For me, the action is the juice.
Anew edition of INFLUENCE Mag azine is dropping, but it won’t just be the 2022 INFLUENCE 100. This year I’m adding 50 spots to the list.
Simply put, there were just too many people who deserved a spot on the list for me to stop at 100. Even at 150, some hard choices had to be made about who made the cut. We could have easily ex panded further — if you’ve kept track of the INFLUENCE 100 over the years, you likely know its origin as “The For tune 500 of Florida politics.”
That may be a difficult mark to hit, but at the rate Florida’s growing I can at least understand how Billboard’s simple Top 10 list grew into the monstrous Top 200 over the years.
And stopping at 150 was a risk I was willing to take — “the action is the juice,” if you will.
As always, I’m responsible for the facepalming, out-of-left-field 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 “150” section to the honorable mentions.
But if you’re upset about not making the cut, wait a few months before you start “talking to an empty telephone” or tell me, metaphorically, to leave the car keys the kitchen on my way out the door.
The upcoming editions of INFLUENCE will include the 2023 Rising Stars in Flori da Politics and the first-ever Most Power ful People in Health Care Politics. Know ing those were in the pipe made some of these decisions easier, and it should soothe those of you who are flipping through the pages looking for a mention.
At the very least, it should help you slow down enough to enjoy the excellent photography and bios penned by honor ees’ peers, competitors and admirers.
There are no elected officials or agency heads in the INFLUENCE 150. That’s for two reasons. Obviously the Governor is the most influential per son in the state, love it or hate it. Further, most power among officeholders derives from the position itself — typically speaking, their influence wanes once they’ve left office.
Instead, the INFLUENCE 150 includes the less seen masters of the uni verse: The Players, The Thought Leaders, The Lobbyists, The Titans, The Counselors, The Media, The Industry Leaders, The Advocates, The Wonks, and The Legends.
And on a side note: Bonus points for next time - if you quickly noticed that I just watched “Heat” and read the sequel book, which was recently published and is already a best seller.
Like my favorite director, Christopher Nolan, who opened “The Dark Knight” with an homage to my favorite movie, “Heat,” I’ve designed this edition of INFLUENCE as a tribute to Michael Mann’s landmark film.
Some of you will immediately get this artistic vision. Many of you will not.
But there’s no denying the power of the 2022 INFLUENCE 150.Peter Schorsch Publisher Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Renzo Downey Rosanne Dunkelberger
A.G. Gancarski Andrew Meachem
Ryan Nicol Jacob Ogles
Scott Powers Jesse Scheckner
Drew Wilson Alex Workman
Bill Day Jordan Gibson STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS
Allison Davis Colin Hackley
Abby Hart Mary Beth Tyson
DIGITAL SERVICES Daniel Dean MANAGER
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 Maga zine and Extensive Enterprises Media are not responsible for un solicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contri butions are welcomed and encouraged, but will not be returned. INFLUENCE Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright September 2022, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part with out written permission is prohibited.
YOU’VE BEEN GRANTED ACCESS
AROUND THE CLOCK AND
AND ACROSS THE STATE
THE INFLUENCE 150
220 And 50 Honorable Mentions
Florida’s a big state with nationwide sway and even a list of 150 people isn’t quite big enough. So here’s a group of influencers who are worth checking out.
72 Downballot Drama
Once you’ve had your fill of the big-money statewide Governor and Senate battles, check out INFLUENCE’s Top 10 races to watch in the General Election.
68 The $100 Billion Contract
When it comes to providing — and paying for — medical services to needy Floridians, the bidding process is long and the stakes are high for providers as well as AHCA, the state agency envisioning how Medicaid will work over six years.
234 What I’ve Learned
After serving in the Legislature over decades, former Senate President Bill Galvano is focusing on his law practice — but not quite ready to leave Republican politics behind.
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30 Miami’s Michelin Stars
Post-COVID, The Magic City’s fine dining scene has not just rebounded, it’s gone supernova and its restaurants have the Michelin honors to prove it.
22 The Final Touch
Socks are the new ties for the wellappointed man who aspires to show his individuality.
66 KR2 Technology
Glenn Kirkland, Jr. and Jon Menendez’ new firm creates a bridge between tech service providers and their government customers.
46 Primary Day
A pictorial look at some of the winning, losing and bound-for-a-GeneralElection-runoff candidates making their last pitch to voters.
25 Talking ‘Heat’
Listen in on five guys, including INFLUENCE Publisher Peter Schorsch, fanboy about Michael Mann’s 30-yearold crime drama starring Al Pacino and .
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the Political Aficionado’s Guide to ...
Exploring the weirdness of FloridaBY JACOB OGLES
Like many Floridians, Gabrielle Calise can’t actually claim to be born in Florida. But through years working as the nostalgia beat reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, the 27-year-old established her reputation as an expert on the history of the Sunshine State.
That led the entertainment company A24 to tap Calise as the editor for “Flor ida! A Hyper-local Guide to the Flora, Fauna, and Fantasy of the Most Far-out State in America.”
The full-color tome explores Florida attractions that largely predate theme parks, collecting pictures of local oddities and mixing them with Florida recipes and essays. Calise gave her nights and week ends to the project over the past year, and in many ways her career led directly to a book project that stands out in the travel guide section like a Twistee Treat ice cream stand in a strip mall.
“We didn’t want any cookie-cutter kinds of things,” she said. “We wanted to have some classic things like, if you are coming to Florida, you are going to eat a Cuban sandwich. You’re going to go to Publix.
“But we also wanted to have some unexpected things that maybe dug into the nuances. We are getting into the cracks of the state that are not neces sarily what you would expect. There’s so much funky, kitschy stuff here that is sort of leftover from the pre-Disney roadside attraction era, where it was the Wild West of tourism.”
A Hyper-local Guide to the Flora, Fauna, and Fantasy of the Most Far-out State in America
Some of those destinations are lost to history. Cypress Gardens closed long ago, and it’s not so easy to find a pyramid of water skiers on the water these days. But there are still mermaids at Weeki Wachee, some of them doing monthly shows well into their 80s.
Memory. She started writing human inter est stories and realized the unusual places these narratives could lead.
In between brightly colored pop art illustrations and instructions on how to made a credible Key Lime Pie, Calise sought in the pages of the book to tell sto ries that offer a distinctly Floridian take on the state where few can truly claim to be native but tens of millions call home.
She, in many senses, devoted her career to these peculiar tales. A self-de scribed Pinellas County girl, Calise moved to Florida as a child in 2004, the year four named hurricanes made landfall in the state, and it made an impression on what a dangerous and outrageous place Florida could be, yet still prove alluring to visitors from around the world.
Starting at her hometown newspaper as an intern, she recalls then-newsroom historian John Martin training her on the modern tools of exploring the past, like delving into Newspapers.com or search ing the state photo archives at Florida
grew up in Tallahassee, taking the live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, dense scrub palmettos, and nearby crystalclear springs for granted. As a teen, also was eager to be anywhere else. But once I moved to DC, then Boston, spent years emphatically explaining how my North Florida home is very much its own place: that it’s springs Florida, river Florida, sinkhole Florida, not just beach Florida. When I came back to visit, my heart would swell a little driving under a canopy road, the curling gray moss moving in the breeze. When my husband and I chose to buy a house in Tallahassee, I wondered if the landscape would retain its magic: would the live oak trees fade into the background, a normal baseline? The answer is a resounding no.
