she is big-hearted — exactly the kind of business leader you want in your court. I’m glad she’s in mine. — Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce

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Rosemary O’Hara / MEDIA In an era of shrinking newsrooms and shrill social-media distortions, the strong, clear and well-reasoned voice of a local newspaper’s editorial board is more vital than ever. Fortunately for South Florida residents and Sun Sentinel readers, they have Rosemary O’Hara. Since becoming the Sun Sentinel’s editorial page editor in 2012, the veteran journalist (and UF graduate/J-school Hall of Famer) hasn’t been afraid to hold the powerful to account, nor to challenge and enrage her community. The newspaper lost hundreds of subscribers in Democrat-heavy Broward after endorsing Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. O’Hara penned “none-of-the-above” protest editorials for the 2016 Republican presidential primary and this year’s Broward Sheriff’s race. And she shamed a host of institutions (Sheriff’s Office, FBI, school district, tax-supported mental-health providers) for failures that allowed the 2018 Parkland school massacre to occur. These editorials channeled a community’s grief and outrage to form the moral underpinning of the entry that landed the Sun Sentinel the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Part watchdog, part bulldog and part seeing-eye dog (to guide voters through a morass of local elections and confusing ballot initiatives), Rosemary’s editorial page forcefully reinforces the quaint notion that such things as common facts, common sense and the common good still matter. And that agreeing to disagree should not be an endangered concept in American life and politics. Not even the strangest circumstances fluster her. When thenGov. Rick Scott initially refused to come onstage against Charlie Crist in the infamous 2014 Fan-gate debate, her first instinct as a moderator was also the correct one. Instead of stalling to fill airtime at the behest of her co-moderator, she calmly looked at Crist and started asking relevant, pertinent questions about the debate rules. Even with chaos unfolding, Rosemary knew her true purpose: Getting answers and informing the public. — Michael Mayo, Journalist

Anthony Pedicini / PLAYER Only a select few names in Florida politics convey a guaranteed message. When you mention the name Pedicini, you’re guaranteed to get a knowing response. As a newcomer to Florida politics in 2017, I was admittedly naïve to the effect Anthony Pedicini’s name would have whenever I told someone who was running my campaign. As 50% of the team responsible for helping elect more legislators to the Florida House than any other consulting outfit, Anthony’s reputation precedes him. As a friend, I don’t know anyone who reveres the institution of Florida state government more highly. When I come to Anthony for advice, I know I’m going to get a perspective built on decades of experience, honesty, discipline and an incomparable reverence for the institution we all represent. The epitome of an Italian consigliere, you’re extremely lucky if you’re in his family, and you disagree with every word I’ve written if you aren’t. — Alex Andrade, state Representative, District 2

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Peter Penrod / KEY STAFFER

Ryan Petty / ADVOCATE

Peter Penrod is a talented lawyer who brings out-of-thebox thinking to the table to counsel his clients and solve their problems. This has made Peter a valuable asset to many senior management teams. Peter has served in numerous roles in state government, including Assistant General Counsel to Gov. Rick Scott, General Counsel of the Department of Economic Opportunity, and earlier this year Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Peter to the 1st District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission. Because of his abilities and track record, I was not surprised when CFO Jimmy Patronis named Peter to be his general counsel, and later, his chief of staff. Peter has a strong understanding of Florida state government, and he combines an appreciation for its important role with an understanding that, left unmanaged, the mission of government can sometimes morph and “creep,” resulting in overregulation and bad public policy. In other words, Peter grasps the importance of constant reform and reevaluation in government. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Peter is a devoted husband and father, and is just simply a great human being. It has been a genuine pleasure over the last several years to watch Peter’s reputation grow, and I’m proud to call him a friend.

I first met Ryan Petty and his family during one of the darkest moments of his life. I was Governor of Florida, and he had just lost his beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, in the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. For weeks following the tragedy, I spent countless hours with Ryan and the families of the victims. I was, and still am, inspired and humbled by their remarkable strength and resilience in the midst of heartbreak. Ryan and I worked closely with the other families to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act to help prevent a tragedy like that from happening again. I remember days spent with Ryan and Andy Pollack walking the halls of the Florida Capitol, determined to talk to every single member of the Florida Legislature that would listen and ensure this bill became law. We also established the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which Ryan served on, to work to identify and address school safety issues, and we continue to work together to keep our schools safe. Since that dark day, Ryan has fought every day to make a difference in this world and ensure no parent has to experience the pain and loss he has. I am grateful to have leaders like Ryan in our state, and I’m just as grateful to call him a friend. — Rick Scott, U.S. Senator and former Governor

— Timothy Cerio, of counsel, GrayRobinson

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Fred Piccolo / GREAT COMMUNICATOR Most people only know “Twitter Fred.” The relentless Fred who never turns from a fight and takes on all comers: The real person behind the keyboard is faithful Fred, who has served two Speakers of the House and now passionately advocates on behalf of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The quick-witted Fred defending hard conservative talking points, or more likely, creating witty points of his own. The smart Fred who is called upon by conservatives and liberals for his deliberate and thoughtful insight. The uber creative Fred — have you even seen his bipartisan videos? The homebody Fred who would rather spend time on the golf course with his wife, his parents and even his brothers. The defender of democracy Fred who was always willing to give visitors — no matter their politics — a tour of the floor of the Florida House. Or the ever-helpful Fred. This is the Fred most people deep in the Process would be surprised to know. It’s why Fred Piccolo is respected in a process slowly devoid of respect. If you need a new and unique approach to communications — Fred is your first call. We all know people we disagree with when it comes to sports, politics, or wine blends, but loyalty keeps us tethered to those people. Republicans and Democrats in the highest level of power may call Fred many things, and most may be true, but the No. 1 thing on your list should be a single word — loyal. — Kevin Sweeny, Operations Director, Florida Justice Association

Tom Piccolo / PLAYER Tom Piccolo is truly one of the best people in politics, along with being one of its most knowledgeable, on both campaign strategy and political policy. Tom sees the chess board in four dimensions, patiently observing the texture and importance of each situation for what it truly is instead of allowing himself to get caught up in the moment. In the often hyper-aggressive world of political consulting, Tom offers a grounded, genuine, and practical approach to campaigning. He appreciates the individual needs of his clients and utilizes their strengths to maximize their performance in each campaign. Professionalism is his hallmark — emails and phone calls always returned, confidences kept, and opinions valued. Tom doesn’t shy away from the tough conversations, but knows such interactions will be easier because of the trust he builds as an expert. Tom is an asset to every team he works with and it has been an honor to work with him. — Erin Grall, state Representative, District 54

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Sean Pittman / PLAYER I want to tell you about my friend Sean Pittman. We live in a cynical world. A world where so many are willing to jump into a vacant seat on a political bandwagon if the driver looks like us. And when we stubbornly hang on to those things we believe, we too often stop short of being willing to consider different ideas … to step out from the safety of our own thoughts to try and consider change. I’m looking in the mirror when I share these thoughts. I’m no different from most people when it comes to my unwillingness to dive into meaningful change. It is in those moments that I’m challenged by Sean Pittman. Sean’s unwavering advocacy punctuated by his willingness to lead, is inspiring for all those who hear his words and see his deeds. Personal growth comes from our ability to learn and grow in our thinking … to fight getting stuck in a comfortable puddle of quicksand. The person who has always challenged me to grow and given me a reason to reexamine long held beliefs, is Sean Pittman. What better way to honor such a patient teacher than to nominate him for this deserved recognition. — Gary Yordon

Emmett Reed / INDUSTRY LEADER If you had to pick one person whose leadership stands out for having the strongest voice and clearest vision for protecting Florida’s most vulnerable elders, it is Emmett Reed. When he walks into a room, people notice — at first, because he towers over most everyone else. But also there’s a calm, confident presence about him that says whatever the problem, he’s got it covered. That’s why he is so highly regarded, even though he heads the biggest association in an industry so many try to pick on. It hasn’t been an easy year for nursing homes, which have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Executive Director of the Florida Health Care Association, Emmett has spent a lot of 2020 traveling around Florida to discuss response plans with his members, reassuring them that FHCA has their back, and he personally has the ear of state policymakers. He constantly juggles the priorities of his members while working with his staff, the Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and state agencies to make sure the needs of nursing home residents don’t get left behind. You might think all this would make someone intense, but Emmett is one of the most easygoing people around the Process. A man of strong faith and genuine devotion to his family, he is committed to treating everyone honestly and fairly. That’s not a universal trait around the Capitol, but it’s something that helps define the genuine caliber of the character of Emmett Reed. — Herbie Thiele, Sachs Media Group

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Marc Reichelderfer / PLAYER If you plan to seek public office in the Sunshine State, the first phone call you should make is to Marc Reichelderfer. Dubbed by those on Adams Street as “The Marchitect,” he is a savant when it comes to electoral strategy, politics and arguably CrossFit. Marc is also one of the best guys to sit back with and talk about life outside of politics over beers. The foundation of Marc’s methodical approach to politics and CrossFit were developed while studying under Olympic Gold Medalist and wrestling icon Dan Gable. Marc was not a flashy wrestler, but he was tougher and smarter than his opponents; in essence, he was playing chess while they were playing checkers. In addition to being smart and tough, Marc is rational, trustworthy, calm under pressure and a world class box jumper. He turns down more campaigns than he accepts and more often than not, reluctantly agrees to help candidates largely because he believes they will be good public servants. While many in the political consultant class get consumed by image and material things, Marc’s friends know his favorite place is wherever his lovely wife, Kelly, and his daughters Grace and Kate are. — Slater Bayliss, Partner, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners

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Bo Rivard / INDUSTRY LEADER I rode the bus to school with Bo Rivard. We grew up together. His wife was actually in my same grade. Now our kids go to school together and our families are making new memories together. The accomplishments in his professional life are as remarkable as those in his personal life. He is a partner at the law firm of Harrison,  Rivard, Duncan, & Buzzett, specializing in legal work for both public and private sector clients. He is an expert in health care, environmental, real estate and regulatory law. He would credit much of his success in Florida politics to his long-time friend and mentor, Bill Rubin of RubinTurnbull.  Bo previously chaired the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, was an RPOF Executive Committee member, represented Florida on the Electoral College, and is a former chair of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce. I try not to hold it against him that his degree is from the University of Florida instead of Florida State, but you can’t expect anyone to be perfect! He’s a wonderful friend, one of the most loyal people I know; and he continues to chalk up more successes because he embodies the principle of good old-fashioned hard work. — Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer

Kim Rivers / INDUSTRY LEADER Having known Kim Rivers for more than 20 years, I am confident there are few in business working as hard as her. As the CEO of Trulieve, Kim Rivers has brought the company to incredible heights — opening and operating 61 medical cannabis dispensaries, employing morer than 3,400 employees, and serving more than 340,000 patients in four states. But for Kim, it isn’t just about what you do, it’s how you do it. Her motivation is rooted in uplifting others, as shown by her commitment to the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, the Florida Small Business Executive Program, and her role as a mentor to other female CEO’s through the Canaccord Genuity Advisory Program for Women Entrepreneurs. Her commitment to uplifting others is matched by her commitment to diversity. Trulieve is the largest employer in Gadsden County, Florida, where minorities make up the majority. Her company strives to reflect the community, with 45% of its employees being minorities and 48% women. Inclusivity, social equity and patients first are the pillars on which Trulieve stand. This is how Kim Rivers has built Trulieve to be the leading seed-tosale cannabis operation in Florida and the top revenue-generating medical marijuana company in the United States. As a personal friend, I believe the absolute most impressive thing about Kim is that her character at work mirrors her character at home. Kim is the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of advancing women and the Beyonce’ of the medical cannabis industry! However, with all her amazing achievements to date, I believe she is just beginning to tap her true potential for greatness. — Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group

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Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull / LOBBYISTS The best thing Billy Rubin has done in his career is bring on Heather Turnbull as a named partner. This dynamic duo, along with the rest of the talent at the firm have a real pulse on the needs of their clients and know how to achieve results. They are constantly working on building meaningful relationships and always do so with the highest level of professionalism. They are the best in the business — they care about their clients and bring their passion to all endeavors. They mentor young lobbyists and give them the support to develop into strong advocates. They are trusted friends. — Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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TEAMJB.COM Fall 2020

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Ron Sachs / GREAT COMMUNICATOR Ron Sachs is a force of nature. Driven by a razorsharp mind, unrelenting drive, and seemingly boundless energy, the founder and CEO of Sachs Media is one of Florida’s most accomplished public relations professionals. After starting out as an award-winning Miami newspaper and TV journalist, Sachs reinvented his career as it brought him to Tallahassee, where he served two governors (Reubin Askew and Lawton Chiles) and then opened his firm 25 years ago. In much the same way, he repeatedly reinvents and revitalizes his firm to remain competitive in an everchanging media and political environment. Friendly with both sides of the political divide, Sachs Media doesn’t do lobbying work – but there isn’t a person in the process who doesn’t recognize that Sachs and his talented team can boost the prospects of any public affairs work. At the same time, Sachs is an integral part of civic life in Tallahassee, where he regularly volunteers his time – often in leadership roles – for everything from the Chamber of Commerce to the United Way, and often conceives local initiatives to improve life in the Capital City. Through it all, Sachs has proven, time and again, that he is a loyal and caring friend to everyone, from public and business sector leaders to interns on his staff. Ron Sachs is truly one of a kind. — Peter Schorsch, President, Extensive Enterprises

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Nadine Smith / ADVOCATE I’m not sure “influential” is a grand enough adjective to accurately capture Nadine Smith’s work in the state of Florida and especially here in St. Pete. She’s that and so much more. She’s an institution, helping to not only shape policy and politics, but lead in such a thoughtful and strategic manner that she earns respect and equity from people across the political spectrum and business community. Many are aware of her leadership at Equality Florida and the many advancements we owe to that organization’s advocacy. Their passion and persistence, in the face of either a hostile state Legislature or less than progressive municipalities, is a reflection of Nadine, her upbringing, her life confronting bigotry and overcoming obstacles as a gay, Black woman. As Mayor, it makes me especially proud to have Nadine, Andrea, and their son as residents of St. Petersburg. They make us better. I take comfort in knowing Nadine is nearby, ready to organize or stand alongside me at events, vigils, and rallies. I also take comfort in knowing she is nearby to hold me accountable, too. I’ve been in elected office for 20 years. Nadine has headed Equality Florida that entire time. I am thankful for her influence and her support and for knowing that each and every day she wakes up to help bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. — Rick Kriseman, Mayor of St. Petersburg