She recalls writing a story about why Tampa has so many strip clubs, which led to the history of smut magnate Joe Redner’s years-long battle with the city over the legality of lap dances. In a stranger turn, that led her to find out why, exactly, a full-scale space ship sits atop Odyssey 2001 on Dale Mabry High way, which somehow turned Calise into a student of Futuro House architecture. “That was a prefabricated home. Once upon a time, there was a dealership in Clearwater for spaceship homes, and one of them ended up on the roof of a strip club,” she explains.
At this point, the stories come to Cal ise, memories filling her voice mail with vivid imagery of those lesser-known facets of Florida that, for somebody, became interwoven with precious mem ories.
Eventually, travel publishers start ed calling as well. Before “Florida!,” she also worked on a travel guide for Wild sam, which specializes in pocket-sized booklets for people to carry around the
still feels very present. Alligators sun themselves on the banks, soaking up the heat from the sun. Egrets honk and take flight when your kayak gets close. Paddle along the glassy water to Log Spring, not far from the more crowded swimming spot at Blue Spring. Crack open a beer. Marvel at the birds, the trees, feeling just the right level of isola tion in nature. Get back in the car and head from spring water to salt water. The drive is half the fun: riding along U.S. 98 brings you through small coastal towns and has some of the best views in the world, with longleaf pines opening up to views of the Gulf. Optional stops at the St. Marks Lighthouse (1255 Lighthouse Road, St. Marks, 32355 ) and the Gulf
places they visit. They include local his tory and personalities, like an interview Calise conducted with a longtime Tampa cigar roller. It’s that gig that first intro duced Calise to Vicki Smith, a Weeki Wa chi mermaid in her 80s who also lands in the pages of the A24 guide.
At 527 pages, “Florida!” is most as suredly not pocket-sized and marks a different scope of work, and depth. It also more thoroughly explores those parts of the state that don’t always merit their own flyer on the rest area rack. A24, a company best known for film products, reached out to Calise as it worked on a number of films about the state and asked that she serve as editor for a book of stories because there were too many to tell.
“I feel like it’s important to go to some of these places that are less ex pected or maybe a little bit hokey,” she said. “Those people that work there have stories of their time growing up in the area, and that’s the best way to know the spirit of a place.”
“Florida!” is $50 and can be purchased at shop.a24films.com/products/florida.
When friends visit in Tallahassee, the day starts at Ology Brewing ( 118 E 6th Ave., Tallahassee, 32303 ) to pick up both a delicious coffee and cans of
Specimen Marine Laboratories ( 222 Clark Dr., Panacea, 32346 )—but time it just right so you’re on the water as the sun is setting. When you’ve had your share of sunset, head back up the
road to Angelo’s (
the Political Aficionado’s Guide to ...
How the Florida film industry got slimed:
The rise and fall of NickelodeonBY RYAN L. TERRY
t’s no secret Florida was once rich in television and film production. In fact, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (former ly Disney-MGM) and Universal Studios Florida were both built as counterparts to their main locations in southern Cal ifornia. So why did it all but disappear?
In short: government and unions.
Thanks to iconic features like “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954) and TV shows like “Flipper” (1960s), there was a solid foundation upon which to build a TV/film industry. For five sea sons starting in 1984, the iconic cop series “Miami Vice” not only showcased (and revived) the Art Deco aesthetic of South Beach, the show was a huge driv er in popular music and fashion. From the late 1980s through the early 2000s, Central Florida was in its “Hollywood” golden age.
When it comes to the rise and fall of the film industry in Florida, we can look at Universal Studios Florida and Nick elodeon Studios as microcosms of the larger intersection of cinema and poli tics in the Sunshine State.
A variety of productions took place on and around the sound stages of the working studio theme park. This pro vided additional revenue and advertis ing opportunities, as locations and sets could double as theme park attractions. The park opened with the filming of “Psycho IV”, with the infamous Bates Motel and home recreated as the shoot ing location and attraction.
But perhaps the biggest draw of all was Nickelodeon Studios.
In November 1988, Nickelodeon (founded in 1979) moved to its colorful office building, featuring the big orange logo and iconic slime geyser. Although the production facilities were already in use prior to the park’s opening day, the official opening coincided with the theme park’s on June 7, 1990. Guests could tour the studio, audition for a show or join the studio audience during taping.
More than a dozen kid/teen sitcoms, 20 game shows, and five children’s shows were shot at the main studios including: “Double Dare,” “Figure It Out,” “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” “Clarissa Explains
Author Ryan Terry, a Film Studies and Screenwriting lecturer at The University of Tampa, is nostalgic for Florida’s now-dor mant film industry. Photo: The Workmans
It All,” “GUTS” and “All That.” And shows like “What Would You Do?” often brought cameras into the park to interact with guests. Nickelodeon’s aim was to be the anti-Disney Channel. Directors, writers, crew and talent were mostly nonunion — meaning the studio was able to create memorable entertainment without as many regula tions. Moreover, they largely experimented with programming ideas — helping to define a generation of children’s television.
While cast and crew may have worked longer hours for less pay than their union counterparts, those wanting to break into the industry had op portunities right out of high school or college. Writ ers could submit spec-scripts directly to Nickelode on, any kid or teen could audition for new shows, and there was a central human resources team for various administrative and crew positions. While unions do help to protect workers from exploita tion or unfair termination, they also have negative side effect of creating obstacles for new talent to enter the industry.
When Nick was shooting “Salute Your Shorts in Cali fornia” in the ’90s, they met with a lot of opposition from local Teamsters. Their global headquarters in Florida allowed them to continue to operate as a nonunion studio. Nick’s defense was that if the relatively low-budget shows were shot with union personnel, the network couldn’t have been sustainable.
Outside of Nickelodeon, there was much filming at both Universal and Disney studios. Elder Millennials may remember “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” taped entirely at Disney-MGM. The Steve Martin classic “Par enthood” was filmed at Universal Studios, and just down the road in Lakeland and Tampa, Tim Burton filmed many scenes from “Edward Scissorhands.”
Over the years, many other television shows and movies filmed at Universal Studios Florida. But around the turn of the 21st century, the film industry would begin to decline.
Prior to 1998, Florida was mostly governed by Dem ocrats — who tended to favor film incentives. But that changed when Republicans took over. With the shift in the Legislature, many of the industry’s tax credits began to dry up. And unions began to grow, making it more difficult for new talent to enter the film industry.
Nickelodeon, along with Universal and Disney-MGM Studios, began to book fewer and fewer productions. Furthermore, Nick was going through a transitional phase as its Nick Toons division was booming — and content shifted away from game shows and sitcoms intended for live studio audiences. Nickelodeon became a major power player in cable television, and no longer relied on a nonunion workforce due to budget constraints.
The years of pressure by unions would eventually force Nickelodeon to abandon its roots as the anti-Disney Chan nel, aligning much closer to that which it originally opposed. Its once-shoestring budgets were now hefty, attracting Holly wood and New York City talent. And since many of the cast and crew did not want to travel to Florida, Nick gravitated toward California. With the studio transitioning to a union employer, emerging talent from around the state was unable to play for or get hired into many positions.