Steve Schale / PLAYER As the great philosopher Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter once said, difficult takes a day; impossible takes a week. If that is true, my friend Steve Schale laughs in the face of impossibility. A meticulous and discerning leader in Florida politics, Steve Schale is the long-suffering Jacksonville Jaguar enthusiast who literally has the pulse of Florida politics at his Twitter fingertips. If you have the good fortune to spend five-minutes with Steve on the fourth floor of the Florida State Capitol in the waning days of the Legislative Session, discussing dueling policy measures in the House or Senate, or listening to him pontificate about the Jaguars, you come away feeling smarter than you did before the conversation began. Seen as a go-to politico in state and national politics, Steve has not allowed the fact he was the architect of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory in Florida, where

he served as the state director, make him complacent. He was emboldened by the work in 2008, and now he takes his political talents around the world, working closely with rising young political leaders all over the globe. He is a devoted co-pilot in life to his bride, Nikole, and this David Halberstam fan is a proud dad to his dogs Lilly and Shadow. In the future, I look forward to seeing Steve as the chief of policy for his good friend Joe Biden or serving as the social media GM for the Chicago White Sox or the Jacksonville Jaguars! No matter where this Florida influencer ends up, you can rest assured that whomever is lucky enough to spend five minutes with him, they will most definitely come away from the interaction a better, smarter person and quite possibly get into some “John Lewis-Good Trouble” for humanity! — Alan Williams, former state Representative and governmental relations consultant, Meenan PA.

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Stephanie Smith / LOBBYIST What do you get when you cross Barbara Bush, Dana Perino and a mama bear? Stephanie Smith. When you first meet Stephanie, you are drawn to her bright smile and welcoming nature. She’s articulate but not condescending. She’s a fierce advocate but slays the dragon with a smile on her face. Most importantly, she knows how to manage and motivate a team of A-type personalities better than anyone I’ve ever known. It’s why she has handled external affairs for two Governors and three major companies – AT&T, Uber and now Anthem. Stephanie’s work ethic is unparalleled, but she never hesitates to ask for advice or to take on the toughest assignments. During a tense policy debate that put her client in the sights of one of the presiding legislative leaders, it was Stephanie who volunteered to handle the meeting knowing no one else in her company would have what was needed to diffuse the situation. It was not a meeting she (or I) looked forward to, but sitting across from her explaining to this leader why her company was launching personal political attacks it occurred to me Stephanie’s most important quality: honesty. Stephanie didn’t mince words and didn’t apologize for the actions. She just said “I wanted you to hear it from me.” As if this super woman doesn’t have her plate full enough, she finds time – significant time – to volunteer for countless efforts focused on helping others. There is no question as to why Stephanie Smith is one of the 100 most influential people in Florida politics. — Jennifer Green, Founder, Liberty Partners of Florida

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Shane Strum / KEY STAFFER When I first met Shane Strum, I was an undergraduate and he was an executive with a software company. We shared a common interest in Republican politics, and over nearly 25 years, he has become a valued, respected and admired friend. Shane is a consummate loyalist with a contagious sense of humor, characteristics that helped propel his brilliant career of service to our state.

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Florida law allows the Governor to appoint a “private secretary” to lead the Executive Office, and Gov. Ron DeSantis could not have found a better individual to serve as his chief of staff than Shane Strum. A loving husband and father, Shane has been a role model to ambitious young politicos on both sides of the aisle for decades. As an individual, I’m proud to call him my friend. As a Floridian, I’m grateful that he has once again answered duty’s call to serve the Governor and people of Florida. — Eric Eikenberg, CEO, The Everglades Foundation


Christian Ulvert / KEY STAFFER Christian Ulvert is a 38-year-old powerhouse who cut his teeth in Democratic politics as the House Democratic Caucus communications director alongside legendary Democratic Leader and now Mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber. At the age of 26, Christian left the House in 2008 to open his own communications firm now in its 12th year: Edge Communications. Christian quickly established a solid reputation based on results, integrity, strong ethics and relationships that remains the hallmark of his work. He has run dozens of state campaigns, currently advises and represents more than two dozen elected officials, has held top leadership positions in three statewide campaigns to date and is a senior adviser to Vice President Joe Biden in this presidential race. Christian served as the Florida Democratic Party’s Political Director for two years of my tenure as state party chair. He is a trusted adviser who is experienced, discreet, focused, and drama-free. Beyond working together, we have become very close friends and I was honored to be there to celebrate his marriage to Carlos. It is a great pleasure to nominate him as one of Florida’s top 100 influencers. — Allison Tant, former Chair, Florida Democratic Party

Jason Unger / TOP LAWYER Jason Unger, Managing Partner of GrayRobinson‘s Tallahassee office, is a longtime fixture in conservative legal circles. He was a member of President George W. Bush’s 2000 legal recount team and served as legal counsel to Florida House Speaker John Thrasher. His most notable impact was in transforming the Florida Supreme Court from one of the most liberal in the United States to one of the most conservative today. He served for more than 10 years on the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission and as chairman led the JNC through the hotly contested and highly litigious 2018 election cycle while successfully defending the JNC’s authority to submit nominations to Gov. Ron DeSantis against legal attacks. As a result, the JNC’s slate was preserved and Gov. DeSantis was able to appoint current Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muniz and Judges Robert Luck and Barbara Lagoa, both of whom were shortly thereafter appointed by the President to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. — Jason Gonzalez, Managing Partner of the Tallahassee office, Shutts & Bowen

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Steve Vancore / PLAYER Ten years ago, I ran in a Democratic primary election. It was a hard-fought campaign. Even though I was the betterfunded candidate with a better geographical base for the district, the race became very competitive. At every turn, I was being attacked by my opponent. And, the attacks were really well done. Not only did I stop liking me, but my wife, Rabbi Amy Rader, stopped liking me! Some guy named Steve Vancore from Tallahassee was causing me “tsuris” (look it up, Tallahassee) in my backyard of Palm Beach. Well, I managed to win that primary election anyway and my wife mostly grew to like me again. However, when the next election season rolled around, my friend and consultant Eric Johnson and I discussed it and immediately agreed there was one person who needed to join the team. I called up that consultant who ran my opponent’s campaign. I asked him if he would help me in my next campaign. I’ll never forget his reaction. “Kevin, I ran a campaign against you. I trashed you the entire time, made you look like a fraud, an idiot, an incompetent cheat and a scumbag. And now you want to hire me?” And I said: “Absolutely! If you can make voters hate me that easily with lies I want to see how much you can get them to love me with the truth!” And that’s the beginning of my relationship with Steve Vancore. Steve is one of the best campaign strategists, pollsters and writers in the business. He is one of the few that can create the plan at the 30,000-foot level and make sure it’s executed at the 5,000-foot level. I consider him one of my best friends, not only in politics but one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. I know that’s true because he wrote it for me himself. I hope he kept this to 200 words like I asked. – Kevin Rader, state Senator, District 29

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Ashley Walker / PLAYER Back when I was Tampa Bay Times political editor, I knew Ashley Walker as the most sought after Democratic operative in Florida. Then I joined her at Mercury Public Affairs and learned why. She is a force of nature – smart as hell, demanding, tireless. Listening to Ashley during a high stakes strategy meeting, whether it’s a campaign emergency or a corporate client’s crisis, is like popping a particularly effective chill pill thanks to her drama-free style and sheer competence. She solves problems, or, more often, anticipates problems and avoids them. Ashley is a nationally respected partisan operative who earned her chops by sending President Barack Obama to the White House by leading his two Florida victories, running big super PAC campaigns, and this year leading billionaire Tom Steyer’s For Our Future super PAC in seven battleground states. But she is in many ways a perfect purple state politico. A Hoosier transplanted in Broward, she is married to an ardent Republican and runs Florida’s only major bipartisan public affairs firm, offering a full suite of services from PR to digital, TV, and mail, communications services. Methodical in her thinking and planning, she has successfully steered multiple nonpartisan ballot initiatives statewide and regionally, including efforts that had repeatedly failed before her involvement and fresh approach. This year, she added another giant accomplishment of her resume: mother. Remington Wayne Brunelle joined her winning team in May. — Adam Smith, Senior Vice President, Mercury Public Affairs; former political editor, Tampa Bay Times

Nancy Watkins / LEGEND When I first ran for office 10 years ago, I wanted to build the best team possible. When it came to who should be the Treasurer there was one name that consistently came up, Nancy Watkins. I quickly learned that navigating the labyrinth that is campaign finance law, reporting, and compliance requires a tenacity for detail and follow through few people possess, but that’s Nancy. Nancy Watkins is a pioneer of her craft and has brought a level of professionalism and sophistication that was sorely needed. The complex, confusing, and sometimes scary part of our political process is made simple with Nancy on your team. Countless others before me have rightfully lauded Nancy for her professional success over 30+ years advising clients from all over the country. However, Nancy is not just an amazing and gifted CPA, she is a loving wife, mother, and tireless servant to her community. Every year Nancy and her husband, Robert, open their home to hundreds of her friends and clients to enjoy the Children’s Gasparilla parade in Tampa with their families — a truly bipartisan affair.  No expense is spared and there are only two rules: Everyone must have fun, and no political talk. It is but one gesture among many that illustrates how Nancy practices her principles and understands that relationships are the true treasures of our lives. — Jeff Brandes, state Senator, District 24

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Susie Wiles / COUNSELOR Susie has politics and policy in her blood, and her entire career has never taken her far from it. She has had a savant’s instinct for where the public is, what they want, what they need to hear. These public relations instincts are intertwined with an elected official’s service: the optics are as important as the substance. A politician moves in symbols — lacking that, great policy dies. Marrying policy with symbolism is Susie’s calling card. She is not afraid of long shot candidates if she believes in them: Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis — all campaigns she led with entirely different types of candidates. — John Delaney, former Jacksonville Mayor

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Rick Wilson / THOUGHT LEADER The first time I met Rick Wilson was in 1988 when he and I were both working as idealistic young political aides in the George H. W. Bush campaign for President. The last time I saw Rick was when he was chatting with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes.” In a cable TV world run by political pundits, Rick could be the consummate insider, but he’s not. And that’s what makes him so influential. Unlike many of his peers, he is a risk-taker and a truth teller willing ultimately to put country above party in the most hyper-partisan era in a generation. After Donald Trump was elected, I walked away from a Republican Party I viewed as irretrievably broken and opened Midtown Reader, a small bookstore In Tallahassee. Rick went in the opposite direction, creating a new career based on openly and emphatically calling out Trump at every turn. Rick is a vocal and creatively profane foil to Trump, the man Rick calls the “fecal Midas.” His war on Trump led to the publication of two bestselling books, and, as a result, several times our lives have overlapped with Rick holding standing-room-only book readings in my store. Today, Rick is a founding member and the creative force behind the Lincoln Project, the globally known Trump opposition group that has pushed out some of the most scathing and effective anti-Trump messaging in this election cycle. If Joe Biden wins, he can thank Rick Wilson for the strong push. If Donald Trump is reelected, he can count on four more years of Rick Wilson directing withering fire between his shoulder blades. — Sally Bradshaw, owner, Midtown Reader and former senior adviser to Gov. Jeb Bush

Mark Wilson / INDUSTRY LEADER Mark Wilson knows our state. For more than 20 years, Mark has been the voice for Florida business owners, both large and small. If you want to know what business leaders are thinking, ask Mark. Be it taxes, workers comp, tort reform, regulatory issues or workforce education, you can go to Mark and get an informed decision, not just an opinion. This acquired knowledge coupled with the campaign political team that he and Marion Johnson have assembled put the Florida Chamber at the epicenter of Florida politics. Their ability to raise money and craft campaigns made the Chamber the go-to group for business-friendly candidates. When our state faced a financial crossroad in 2010, Mark helped us cultivate a plan to make the Florida economic comeback a reality. Now our state is enjoying the fruits of thoughtful business-friendly policies and workforce plans that make Florida the envy of the nation. — Mike Haridopolos, former Senate President

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Joe York / INDUSTRY LEADER In the decade in which I’ve had the opportunity to work with and be friends with Joe York, I’ve seen first hand what makes him the man he is. Joe believes that this is a practical world, that he can count only on what he earns and therefore in work, hard work. He believes in education, which gives us the knowledge to work wisely and trains our minds and our hands to work skillfully. He believes in honesty and truthfulness, without which we cannot win the respect and confidence of fellow men and women. Joe believes in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all. He believes in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and women and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all. And Joe believes in our country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is our home, and believes that we can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.” Because Joe York loves and believes these things, everywhere he goes, he continues to humbly and effectively lead. — James “J.W.” Grant, Florida’s Chief  Information Officer

Skylar Zander / ADVOCATE Clay County loves its politics. From John Thrasher to Travis Cummings, we fight for common sense conservative values proudly on a local and state level. Skylar Zander cut his teeth in the sometimes rough and tumble world of Clay politics, helping several candidates (including me) navigate the ups and downs of political campaigns. He has done it all in The Process, from Clay County Teenage Republicans chair to legislative aide to campaign manager to now lobbying and managing the messaging for Americans for Prosperity in Florida. What makes us in Clay County the proudest is his relentless focus on his family. He and his wife, Lindsey, have a beautiful daughter (and a new addition soon) and keep their priorities in the right place. Folks love to talk about the “grassroots,” and sometimes that gets nothing more than lip service from decision makers. Skylar started his career earning support for conservative causes household by household, block by block. Now he’s state director for AFP, and his success there is grounded in his understanding that all politics is local, and if you stay focused on what’s important, you will earn the win.