Eventually, Nickelodeon began layoffs and moved staff from Florida to its new studio in California. From hundreds of employ ees to double digits, Nick eventually closed its orange doors per manently in 2004.
The lack of state film incentives along with union pressure brought about the decline of the Florida film industry.
The industry would hang on by a thread for a few more years, getting a short-lived boost from 2010 to 2016, but would ultimately die thereafter. While Florida has several highly rated film schools, including the MFA program at FSU, most graduates move to Georgia, New York or California for careers. They are not
buying houses and cars, or starting companies in the Sunshine State.
After the final film incentives dried up in 2016, there has been littleto-no support from the state Legislature to revive the program and create financial opportunities to attract creators. Moreover, with the increased membership and presence of unions in a Right-to-Work state, lower-bud get productions have a challenging time even getting started — with re quirements to pay key crew and talent at rates largely based upon the cost of living in production budgets of New York City and Los Angeles.
Working with a union does typically mean the talent (be it acting or crew positions) meet certain standards, and it is understandable why a studio or production company with financial means would pre fer to only hire union personnel. But when there is a lack of govern ment-sponsored financial incentives, economic conditions do not fa vor operating within a union framework. In order for the Florida film industry to be revived, film incentives need to return — not only to support union productions, but also for nonunion productions to pro vide opportunities for emerging talent.
Call it nostalgia, but knowing what used to flourish in Florida may prompt voters to think about electing officials who support an economic climate friendly to the film industry. Perhaps the golden age of TV and film production in Florida was 1990 to 2000, but that doesn’t mean it can’t return.
But even if it never comes to fruition, we can remember how Nick elodeon Studios Florida defined a generation and —in the words of Dr. Seuss — “smile because it happened.”
the Political Aficionado’s Guide to ... TV
Paul LaGrone goes deep
ABC Action News anchor’s career journey goes ‘Full Circle’BY ANDREW MEACHAM
Warren, until recently Hillsbor ough County’s state attorney, faced the newsman and, once again, the music.
“Are you placing yourself above the law?” Paul LaGrone, an anchor for the Tam pa-based ABC Action News, asked Warren, whose statements in the wake of the Su preme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade had drawn the ire of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Warren said not at all, that when he signed a pair of letters circulating among prosecutors nationwide, one pledging not to charge abortion seekers or providers whose actions are newly illegal, the other lending similar support on behalf of gender-chang ing surgery — he was exercising free speech.
DeSantis disagreed and first suspend ed Warren, then declared him fired — their dust-up becoming national news. Warren, an elected official, says he cannot be removed by fiat and is suing to get his job back.
The Sunday morning show, “Full Cir cle Florida,” debuted earlier this year on WFTS-TV. It has proved a useful vehicle for LaGrone, who anchors Channel 11’s 5:30 p.m. weekday news and regularly contributes reports on political leaders, the economy and other issues.
“Full Circle’s” 30-minute format al lows its political guests multiple bites at the apple, and they are taking advantage. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic opponent, Val Demings, have come on to opine about Ukraine, the rights of women and what it takes to reach consensus in today’s climate.
On another recent weekend, retired
University of South Florida elections sa vant Susan MacManus and Celine Pas tore, a retirement adviser, did their best to unpack inflation.
“Are we in a recession?” LaGrone asked, a question that prompted others. Is declar ing a recession a political act, even if the ef fects on mortgages, interest rates and jobs are bipartisan? Do all of inflation’s moving parts make it harder to talk about?
The more complicated a story gets, it would seem, the more LaGrone likes it. In recent years, ABC Action News has em braced the deep explainer story.
“Especially since the pandemic, we thought it was just how we should do our jobs,” he said, a goal he references as “the full 360.” Getting that might take as much as six or seven minutes, which can run through much of the first news block — counter to a long-standing maximum closer of three minutes.
“We pride ourselves on being the place people can turn to get a story that will go three, four, five layers deep,” he said. “We do that on a regular basis.”
A story he reported in May, for example, warned viewers of a property insurance in dustry that could be one major storm away from insolvency. Threads included a cycle of repair scams, lawsuits and higher premi ums, all in less than four minutes.
LaGrone grew up in east Hillsborough County, part of a large family that pays atten tion to politics without getting carried away.
“The people I grew up with and my family, they’re just not dramatic people,” he said. “They kind of listen to the per
son and make their own decisions. And I think there’s still an independence in this state that doesn’t reveal itself in the na tional media or the headlines, but it is still very much there.”
He saw his first Tampa Bay Bucca neers game at age 8 and returned as of ten as he could.
He worked on a Saturday morning broadcast for teens while attending Plant City High, then majored in radio and television production at the University of Florida. He worked in television stations in Florida and the Carolinas and spent a month in 2003 in Kuwait and Iraq, along side the 82nd Airborne Division.
Paul LaGrone met his future wife while working in Fort Myers. Katie La Grone is an Emmy award-winning re gional investigative correspondent for the E.W. Scripps Company, representing ABC Action News in Tampa as well as stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Myers. Paul LaGrone also earned rec ognition from his peers, including a Re gional Edward R. Murrrow award in 2007 for an investigation that found child pornography on computers donated to charity, and two Emmy nominations. They have two boys, ages 14 and 8.
He was working as a morning anchor at WPBF-TV in West Palm Beach (also a Scripps station) in 2016 when the oppor tunity at ABC Action News opened. It’s felt right for so many reasons.
LaGrone had grown up watching weatherman Denis Phillips, still the calm during the storm in his trademark sus
Paul LaGrone, weekday anchor for Tampa’s ABC Action News, has added a Sunday morning show to his job description. Despite being new in 2022, “Full Circle Florida” is attracting marquee political names to weigh in with its host. Photo: The Workmans
penders. The station is across the street from Raymond James Stadium, home of the Buccaneers.
He even remembers visiting the same building to apply for an intern ship while in college. Reminders like that made coming home “such a life-changing moment for me,” he said.
He believes Florida remains a pivotal player in national politics.
“It’s gone through this evolution from being a really old-school blue state to purple,” he said. “If you had to put it into a box, it projects itself as being maybe more Republican now. But I still think of a third of our elec torate as independent voters, and you never quite know which way they’re going to swing.”
To hear the heartbeat, LaGrone drives to work listening to conserva
tive talk radio. He’ll rough out the day’s newscast with an open eye on MSNBC, Fox News and CNN, catch Bill Maher and read columnists on the right and the left. When enlisting people to talk to, it helps journalists to communicate clearly and honestly, he has found.
“We never have been more under the microscope in terms of our process,” La Grone said. “It’s not a secret anymore, how we do what we do. And so you have to be transparent about it.”
On “Full Circle Florida,” LaGrone
has a knack for asking the question you didn’t know you were curious about, un til he raised it.
Since filing his lawsuit against the state, Warren has assailed his eviction from office with a fiery confidence. He does not serve the Governor, he says. He serves the people. And indeed, more than 60 criminal justice leaders — including former U.S. attorneys, judges and former Chief Justices of the Flori da Supreme Court — have rallied behind him in an amicus brief, calling his removal unlaw ful and demanding his immediate reinstate
ment as Hillsborough’s State Attorney.
He has called DeSantis’ action a polit ical sideshow and a partisan circus. “This is overthrowing democracy,” Warren said on “Full Circle”.