HEAR THE STORIES BEHIND THE POLITICS.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT As powerful as the individual members of the INFLUENCE 100 may be, the list itself is not invulnerable, especially to the limitations imposed by a pandemic. And so, this year’s acknowledgement of the most influential people in Florida politics might leave readers wondering why certain deserving individuals were not listed or photographed.  It’s just another disappointment we can blame on coronavirus.  Had our staff been able to travel as it normally did, the following worthy individuals would have been featured on these pages:

INFLUENCE 100 Pat Bainter Aminda Marquez Gonzalez Jorge Gonzalez Kris Money and Trey McCarley John Morgan Chris Ruddy Quint Studer

— Rob Bradley, state Senator, District 5

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Brian Ballard

Robert Coker

John Couris

Marion Hammer

In our big, beautiful, diverse state of more than 20 million people, only a few rise to lead and serve. Even fewer do so successfully, decade after decade. Brian Ballard is one of those unique Floridians. His remarkable career began as a public servant, working with my dear friend from Tampa, Gov. Bob Martinez. Brian operates at the highest level of character and ethics. He is admired by people on both sides of the aisle, which has become a very rare thing. He moves calmly and confidently between meetings and calls with leaders of our great country and our beloved state. Ballard Partners’ growth, from a small government affairs shop to Florida’s largest and one of Washington’s biggest is a testament to Brian’s work ethic, business acumen, integrity and the exceptional talent of the team he built. He proudly represents a diverse roster of major corporate, health, government and international clients. As Florida’s former Attorney General, I learned a lot about people. When it came time to leave public life and enter the private sector, joining Ballard Partners was an easy decision for me. Brian Ballard is one of the best people I know. It is great to be in a work environment where everyone genuinely likes each other and is led by a great man. — Pam Bondi, former Florida Attorney General and partner, Ballard Partners.

Robert Coker is the rare type of leader in Florida whose intellect, political insight and savvy has served him and our state well for many decades. He is truly a titan among public affairs professionals in our industry. When I consider who I would want on my side of an issue or a political campaign, Robert tops that list. He has earned the respect of Florida elected officials on both sides of the aisle because he is honest and loyal — two attributes that are absolutely critical to long-term success in politics. Another word I would use to describe Robert: selfless. Over the years, he has mentored countless aspiring public policy, advocacy and political professionals. Many working in state/national politics today owe their start to an opportunity provided by Robert Coker. While he rarely seeks credit for his efforts, thousands of Floridians have benefited from his advocacy and doggedness to do not what is easy, but what’s best for our rural areas, our state and our country. He has helped craft landmark policies written by legislators, Governors and U.S. Presidents for the past 40 years. Robert always thinks big, does what he says, and achieves goals many might find impossible. — Brian Ballard, President, Ballard Partners

Florida Politics readers may not know John Couris by name, but undoubtedly they have felt his presence. COVID-19 has brought him from behind the scenes to the forefront of policy development as Florida leaders look for ways to safely reopen our state. Long before this pandemic, John was an innovative and effective leader. He has a passion for efficiency and problem-solving. As an observer in the process, I watched Tampa General Hospital launch CareComm, a first-in-Florida, NASA-style mission control center that manages resources across the hospital to better serve their patients. It has improved patient outcomes, reduced hospital stays and saved on costs. John is always thinking big. Shortly after he was brought to Tampa General, he shared a vision to establish a medical district in Tampa. Like the great medical districts in Boston and Houston, Tampa’s district can become the next go-to destination for the highest quality health care because John is leading the charge. I had the benefit of working with John early in my career. Watching him in action, I knew he was an influencer. Now, as the CEO of Tampa General and someone who has played a critical role in helping Florida navigate the current challenges, John fits right in on the Influence 100 list. — Kathy Mears, top adviser to incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson

When someone hears the name Marion Hammer, there are generally two very different reactions. You either love to love her, or you love to loathe her, and there really isn’t much of a middle ground. Those who love her base it on her staunch support for gun rights, her “shall not be infringed upon” attitude toward defending our Second Amendment and her willingness to call out anyone who will not step up to protect the right to keep and bear arms. Ironically, those who loathe her come to their conclusion for the same reasons. No matter your personal feelings toward her, there is no denying that Marion Hammer is a trailblazer. From concealed carry to “Stand Your Ground,” her work for individual rights is evident, not only in Florida but also across the country. And while firearms are probably the first thing you think of when someone mentions her name, those who know her best also know that she has a deep passion for children with disabilities as well as a special place in her heart for our four-legged friends. No matter the issue, her historical knowledge and attention to policy details are impeccable. Because of this, there may not be a more meaningful phrase in Florida politics than “it’s Hammer time.” — Jayer Williamson, state Representative, District 3

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Mori Hosseini

Shad Khan

Syd Kitson

Scott Maxwell

Mori Hosseini has been a stalwart supporter and underwriter to many of Florida’s top leaders for decades. Simply put, Mori has had more influence over the last 30 years than any other person in Florida politics, except his wife, Forough. However, more importantly, former governors, speakers, and presidents would call Mori a friend, which speaks volumes about his character. People always ask, what’s his secret? How does he become so deeply entrenched as a leader in Florida? It’s twofold. First, every single time Mori has been entrusted with a position of power or leadership, he doesn’t just do a good job, he hits walk-off grand slams. He’s all-in. Everyone in Florida politics knows that major reforms or successful wins, be it performance funding, preeminence, and even the University of Florida moving to top 6 nationwide, happened only because of Mori Hosseini. Second, what people don’t realize about Mori, is that leaders are amazed that someone as influential as Mori never asks for a single thing for himself – he uses his vast power and influence exclusively to advance the goals and objectives of others, rather than his own. The combination of being a great leader and having a great vision is rarely seen, and the next time you see a big win for Florida students, know that in all likelihood, it was Mori Hosseini. — Richard Corcoran, Florida Commissioner of Education

Since purchasing the Jacksonville Jaguars in December 2011, Shad Khan has made a tremendous impact on Florida’s First Coast. His story of success is inspiring. He arrived in America as a young immigrant at the age of 16 with only $500 in his pocket. And from those humble beginnings he rose to become the CEO of a leading automotive parts manufacturer and owner of an NFL team, an English soccer team, and a wrestling league. His time in Jacksonville is marked by more than just football. He has made significant investment and contributions to our community in both community assets and his advocacy for public policies. He has been an amazing partner to the city of Jacksonville, making significant contributions to enhancing and constructing cityowned assets like TIAA Bank Field, the Daily’s Place amphitheater, and more. Currently, my team and I are working with him on a public-private partnership to build an exciting new development in the city’s sports & entertainment district that promises to enhance Jacksonville’s competitiveness and reputation as a premiere destination in the Southeastern U.S. On the policy side, Shad has been an advocate and supporter for key initiatives to improve our city. Since taking office, my family and I have had the amazing opportunity to get to know Shad, his wife, and children, and we know them all to be generous and caring. I consider Shad to be a good friend to me and all of the Jacksonville community. — Lenny Curry, Mayor of Jacksonville

A professional athlete, visionary businessman, leader, and family man, Syd Kitson is a modern-day Renaissance Man. His many gifts, imagination, and sheer grit have been evident for many of us to see over the years. Some may see a mountain; he sees a hill to conquer. He lives his life with a form of positivity that is infectious to those around him. To most developers, the idea of buying 90,000 acres is as intimidating as developing a community on the moon. Syd saw something different. He envisioned conserving 70,000 acres permanently for the enjoyment of all Floridians and then building the most environmentally friendly, techforward, solar-powered community in America. Oh, by the way, Syd did this all during the depths of the great housing recession. To understand Syd, you must recognize that he is not driven by money. Rather he is all about impact. Syd currently serves as chairman of the Board of Governors, which oversees our entire University System. A natural leader, Syd also serves as chairman of the Florida Council of 100 and is the former chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Most importantly, Syd Kitson is like a big brother to me, and I feel blessed to be his friend! — Will Weatherford, former Speaker of the Florida House