LaGrone affirmed Warren’s premise — he served the people — but noted that in Flori da, the people had also voted in the Repub lican establishment that is backing DeSantis.
“If you had it to do over again, would you sign the pledges?” LaGrone asked.
“Absolutely,” Warren said.
Asked and answered.
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the Fall, a lobbyist’s fancy turns to thoughts of what to wear for Session.”
Apologies to Lord Tennyson for butchering his poem, but Arron Gober, owner of the Talla hasse-based eponymous Arron’s Fine Custom Clothing, declares it’s not too early to shop for men’s Session wear, especially if one eschews offthe-rack in favor of specially designed suiting.
The Process “uniform” is still suit and tie, but outside of committee meetings and floor sessions, Gober says clients can be confused about what to wear. “COVID kind of changed all the rules on dress; things have gotten more casual, but it got so casual people didn’t know what to do when it was time to come back to work,” he said.
The good news is there are now more com fortable options — such as jeans and dress pants
with some stretch in them, as well as soft, collared sweater shirts in wool, silk and cashmere.
No matter the occasion, you can create your own style with accessories, says Gober. With neckties on the way out, socks are the new way to express individuality. No need to match them to the outfit. If parrots on a bright yellow back ground are your thing — go for it!
Gober offers his own line of Italian calfskin leather accessories — backpack, duffel bag, port folio and such — that can coordinate for a variety of uses, be it a football weekend or plane travel.
Details can make all the difference. When Gober pulls together a jacket, coat or shirt, spe cial touches such as decorative lining fabric, dis tinctive buttons, ribbon detailing and contrasting stitching can make a style one’s own.
The ‘Heat’ Around the Corner
Nearly 30 years on, esteem endures for Michael Mann’s masterpiece among Florida politics insidersBy Jesse Scheckner
Less than a day after he broke the news that the FBI was searching Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-La go, Florida Politics and INFLUENCE Magazine publisher Peter Schorsch had already moved on.
This crew is
something else happening he was far more excited about: Filmmaker Michael Mann’s “Heat 2: A Novel,” the literary sequel/ prequel to the epic crime drama that truly brought Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together
onscreen for the first time, had just dropped. Schorsch, who considers the film among his two favorites, was enthused.
He was hardly alone. Since its release, appreci ation for “Heat” has only grown.
Its cultural impact only deepened. On the surface, the movie is about a team of LAPD cops led by a fast-andloose Pacino trying to catch a gang of deadly thieves whose leader, a buttoned-up De Niro, adheres to a rigid discipline meant to prevent his recapture. His most explicit rule: “Don’t let your self get attached to anything you are not willing to walk away from in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”
The film’s two centerpieces, a bank robbery scene that spills out onto the streets of downtown Los An geles for a cacoph onous shootout and a muted but no less riveting coffee shop tête-à-tête between Pacino and DeNiro, are re vered by cinephiles and have inspired myriad filmic imitations. But the movie’s staunchest adherents will tell you it’s the nuances throughout its nearly three-hour runtime that keeps them coming back for repeat viewings.
To commem orate the film and celebrate the re lease of “Heat 2,” which Mann plans to adapt for the screen, Schorsch sat down with Florida League of Cities Associate Director of Com munications James Miller, James Madi son Institute Vice President of Policy Sal Nuzzo, Stearns Weaver Miller Director of Gov ernmental Affairs Marco Paredes and Brad Swanson, president and CEO of Florida Internet & Television.
Mann’s crime drama,
“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk away from in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”
“Heat” came out in December 1995. I went to see it at the Miracle 5 Theater off Thomasville Road in Tallahas see. The theater caught fire that night, and I didn’t see the movie for another week. I was so pissed.
I saw it while in college at Gover nor’s Square in Tal lahassee. As a fan of bank heist mov ies, I loved it at the time, but it wasn’t until I rewatched it over and over with friends and fraternity brothers like Peter that I fell
in love with it.
Swanson: You think about other movies that came out at that time like “Pulp Fiction.” You had these weird sto rylines populating Hollywood. This one was richer. It was as long as the Kevin Costner movies, which were deep visually, but this was a deeper story.
It’s a slow burn and just gets better every time I watch it. You pick up new things. You can focus on the heist sequence
or on Pacino and De Niro, but it’s the small things that make it great.
It’s those little touches — the monochrome nature of Paci no, the fact De Niro’s white shirts were excessively starched in the collar because that’s what you would do in pris on. That coffee shop scene is one of the most well-acted in all of cinema, the subtleties you pick up on repeat viewings. They embody those characters.
By the time they get to that coffee shop, they are looking at mirrors of each other. There’s respect.
I don’t know if there’s a modern film as well-cast. Dennis Haysbert, who I don’t even know if he’s in the opening credits, he’s like No. 25 in that movie. And Val Kilmer — I don’t think people understand how cool he was. You watch “Top Gun” and Tom Cruise is obviously the hero, but Val was
always the coolest guy in a movie.
Swanson: He was basically Johnny Depp Be fore Johnny Depp. He had main stream looks, but he had that weird, creative side that just came through.
In “Heat 2,” there’s a passage about Kilmer’s character that says, “His eyes may be blank, but behind them he’s ready to go.” You see that in every scene in this movie with him. He’s lightning in a bottle.
I love all the side characters you can really get invested in played by these incred ible actors: Amy Brenneman, Tom Sizemore, Mykelti Williamson, Hank Azaria, Danny Trejo, Wes Studi, Tone Loc, William Fichtner, Henry Rollins, Ted Levine, Jeremy Piven.
There’s John Voight and Kevin Gage, the guy who plays (the film’s most de testable charac ter) Waingro.
There’s that guy who plays the murderer in every movie (Tom Noonan).
And the actresses — unfortunately, so many times female characters are just there to serve the male protagonist. To me, Brenneman, Natalie Portman and Diana Verona are key.
Ashley Judd is so key. They’re not Diane Keaton in “The Godfather.” Nobody wants to be that character.
Swanson: Judd and Kilm er’s characters, they’re torturing each other’s soul. Yet you still see the attraction.
Other heist movies
I’ve watched and thrown away, can’t even remember them. They were able to tease out so much character de velopment out of this one. It makes it intoxicating.
It’s funny too. If you look into some of the characters’ backstories, Mann makes it clear Pacino’s charac ter is basically a low-grade cocaine addict. There are some preposterous lines and perfor mances. I laugh at some of it.
When he’s talking to Azaria about Judd.
When he’s talking to the informant
and he screams, “Give me all you got!” Having seen the movie, you can get ready for that scene because it’s going to be funny.
Nuzzo: And the infor mant’s response, “Where’s your empathy, brother?”
De Niro telling Piven to give him his shirt.
Back to the char acters, that’s what drives the story, really. In the end, De Niro violates his own rules.
It was the abdi cation of his own plans and tactics that leads to his undoing.
So, what lessons can we take away from the mov ie and apply to Florida politics? I’d say, “Don’t get attached to a can didate you can’t walk away from in 30 seconds flat.”
Swanson: There’s a flipside to that coin: “Don’t get attached to a campaign consul tant you can’t do the same with.”
Nuzzo: Can you believe we’ve been talking about this movie for the last 35 minutes and have not spent a minute on the heist?