It’s hard to think about Orlando without thinking about Scott Maxwell. Since 2002 he has been penning a column at the Orlando Sentinel that holds the powerful accountable while amplifying the voices of so many who have been ignored for far too long. Whether it’s calling out shenanigans at the Orlando International Airport’s GOAA Board or diving deep into our region’s low wages and the affordable housing crisis, Maxwell takes complicated issues and makes them easy to understand, empowering even the most apolitical of people to get involved. Maxwell is not afraid to make fun of himself, to give credit where credit is due, or to crack a joke here and there. He cares deeply about his family, and is a frequent emcee for charitable causes. Chances are if you don’t read Maxwell’s column then you’ve heard his voice at a fundraiser or two. Orlandoans and Central Floridians alike trust Maxwell to give it to us straight, and he never lets us down. — Anna Eskamani, state Representative, District 47

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Desmond Meade

Collier Merrill

Carlos Migoya

Joy Reid

Authoritarians dictate and control; leaders persuade and influence. Desmond Meade is a genuine leader in the tradition of Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Congressman John Lewis. All accomplished incredible feats because of their ability to influence and persuade others while persevering in the face of daunting opposition. As President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Meade led the movement to eliminate Florida’s long standing permanent voting ban for most citizens convicted of a felony. Remarkably, Meade shepherded Amendment 4 through a difficult ballot petition process and led it to an overwhelming bipartisan victory at the ballot box in 2018 based on his ability to convince fellow Floridians that mass, permanent voter disenfranchisement was civically and morally wrong. John Lewis repeatedly said, “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy.” I cannot think of anyone in Florida’s recent history who has done more to protect and encourage the use of this precious tool than Desmond Meade. His courage and perseverance are examples for all of us. — Gwen Graham, former U.S. Representative, Florida’s 2nd Congressional District

Collier Merrill is one of Florida’s top real estate investors and business development experts, but some people may not know that he also has incredible taste in food! For generations, our family has operated restaurants in Florida, so I can say with certainty that Collier Merrill’s restaurants are some of the very best! As President of Great Southern Restaurants, Collier owns and operates Great Southern Catering and Events as well as The Fish House, Atlas Oyster House, Jackson’s Steakhouse, and many more. He has the perfect personality for his very diverse portfolio of businesses because he is a great guy who is just fun to be around. He is always quick with a handshake and a smile. He is someone most people he knows are proud to call “friend.” Collier is a cornerstone of the Panhandle who graduated from the University of West Florida and now serves on the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, the Sacred Heart Health System Board of Directors, and the West Florida Historic Preservation Board. He isn’t just a piece of Florida history – he is a cornerstone of Florida’s future. He has an eye for seeing the fullest potential in this beautiful jewel that is the Emerald Coast; and I am sure that with him, the best is yet to come. — Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer

When you think of Miami, you think of the iconic institutions that make up the community: American Airlines Arena, Miami International Airport, the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial. If anyone in South Florida has an emergency and it’s serious, they go to Jackson. Every day, Jackson Health Systems serves some of South Florida’s most vulnerable populations and has been a bulwark in the fight against COVID-19. At the helm is Carlos Migoya, a man who despite contracting the virus himself in March, never stopped working. Throughout the response to COVID-19, Carlos served at ground zero, leading the third largest hospital in the nation through an unprecedented global pandemic. As Jackson responded to COVID-19, other hospitals soon followed, and when leaders needed to know what was happening in South Florida they turned to Carlos. When Gov. DeSantis went to Miami for a COVID-19 briefing, you always saw Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Mayor Francis Suarez and Carlos Migoya. What other hospital in the country has a CEO that is held in the same regard as the County Mayor? There is no doubt that the professionals at Jackson Health Systems saved countless lives from COVID-19, and there is also no doubt that they could not have done it without Carlos at the helm, calmly navigating through the treacherous waters. — Jared Moskowitz, Director, Florida Division of Emergency Management

Joy Reid is a phenom — on TV, on Twitter, and everywhere else, especially Florida. Despite being born and raised in Denver and now living in Harlem, her Florida roots run as deep as her influence. She was a Miamian from the late ‘90s until beginning her national superstardom on MSNBC. I was introduced to Joy in South Florida through her work in early online progressive politics and the 2008 Obama campaign. Long before The New York Times called her the “Heroine of the Resistance” she was carving public opinion in the bluest part of the most crucial swing state in the nation, including earning an opinion column in the Miami Herald. From there it was onto the Grio, the Reid Report, AM Joy, and now MSNBC’s blockbuster The ReidOut. But she hasn’t forgotten Florida, and more importantly, she hasn’t lost her extraordinary talent of lifting up voices of the often voiceless. Joy represents the future of truly representative, authentic, and bold political coverage and we are all better for her success. She is kind, sharp, and undeniably one of the most influential people in Florida Politics. — Kevin Cate, President, CATECOMM

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Eric Silagy

Ryan Tyson

Jeff Vinik

Will Weatherford

There are many words that describe Eric Silagy — strategic, calculated, thoughtful, inclusive — but nothing describes him better than passionate. Eric doesn’t see his obligation as President and CEO of Florida Power & Light ending with the roles and responsibilities that go with the title. Eric sees his role as one that brings people together for the betterment of the entire state. When you talk with Eric, you are rarely ever talking about things with regard to just Florida Power & Light. Very often, he talks about how other industries and interests can work together for the common good of all Floridians. Look no further than his involvement outside of leading Florida’s largest investor-owned utility. Roles such as dhairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s International Business Council, trustee on the State University System’s Board of Governors, and executive board positions with the Florida Council of 100 and Enterprise Florida. In short, Eric’s passion to bring industry, education, and government together make him a leader among leaders. He is truly a visionary leader delivering results for Florida. He never settles for the here and now. He is always looking ahead and focusing on the future. — Steve Crisafulli, former House Speaker and founder, Crisafulli Consulting

In our business, conventional wisdom rules supreme. There are few original thinkers. Ryan Tyson is a big exception. While many use data to tell the story they want to tell, Ryan’s brilliance lies in both the hard science of data analysis, as well as the true art of unearthing the why. He is able to discern what is happening, but most importantly, what is coming. And he is right – he so often nails it – which is what sets him apart and matters most. Because of this, Ryan operates at the highest of levels with the highest of stakes and is on the speed dial of every major political player in Florida. The operation he has built from the ground up is lethally effective. And he disarms a room and strategically drives a narrative more compellingly than anyone I’ve ever seen — be it a Fortune 500 board room or a speech to thousands — doing so in his inimitable Tysonesque way. Few possess true influence the way Ryan does. His talent is unparalleled, his trajectory is stratospheric, and he’ll be on this and every other political influencer list for as long they exist. — Eileen Stuart, Hopping Green & Sams