(Facing page) Gesturing as they speak about the movie, which has a three-hour run time, are (left to right) Sal Nuzzo, Brad Swanson, Marco Paredes and James Miller.
(Left) The group gathers round for another showing of “Heat.”
“ Other heist movies I’ve watched and thrown away, can’t even remember them. They were able to tease out so much character development out of this one. It makes it intoxicating. ”
Miami has more reason than ever to tout its star-studded dining scene. The Magic City is basking in the glow of its first Michelin awards — 10 one-star restau rants, one two-star destination, 19 Bib Gourmand awards and 35 recipients of Mi chelin-recommended status.
Then there are the real stars. Miami has been attracting celebrity chefs for decades, but there’s now a megawatt spotlight on the top toques, hospitality groups and big names, not to mention big money pouring into the area. Just a sample:
• Thomas Keller, one of America’s best chefs, opened The Surf Club Restaurant in Surfside in 2018 and he’s planning to open a second restaurant, the French bistro Bouchon, in Coral Gables in 2023.
• Award-winning chef, TV personality and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson ex panded his Red Rooster Harlem restau rant to Overtown.
• Chef Jeremy Ford, the season 13 winner of Top Chef and a 2022 James Beard best chef semifinalist, partnered with Grove Bay Hospitality for his Miche lin-starred restaurant, Stubborn Seed. Ford and Grove Bay are opening Beauty and the Butcher in Coral Gables.
• Grammy award winner Pharrell Williams (the “Happy” guy) joined forces with Miami hospitality entrepreneur David Grutman to launch Swan in the city’s Design District.
• Chef/TV host Gordon Ramsay will be opening his first-ever Miami restaurant, Lucky Cat, in the South of Fifth, aka SoFi, neighborhood in Miami Beach.
• Richard Caring, owner of the Lon don-based Sexy Fish, chose Miami for a sister site of his over-the-top restaurant/ club, reportedly spending more than
$20 million on artwork alone in the Bric kell location.
“Miami’s always been on the cut ting edge,” said Lynne M. Hernandez, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Associ ation executive director, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. “Miami has ev erything – Peruvian, Ecuadorian, soul, Haitian, French, Brazilian.
“But there’s been a huge explosion that started pre-COVID and during COVID,” she said. “A lot of very famous brands are coming to Miami to capture the crowd here.”
Amid shutdowns and restrictions in New York and other cities, restaurateurs and chefs found they could operate in Mi ami — and they stayed, she said.
“Something like a Big Bang happened in Miami,” restaurateur Stephen Starr told the Robb Report. “COVID hits, and all of a sudden this becomes the Garden of Eden.”
Like most places, Miami did take a hit when the pandemic first arrived. The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce re ported the pandemic caused historic lows in tourism, and in March 2020, restaurant and bar foot traffic plummeted nearly 70%. But in February 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced tourism had reached pre-pan demic levels, with more restaurant busi ness likely to follow.
Miami restaurateurs agree.
“We went from 2020 as our worst year to 2021 as our best year,” said Ignacio Gar cia-Menocal, co-founder and CEO of Grove Bay Hospitality, which has a portfolio of nine restaurants in Miami and an upcom ing event space in Coconut Grove. “We were lucky because Miami was one of the first and early places to open.”
Born and raised in Miami, Gar
cia-Menocal has watched the ups and downs of the local dining scene, and from his perspective it’s “both exploding and evolving.”
“There’s an evolution of where we started,” he said. “Miami is a very desir able location.
“It’s a gateway to Latin America. You can get straight to Europe from here. We have a lot of international tourists, peo ple move here with different cultures and different experiences,” Garcia-Menocal said. “Food comes along with that as well. That’s combined with the real estate boom here in the last 20 years. Cranes are up in the skies everywhere you look. Tourism is through the roof.”
The Michelin stars have been a bonus for the market, Garcia-Menocal said.
Stubborn Seed, from chef Jeremy Ford and Grove Bay Hospitality, was awarded one Michelin star and Red Rooster Over town, which partners with Grove Bay, re ceived a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award. The Bib awards are for restaurants that of fer “good quality and good value” and are judged by the same criteria used for star designation, according to VISIT FLORIDA
“Summer is normally slow, but (since the Michelin awards), reservations are up and we’ve been packed ever since,” said Garcia-Menocal. “Definitely, it helps.”
One of Miami’s one-star Michelin win ners is The Surf Club Restaurant owned by chef Thomas Keller. The acclaimed chef and restaurateur began his career as a teen ager washing dishes in a Palm Beach restau rant — and today he’s culinary royalty.
Keller has a record-high eight Michelin stars, including three each for The French Laundry in Yountville, California, and Per Se in New York. Bouchon in Napa Valley
adds another and now he has one for The Surf Club, his debut in Florida.
The fact that Keller has opened one restaurant in Miami-Dade County and is opening a second is considered a huge deal in South Florida. His ritzy restau rant is located inside a revamped Surf Club, a stunning Mediterranean-style building framed by the beachfront Four Seasons Hotel in Surfside.
Walking into The Surf Club Restau rant is like stepping back in time. Classic elegance brings white tablecloths, corn flower blue banquettes, archways and glass block accents. A traditional Caesar salad is prepared tableside. And attentive servers are dressed in upscale black and white, with a black tie. Yes, this is the Mi ami of yesteryear.
The original, iconic Surf Club opened on New Year’s Eve in 1930 and over the years became legendary for its famous clientele — Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and Tennessee Williams among them.
Before opening The Surf Club, Keller told The Miami Herald’s Carlos Frias, “it’s going to be a tip of the hat to a time when America was the most optimistic, when the appeal in America, the pride of America, was at its peak. The glamor, the celebration, that’s the kind of restaurant this will be.”
The Surf Club does indeed pay hom age to that era and not the multicultural mix that has come to define the city. One reflection of current times: You can order your a la carte dinner for takeout with on line ordering and curbside pickup.
You realize that when you go to a restaurant of this caliber that you will need to open your wallet. Not surprising that you can easily spend at least a few hundred dollars on food and drinks.
Our highlights included the popu lar $46 “Warm Soft-Boiled Egg,” which might not sound amazing, but it was. The perfectly cooked egg is perched atop a buckwheat blini, with Regiis Ova Ossetra caviar and crème fraîche. My daughter commented that each element had won derful flavors, but together it tasted like an elegant breakfast.
The a la carte menu includes compli mentary crudités, a raw bar (Gulf prawn cocktail, Regiis Ova Ossetra Caviar), snacks (French onion dip and kettle chips, deviled eggs), appetizers (oysters Rocke feller, steak tartare), pasta (fettuccine Al fredo with black winter truffles, braised beef and forest mushroom lasagna), and entrees (lobster thermidor, prime beef short rib Wellington, wild caught Dover sole meunière) and dessert (seven-layer chocolate cake topped with a gold leaf, co conut chiffon cake) paired with cocktails
and a heady wine list.
For his second location in Miami, Bouchon, Keller decided to move into the nearly 100-year-old restored La Palma building near Giraldi Plaza’s restaurant row in Coral Gables. It reflects a chef shift to operate restaurants in areas that aren’t necessarily tourist havens.
“We’re bringing the cuisine to them,” said Garcia-Menocal of Grove Bay. “Keller’s doing the same thing in Coral Ga bles. Great food can be found in any area of the city.”
Jeremy Ford’s upcoming restaurant, Beauty and the Butcher, for instance, will be in Coral Gables, but close to South Mi ami. The clientele “will primarily be lo cals,” said Garcia-Menocal. “There aren’t a lot of hotels around there. People can or der Michelin-type cuisine from an amaz ing chef even if they’re 40 or 50 minutes from the beach.”
Another reason why restaurateurs are looking to other areas: Elon Musk and other companies are coming into the area, with many looking at neighborhoods in the western part of Miami-Dade County, Her nandez said. “Everyone’s expanding.”
James Beard-winning chef Michael Schwartz, who received a Michelin Bib Gourmand award for his restaurant, Mi chael’s Genuine, was one of the first chefs to take a chance on an area that hadn’t yet been discovered by anyone in Miami.
In 2007, Schwartz moved into the Design District when it was a gritty area, albeit with promise. Today, the district is home to dozens of top luxury stores and stellar restaurants, including Michael’s Genuine; two-Michelin star winner, L’Atelier de Joël Rubuchon; one-star Mi chelin winners Cote Miami and Le Jardi nier; and Swan from Pharrell Williams and David Grutman.
“Miami has grown so much,” said Schwarz, noting that a lot of great stuff is happening away from the beach. “Look at Little River, Allapattah, the Design District, downtown Miami … It’s an exciting time.”
Schwartz closed Michael’s Genuine for four months last year, expanding the kitchen a bit, revamping the decor and menu, and bringing back dishes that were old favorites. Incidentally, he paid his staff during that time, with many helping in his other restaurants, which include bayside Amara at Paraiso and Harry’s Pizzeria.
But for Miami’s core of top chefs who have long been the backbone of the city’s dining scene evolution, the influx of lavish spending could have its drawbacks.
“The Miami trend could become — be fancier, charge more, be more exclusive,” he said.
Yet, “in terms of legitimate dining, there’s still plenty of that going on,” said
L’Atelier Miami is the visionary cre ation of Joël Robuchon, combining gastronomic cuisine with an unique atmosphere of relaxed conviviality and interaction with an open kitchen.Photo: Abby Hart
Schwartz, who was one of the early chefs to seek out local produce and get involved with the community. “It usually shakes it self out in the end.”
And let’s not forget the beginning of Miami’s fine dining scene.
Years before celebrity brands became pervasive, Norman Van Aken and a group of other local chefs were creating their own revolution in South Florida dining. Aken, who started his career as a chef in Key West, has been known as “the found ing father of New World cuisine.”
“I don’t think people outside this re gion looked at this area as having a cohe sive culinary scene as they would have had in places like New Orleans or New York,”
said Aken, a multiple James Beard Award winner, cookbook author and restaura teur, who has added teaching virtual cook ing classes to his many ventures. “There wasn’t a sense of a South Florida culinary scene until around the early 1980s.”
Aken and chefs Mark Militello, Douglas Rodriguez and Allen Susser became known for their cuisine melding Latin, Caribbean, Asian and African ingredients with Amer ican flavors under the banner of New World Cuisine.
They became known as the “Mango Gang” after getting together to write a book they never published.
“The gang fell apart but the name lived on,” said Aken, who is opening a new Nor
man’s restaurant in the Dellagio Town Center in Orlando. “People who early on celebrated the providence of ingredients here were limited in scope.”
As for the current dining scene, Aken noted: “I hope that people will recognize the richness of South Florida culture in such a way that it aspires them to be cook ing and showcasing the inspiration avail able to us, as opposed to people coming here increasingly and operating here be cause it’s a place to make money and enjoy good weather.”
Some of the area’s best restaurants “are in competition with groups that have a lot of money and can make a lot of noise,” he added, noting there are exceptions, with
top-notch restaurateurs in the mix.
Marcus Samuelsson has been recog nized as one of the area’s new restaurateurs celebrating the culture in the community where his restaurant is based.
“Being a chef, I asked myself questions — how can I participate and create com munity?” Samuelsson told Laine Doss of the site Broken Plate.
He said he moved his family to Over town during the pandemic in an attempt to learn more about the neighborhood.
“I’ve been asked to open restaurants on Miami Beach, but I don’t want to be the chef that plops a restaurant down and leaves,” Samuelsson said.
With so many restaurants moving to Miami, can the city support them all?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Grove Bay’s Garcia-Menocal. “At what point does it get out of whack? I look at monthly openings and closings and we may have about 10 to 20 openings per month and one or two closings. The rate is not even close. But again, there are only so many restaurants that you can build.”
Hernandez sees the Miami restaurant scene escalating for some time.
“We haven’t hit the crescendo yet,” she said. “So many people are moving to Miami and they like great food,”
Briefings from the Rotunda
Smith, Bryan & Myers names Lisa Hurley and Teye Carmichael as partners
Lisa Hurley and Teye Reeves Carmi chael have helped Smith Bryan & My ers grow into one of the state’s top lob bying shops, and the firm is recognizing their contributions by elevating them to partners.
Hurley came to Smith Bryan & Myers in late 2016 and brought years of law and lobbying experience with her. She had previously led the legislative affairs ef forts at the Florida Association of Coun ties and served as deputy secretary of the Department of Management Services in the mid-2000s.
The Florida State University law school alum also is a seasoned attorney, having worked as a criminal defense attorney and in civil litigation. Of particular value in the lobbying world, Hurley also has in-depth knowledge of administrative law and has been on legal teams handling bid protests and other state procurement matters.
“Lisa and the team at Smith, Bryan & Myers have represented the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar with profession alism and integrity, and we are grateful to have their expert guidance at our disposal. We congratulate Lisa on her elevation to partner; she has been an integral part of the section’s accomplishments and we look forward to continuing our close relation ship with her and the entire Smith, Bryan & Myers team,” said Philip Wartenberg, chair of the Family Law Section.
SBM President Jeff Hartley added, “She is an incredible attorney and does a lot of behind-the-scenes work. She makes Matt and I look smart when we’re really not that smart.”
Carmichael joined Smith, Bryan & Myers in September 2018. Also an FSU law alumna, she first entered the political realm in 2007 working as a staffer in the state House. Before joining SBM, Carmi chael was an associate partner at lobby ing firm Floridian Partners. She has also
worked for the Florida Chamber of Com merce, serving as the influential business group’s policy director for two years be ginning in 2010.
Her impressive resume would make her an easy hire at any lobbying firm, but perhaps her best asset, Hartley said, is her ability to build relationships with clients and lawmakers alike. He noted she was key to signing major clients such as Pub lix and has forged particularly strong re lationships with Senate leadership during her time at the firm.
“Teye, Jeff and the entire team at SBM have been great advisors for Pediatric As sociates and we congratulate them all on this announcement and their collective success,” said April Andrews-Singh, gener al counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Pediatric Associates.
In the years since Carmichael and Hur ley joined the team, Smith, Bryan & Myers has grown into one of the most lucrative lobbying shops in the state, representing clients operating in numerous industries,
from higher education and health care to professional sports leagues and multina tional corporations.
They are not the only all-stars on the SBM team — INFLUENCE awarded Hart ley the Golden Rotunda for “Lobbying Play of the Year” for his work on the cruise ship preemption fight in the 2021 Legislative Session while SBM co-founder Matt Bryan was INFLUENCE’s runner-up for Lobbyist of the Year last year.