To say that the arrival of Jeff Vinik to Tampa was the equivalent of landing a first-round draft pick would be an understatement. This unassuming and humble business leader and sports team owner has set the bar for not only what every sports team owner should be but, more importantly, what attributes every servant leader should embody. Not only did he completely reimagine the customer experience for the Tampa Bay Lightning fan and build a cadre of loyal Bolts fans that fill the building, he built a team that won the Stanley Cup this year and has been competitive on the ice almost every year. While that alone would be worthy of praise, it is his commitment to the Tampa Bay area that sets him apart. He and his wife, Penny, never stop giving to causes that make a difference in this city. From the arts to Metropolitan Ministries, their generosity knows no boundaries. Where there is a need, there is a commitment on the part of the Viniks to alleviate it. His investment in Tampa is historic as the development at Water Street begins to take shape in the Channelside area. The largest development in Tampa — and one of the largest in the country. It will completely reshape downtown Tampa and anchor the emergence of Tampa as one of America’s fastest growing and most exciting urban environments. As Mayor, I could not have had a better partner and Tampa could not have been luckier that he chose us. — Bob Buckhorn, former Mayor of Tampa

Will Weatherford matters more today as a finder and funder of successful businesses than when he was Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. And he mattered plenty then. The nation’s youngest presiding officer, Weatherford performed superbly. You knew he was boss but he wore it casually and didn’t drag an anchor line of enemies when he left town. Six years on, Weatherford moves smoothly in the board rooms of big companies and power organizations who want him at their tables — yes, because he was Speaker but mostly because of what he is. Will is managing partner of Weatherford Capital, a private investment firm co-founded with brothers Sam and Drew. He has partnered with some of the country’s biggest players and closed a succession of highly profitable deals, many in Florida. Weatherford and partners just sold one of their companies for more than $2 billion. He won’t say his firm is hot, but it is. Politically, he has kept his hand in, very lightly, helping candidates, leading policy think tanks and advising officeholders. Weatherford for Governor, Senator? It could happen. But he doesn’t need it to feed a gnawing ambition. He cochairs Tampa’s Super Bowl LV and works hard for ministries that help the homeless and hungry. He and Courtney and four young children live a good, fulfilling, earned life. His influence in Tampa Bay, statewide and beyond is because he adds business value seasoned with political skill and governing experience. In or out of politics, Will Weatherford will matter much more six years from now. — Don Gaetz, former Senate President

/ INDUSTRY LEADER

/ THOUGHT LEADER

/ TITAN

/ TITAN

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HONORABLE MENTION

JEAN-PHILLIPE AUSTIN: Because this doctor is a key influencer in South Florida’s growing Haitian community. BILL BARKER: Because if you read a Florida newspaper, there’s a good chance it’s one of his.

MAX ALVAREZ: Because this Republican donor is a fundraising powerhouse in South Florida.

ADAM BABINGTON: Because the Mouse’s political operation is first-class, in good times and bad.

NORMAN BRAMAN: Because Marco Rubio picking up on the first ring is true power.

MITCHELL BERGER: Because when trial lawyers make a political comeback, he’ll play a role in it.

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LYNDSEY BRZOZOWSKI Because she is the Senior VP of one of the top public affairs firms in the state. She’s earned respect for her intelligence, attention to detail, and poise in crisis situations.

LEWIS BEAR: Because you wouldn’t run for dog catcher in the Panhandle without his blessing.


JIM DEFEDE: Because he runs the “Meet the Press” of Florida.

TRE EVERS: Because this top GOP consultant helps bridge the gap between the old guard and the new. VINCENT EVANS: Because as political director for Kamala Harris, this Florida man could be headed to the majors.

MARC CAPUTO: Because even though his focus has shifted, his keyboard remains powerful in Florida.

REGGIE CARDOZO: Because he’s one of, if not the, smartest Democratic operatives in the state — and just an all-around nice guy.

TONY CORTESE: Because he’s a key staffer with solid connections to legislative leaders.

CHRIS DORWORTH: Because he has juice with politicos on both sides of the aisle and is a host unto himself in Seminole County.

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HONORABLE MENTION

TOM FEENEY: Because when you’re the man behind Associated Industries of Florida, you belong on this list — and throwing a killer party doesn’t hurt.

DAVID HART: Because if you want the Florida Chamber’s backing, you have to get his.

JOHN KENNEDY: Because as a politics and government reporter for Gannett, he’s keeping the state informed.

RICH HEFFLEY: Because this top consultant deserves a hat tip for his role in building — and more importantly maintaining — the GOP majority.

JON JOHNSON: Because health care policy rarely moves without him being involved behind the scenes, plus he’s a helluva nice guy.

BRIAN HUGHES: Because he’s still the right-hand man to the most powerful Mayor in Florida.

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STEPHANIE KOPELOUSOS: Because this well-liked pro keeps racking up wins as the Governor’s legislative affairs director.


ROOSEVELT HOLMES: Because this Democratic staffer is a rising star who will have his hands full come 2022.

JULIO FUENTES: Because this business leader has united tens of thousands of Hispanicowned Florida businesses into a voice that cannot be ignored at the state — or national — level. CHRIS KORGE: Because he’s one of Florida’s top Democratic fundraisers.

RICHARD MARTIN: Because as the Chief of Staff for Attorney General Ashley Moody, he’s working to keep Florida safe.

ANDY MARLETTE: Because this well-known political cartoonist serves as the conscience of Northwest Florida — and often beyond.

CAROL MARBIN MILLER: Because she’s the most important investigative reporter in Florida … Do we need to say more?

ANA NAVARRO: Because she’s a constant presence on national TV, saying what many Democrats are thinking.

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HONORABLE MENTION

ALEX OTAOLA: Because this YouTube star is one of President Donald Trump’s biggest cheerleaders in Miami-Dade.

BEN POLLARA: Because passing medical marijuana wasn’t enough, now he’s fighting for fair wages in Florida.

JEFF PORTER: Because Florida trial lawyers may not win a lot, but he’s one of the reasons they don’t lose a lot either.

JIM RIMES: Because he is the best nuts-and-bolts political consultant the GOP has.

JUSTIN SAYFIE: Because a decade later people are still flocking to his site each morning. HARRIS ROSEN: Because this titan of the hotel and lodging industry is committed to improving Central Florida communities.

DAVID SMILEY: Because as the Miami Herald’s lead political reporter, he produces solid scoops with ease. 156

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CHRIS SPENCER: Because in the data-driven DeSantis administration, he drives the data.


TIM STAPLETON: Because this early DeSantis backer knows how to pick ‘em … and the end of the Oliva era is within reach.

KENT STERMON: Because it’s good to be the Governor’s bestie. BARBARA STIEFEL: Because she is one of the few on the Democratic side who can write a seven-figure check.

MELISSA STONE: Because her connections to Scottworld still carry weight.

ANDREW WEINSTEIN: Because if former Vice President Joe Biden wins, his Florida rainmaker will have a lot to celebrate.

MATT VAN NAME: Because as Chief of Staff to the only statewide elected Democrat, there are big things on the horizon.

JACKIE SCHUTZ ZECKMAN: Because she’s keeping the trains running as Rick Scott’s Chief of Staff.

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What I’ve Learned

Bob Buckhorn 62, Tampa Former two-term Tampa Mayor AS TOLD TO JANELLE IRWIN

Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been a private citizen for more than a year. But while he has sufficiently terrified local fish populations, it doesn’t mean he’s not paying attention. “It’s challenging for me to go from seven days a week, 100 miles per hour, but I prepared myself for that,” he said. “I’m rested and tan, and the fish fear me.” Buckhorn had plenty to say about the spoils of retiring from public life — aside from fishing, his family enjoyed plenty of pre-COVID-19 travels to Ireland and North Carolina — but his perspective as a former Mayor watching his successor, former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, manage an unprecedented crisis is worth exploring. “That’s where mayors excel; that’s where mayors’ legacies are determined,” Buckhorn said. Mayors nationwide are facing a largely unknown pandemic, which has resulted in an economic crisis. Add to that the ongoing unrest and debate over social justice issues, and they’re facing a perfect storm of calamity. Buckhorn is no stranger to strife. The Democrat presided over the city of Tampa from 2011 until 2019. For almost all of his tenure, the city was still reeling from the Great Recession, the worst recession since the Great Depression. The economic collapse, fueled by a real estate market that went bust, drained the city’s revenue. With rampant foreclosures and more and more homes scooped up by developers and investors for rental housing, property taxes shriveled.

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PHOTO: Allison Lynn Photography

“It’s challenging for me to go from seven days a week, 100 miles per hour, but I prepared myself for that. I’m rested and tan, and the fish fear me.” Fall 2020

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FLORIDA POLY RANKED TOP 75

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“Jane Castor has done a tremendous job with everything that has been thrown at her in her first year.”

It wasn’t until fiscal year 2019, Buckhorn’s last year writing the city’s budget, that revenue returned to its pre-recession days. “Jane Castor has done a tremendous job with everything that has been thrown at her in her first year,” he said. Castor’s first budget included the city’s largest infrastructure project ever — the $3 billion PIPES project to fund improvements across the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years. But that was before COVID-19 arrived and sent residents to the unemployment line by the thousands. Not that he’s trying to compare the two challenges, but Buckhorn sees optimism in the current economic crisis as it relates to what the city faced during his days overseeing a lean budget and rebuilding a crippled economy. Looking back at his tenure, there are issues he would have liked to have accomplished more on: things like affordable housing, income inequality and social justice. But because the city was in a state of recovery, economic development was the priority. “I knew that we couldn’t do the other things if I couldn’t get this economy back up,” he said. So he built. He prioritized downtown development to attract young talent, a professional workforce that would expand the city’s economy. He was famously, argu-

ably anyway, the city’s loudest (sometimes maybe even too loud, some would argue) cheerleader. It was a multifaceted effort to attract as much business to the city as possible. “If I couldn’t attract talent that would fuel the economy, none of the other things would have been possible,” he said. Buckhorn knew there was more to be done, but he made choices fully understanding that he would hand off an economy ready to tackle the issues he wasn’t able to fully address. But now there’s more. Castor has had to navigate a public health crisis like nothing anyone has ever experienced. She led the way on issues pertaining to public safety in a pandemic as an early supporter of mandatory mask wearing and calculated closures. Then came George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, which led to rampant protests nationwide, including in Tampa. Most were peaceful, but some came with an occasional riotous outburst. Castor has resisted calls to “defund the police,” a move meant not to eliminate funding altogether but to reprioritize funds for other services like mental health and affordable housing — tools supporters argue would take work off law enforcement and put it into more appropriate hands. To Buckhorn, it put Castor in a situation where she’s damned if she does,

damned if she doesn’t. “For her in particular it’s a no-win situation,” he said. “The cops will think she’s throwing them under the bus and the protesters will think she’s still a cop.” His advice: Stay the course. If Castor can continue building off the growth he saw in the last couple of years in office, Buckhorn thinks the economy can rebound within a couple of years. Now is not the time to take the foot off the gas pedal, particularly not on attracting new businesses and professional talent. “I think Tampa is uniquely positioned. What I do worry about is the loss of momentum. Momentum is a very fleeting thing in city business. If the elected officials are not focused every day on winning that battle and driving that message all over the world, we’re going to lose momentum,” Buckhorn said. “In spite of the COVID-19, in spite of the social justice issues, you can’t lose sight of the fact that you’ve got to wake up every morning and compete.” He also sees opportunity for mayors across the country who, in many regards, are leading the fight against COVID-19. President Donald Trump and many governors who support him, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, haven’t been leaders on the issue, he said. It’s the mayors who are closest to the community and ensure policies that keep residents and visitors safe. “I think it has shown the importance and the significance of mayors, and that is the reason mayors have become thought leaders around the country,” Buckhorn said. But he’s just an observer on the sidelines now, a place he’s happy to be, but not as happy as his wife, Dr. Cathy Lynch Buckhorn. “I think the happiest thing for her was not having to go to bed with a police radio blaring in the background,” he said.

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The Big Question

Q: WHAT IS YOUR HALLOWEEN

COSTUME GOING TO BE THIS YEAR?

SHAWN FOSTER SUNRISE CONSULTING GROUP “I’m placing big bets that the biggest Halloween costume trend will come from one of the hobbies that have filled many people’s quarantine: binge-watching TV shows. Who could forget the part of quarantine when all anyone could talk about was Netflix’s original series ‘Tiger King’? I personally felt I lost brain cells from watching the series. Why not dress up like Carole Baskin or Joe Exotic?”

NICK JANOVSKY “2020 has been a shit hurricane with a calamitous savaging of our lives, pocketbooks, and our morals. In dramatic, gory and storied fashion, just as the epic series Rocky & Creed, 2020 has tested us and the American spirit to our core. If Rocky can get beaten, broken, and have life taken from him, maybe we can get up too.”

CHELSEA MURPHY RIGHT ON CRIME “A murder hornet dressed as Carole Baskin.”

SCREVEN WATSON “Global pandemic, cataclysmic wildfires, record number of early hurricanes, murder hornets, economic crash, and an approaching asteroid … Would the return of dinosaurs surprise anyone?”

BETH MATUGA HARD ASK CONSULTING “A dress, a full face of makeup, Spanx and an underwire brassiere. Remember in ye olden times when we’d actually get dressed up?! BOO!”

“My parents gave me this name so I struggle to say this, but … I heard there are ‘Karen’ Halloween costumes. Can’t think of anything more 2020 than that. Signed, Just call me KC or something.”

JAKE FARMER FLORIDA RETAIL FEDERATION “Allstate’s Mr. Mayhem … Whatever could go wrong has gone wrong this year but at least we’ve been able to have some laughs.”

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EVAN ROSS PUBLIC COMMUNICATORS GROUP “The spirit of 2020 has so many layers. The one of appreciation calls for us to dress up as an essential worker — a nurse, teacher, bus driver, or food service worker. Any of those costumes represent members of society who are underpaid, overworked, and have historically not been appreciated for their vital role in our society.”

ILLUSTRATIONS: Bill Day

KAREN CYPHERS SACHS MEDIA


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Profile for Extensive Enterprises Media

INFLUENCE Magazine – Fall 2020  

Recognizing the 100 most influential people in Florida politics

INFLUENCE Magazine – Fall 2020  

Recognizing the 100 most influential people in Florida politics