Still, Hurley’s and Carmichael’s work has undoubtedly helped elevate SBM into the position it finds itself today. And as partners, they will continue to help the firm reach new heights in the future.
“The energy and work ethic of both of Lisa and Teye, coupled with the foun dation of our firm’s 40-year history, will help propel us into the future and our next chapter,” said Hartley. “Our clients have benefited from their expertise and profes sionalism for years, and now our organiza tion as a whole will undoubtedly thrive and grow under their leadership.”
from the Rotunda
Tara Reid-Cherry helms advocacy practice
The Strategos Group has elevated Tara Reid to partner, bringing the firm a fresh perspective on key issues and strategies as the millennial generation becomes increasing ly relevant in the halls of the state Capitol.
While Reid is indeed a decade or two younger than most other partners at Strategos, she did not get there overnight. She first joined the firm as an associate in 2015, rising to principal a few years later.
“I immediately recognized the incredible raw talent she possessed. Tara is smart, mature and possesses in nate political instincts. To see her development as an ad vocate and industry leader is one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career,” said Strategos Partner Jim Horne
The achievement is likely not a surprise to those who have followed her career in the decade since she graduat ed from Florida State University and entered the Process.
Before her diploma was framed, she interned at the Florida Retail Federation, an influential trade association; moved on to become an administrative assistant at The Advocacy Group; and then jumped over to the Republi can Party of Florida, where she worked as an executive assistant to the chair — all by the age of 25.
Her rapid rise in Act I of her career earned her a spot on the 2016 list of the 30-under-30 rising stars of Florida Politics. At the time, she credited former Education Com missioner, former state Senator and longtime Strategos Group partner Horne as one of the most influential peo ple in her decision to pursue a career in lobbying.
Now, she will be working beside him as an equal and not a protégé — and the personnel move likely to pay div idends for the firm, which has built a reputation as one of the top education lobbying groups in the state.
That education silo is one of Reid’s passions, giving her the sense that “so much of our work has real purpose and impact on people’s lives.” And as a partner, she can have an even greater impact on fulfilling that core mis sion — which just so happens to align with values near and dear to her heart.
“Growing up in a rural community, choice and access were limited for both education and health care, and I hope that through my work, all Floridians can have better access to both,” Reid said. “We believe all students should have the opportunity to thrive in their health and learn ing — our work directly impacts the lives of students.”
Reid described her personal view of her new role suc cinctly: “A female owner who hopes to lead and advocate with vulnerability and resiliency. I believe that my ability to empathize is a core part of who I am, and it’s something that helps me do my job well.”
The road to becoming partner will also inform her leadership style — having climbed every rung on the lad der during her eight years at Strategos gives her an appre
ciation for the staffers and everyday people who keep the gears turning at both the firm and in the industry at-large.
“Because I’ve been with the firm for so long, I feel like I grew up here. I care about what happens to the organization and the people who de pend on the decisions that partners make,” she said.
“The firm has changed tremendously during my time here, and I have loved being a part of that growth into new states, practice areas and busi ness partnerships. We are a different organization than we were eight years ago. Becoming an owner has allowed me to focus more on the business and learn that side of things. I’ve learned I have good instincts, which is something I didn’t know about myself before,” she concluded.
“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”
Florida Chamber promotes Carolyn Johnson to VP of Government Affairs
The Florida Chamber has promoted Carolyn Johnson, a longtime staffer, to serve as its vice president of govern ment affairs.
“Carolyn is known by policymakers and business leaders for her deep poli cy expertise, tenacity on behalf of our members and unwavering commitment to free enterprise,” said Frank Walker, the Chamber’s executive vice president of government and political relations. “I am certain in her new role she will con tinue to be a strong advocate for Florida’s business community in the Capitol and around the state as we seek to grow and diversify our economy.”
Johnson joined the Florida Chamber in 2013, serving most recently as the senior director of business, economic and inno vation policy. In that role, she focused on a variety of economic development and business climate issues, including workers compensation, unemployment compensa tion, taxation and insurance issues.
Toby Philpot joins Floridian Partners as health care policy expert
Health care policy expert and veteran political strategist Toby Philpot has joined Floridian Partners.
“We are excited to add Toby’s policy and po litical experience to our team at Floridian Part ners,” said Managing Partner Charles Dudley. “Toby builds on our firm’s mission of providing our clients comprehensive representation before state agencies and elected officials at the execu tive and legislative branches.”
Firm Partner Jorge Chamizo added, “Toby’s deep understanding of health care policy, politi cal acumen and strong work ethic will serve our clients well. We are excited to welcome him to the team.”
Prior to joining the Florida Chamber, Johnson spent six years working as legisla tive staff in the Florida Legislature and on statewide political campaigns.
“It’s been an honor to work with the Florida Chamber these past nine years and I’m thrilled to continue my service representing Florida’s business commu nity in this new capacity,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Florida Chamber Board of Di rectors, members, the Chamber team and lawmakers as we advocate for the right policies to grow Florida into the 10th larg est economy in the world.”
As the vice president of government affairs, Johnson will manage the devel opment and strategic implementation of the Florida Chamber’s annual legislative agenda, the Florida Business Agenda and lead the Chamber’s team of profes sional, connected and experienced lob byists to represent the interests of the business community.
Briefings from the Rotunda
At Floridian Partners, Philpot will focus on growing and diversifying the firm’s health care practice. As one of the top up-and-coming health care lobbyists in the state, it’s a natural fit.
Earlier in his career, Philpot held positions at the Florida Lottery and De partment of Transportation before div ing into the health care world during a five-year stint as Chief of Staff for the Agency for Health Care Administra tion. And for the past two years, Phil pot has served as the chief lobbyist for the Florida Health Care Association, a trade group that represents about 600 — more than 80% — of the state’s nurs ing centers.
During his tenure, he’s led FHCA to multiple policy victories. In the 2021 Legislative Session, his successful stew ardship of the association’s legislative agenda led to him being named the Run ner-Up for INFLUENCE Magazine’s InHouse Lobbyist of the Year award.
The 2022 Legislative Session brought even more success.
Before Philpot joined the team, FHCA had spent years working with lawmakers to modernize staffing re quirements at nursing centers, but they fell short amid squabbles over some of the fine print. But last Session, Philpot helped FHCA bring it in for a landing.
As a bonus, lawmakers included a his toric $293 million increase in Medic aid funding for nursing centers in the 2022-23 budget.
The modernization bill saw Philpot work extensively with bill sponsors Rep. Lauren Melo and Sen. Ben Albritton. Working with a Senator on the cham ber’s Health Policy Committee was important in crafting a bill that could pass, but building respect, trust and a reputation as a good-faith negotiator with Albritton specifically is invaluable since the Wauchula Republican is set to become Senate President for the 20242026 term.
“I’m thrilled for Toby as he takes this next step in his career,” Albrit ton said. “Toby’s experience work
ing inside government agencies and alongside members of the Legislature makes him an asset to any team. He has a keen understanding of the issues and how policy impacts the residents of Florida.”
And though FHCA CEO Emmett Reed will surely miss having Philpot working in the same building, he of fered effusive praise for a job well done and is certain Philpot hasn’t delivered his last victory to Florida’s nursing centers and the health care in dustry at large.
“Toby’s extensive knowledge and experience in the health care sector made a positive impact on the mem bers of the Florida Health Care Asso ciation. It comes as no surprise that this rising star wants to share his gift with others. We look forward to work ing closely with Toby on other proj ects that continue supporting Flori da’s commitment to quality long-term care,” he said.
from the Rotunda
Joshua Lenchus installed as Florida Medical Association President
The Florida Medical Association
(FMA) has tapped a Fort Lauderdale physician as the organization’s 146th president.
Dr. Joshua Lenchus, a Board-certi fied internal medicine physician, was installed as the organization’s president during the Florida Medical Association’s recent annual meeting in Orlando. Len chus currently serves as the Chief Med ical Officer for Broward Health, a health system with more than 30 locations throughout Broward County.
“As a practicing physician and an ex perienced organized medicine leader, Dr. Lenchus is well-prepared to represent the FMA’s advocacy efforts on behalf of Flor ida’s physicians and their patients,” said Chris Clark, the Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Medical Association. “We look forward to Dr. Lenchus’ leadership over the next year as the FMA continues helping our members practice medicine throughout the Sunshine State.”
In 2018, Lenchus joined Broward Health as the Chief Medical Officer for the Broward Health Medical Center, the health system’s flagship hospital. He was named interim chief medical officer for the health system in 2021, before recently taking the role in a more permanent capacity.
A Brooklyn native, Lenchus received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Florida. He spent three years as a pharmacist before pursuing his goal of becoming a physician, receiv ing his medical degree from the Nova Southeastern University College of Os teopathic Medicine in 2000. He com pleted his internal medicine residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital, before working as a hospitalist for the Univer sity of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where he also became an associate pro fessor of medicine, anesthesiology and radiology. He also served as an associate program director for Jackson’s internal medicine residency program from 2007 until 2018.
In addition to Lenchus, the FMA an nounced Dr. Jason Goldman will serve as the president-elect and Dr. Lisa Cosgrove will serve as the vice-president for the 2022-23 term. Dr. Charles Chase was named treasurer, Dr. Ashley Norse will serve as speaker, Dr. Mark Rubenstein will serve as vice speaker and Dr. Alma Littles will serve as the secretary. Dr. Douglas Murphy Jr. is the immediate past president of the FMA.
Briefings from the Rotunda
Laura Lenhart joins Port Tampa Bay as Government Affairs VP
ort Tampa Bay has tapped a veteran government affairs professional to lead its government affairs work.
Port Tampa Bay announced it has Laura Lehnhart to serve as its new vice president of government affairs. Lenhart joins Port Tampa Bay with nearly 15 years of government affairs experience and will be responsible for advocating on behalf of Port Tampa Bay to implement legislative priorities.
“Port Tampa Bay is the state’s larg est and most diverse seaport and our operations support 85,000 direct and indirect jobs,” said Paul Anderson, the president and CEO of Port Tampa Bay, in a statement. “With a more than $17 billion economic impact, our port is the single largest economic driv er in West Central Florida and I am thrilled that Laura has chosen to bring her knowledge and experience
Ballard Partners, Thomas Cerra form strategic partnership
Thomas Cerra is joining forces with Bal lard Partners.
The firm announced recently it has formed a strategic partnership with Cer ra, a well-respected educator and K-12 government relations consultant. The partnership will allow the firm to ex pand its reach within the K-12 education realm, providing clients with Cerra’s ex pert experience.
“Creating this strategic partnership with a nationally respected educator and consultant like Tom gives our clients di rect access to his decades of experience in K-12 education as well as his broad nation al reach, especially in Florida and Califor nia,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s president
and founder. “Our firms have jointly represented a number of school dis tricts in recent years, and we are delighted to es tablish this more formal K-12 partnership with Tom.”
For the past 26 years, Cerra has served as pres ident of Florida School Services Inc., an educa tional consulting firm. His clients have included school districts, benefit providers, publishing and technology companies, school design and con struction firms, and ed ucational foundations. He has also served as the legislative lobbyist for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
As the former deputy superintendent for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Cerra built a national profile as a K-12 ed ucator with a career that spans teaching, school-site administration as well as serv ing as chief lobbyist and chief negotiator in labor relations for the school district.
“Partnering with Ballard Partners is a great opportunity to mutually enhance our respective relationships and deliver
to Port Tampa Bay to advocate for our needs.”
Prior to joining Port Tampa Bay, Lenhart served as a government affairs advisor at Gray Robinson, advocating for clients in the Tampa Bay area and across the state on a wide variety of issues including telecommunications, technology, K-12 education, transpor tation and human services.
She previously served as the gov ernment and regulatory affairs man ager for Frontier Communications, serving Hillsborough, Pinellas, Mana tee and Sarasota counties and parts of Pasco and Polk counties. She also held government relations positions with Moffitt Cancer Center and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Lenhart earned both her bachelor of science and master of science de grees from Florida State University.
exceptional services to our respective clients,” said Cerra. “I’m looking forward to working closely with Brian and the su premely talented group of professionals at Ballard Partners.”
Ballard Partners is one of Florida’s larg est lobbying firms and has become one of the largest firms in Washington, D.C. since expanding operations to the nation’s capi tal five years ago. It has also expanded its reach internationally, setting up offices in Israel and Turkey as well as representing foreign governments in Washington.
Converge Public Strategies targets Midwest
AMiami-based public affairs firm is expanding its footprint, opening up shops in Illinois and Missouri.
Converge Public Strategies, a national public affairs firm headquartered in Mi ami, announced recently it was expanding its government relations practice to Illinois and Missouri. The decision to expand comes on the heels of the firm’s successful growth in New York City.
“Our goal is to enter markets where we can attract top-tier professionals who are as excited about our innovation-focused client base as we are,” said Jonathan Kilman, the chairman of Converge Public Strategies. “In each of our Illinois and Missouri expansions, we found experienced strategists who will provide tremen dous value to our clients.”
The Illinois practice will be based in Chicago and Springfield, the state’s capi tal, and will be led by John Daley, a government affairs professional who will serve as managing partner. He’ll be joined by his brother and colleague, Michael Daley, a long-time government professional who will also be a partner in the practice. Both men will work with Converge clients throughout the Midwest and on multistate and federal issues.
Converge named Scott Dieckhaus as the managing partner of its Missouri prac tice. A former two-term member of the Missouri House of Representatives, Dieck haus is a well-known political consultant and lobbyist with experience working with the Republican Party of Missouri. In his role, he’ll focus on a wide range of communications and government relations matters for Converge clients.
“We are proud to join Converge in their work to bring strategic insight and guid ance to clients in service of communities here in the Midwest,” said John Daley. “We bring years of experience forging smart, forward-thinking public policy at the municipal, state and federal levels, and we look forward to fusing our work with Converge’s talent and innovative approach across the country.”
Briefings from the Rotunda
Firehouse Strategies grows Florida team
Evan Berryhill has joined the public affairs firm Firehouse Strate gies as a vice president.
Berryhill previously served as the deputy communications di rector for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign. An experi enced political strategist, Berryhill spent approximately three years at GOPAC, ultimately serving as the organization’s senior political and communications manager.
He also served stints in the U.S. House of Representatives and on several congressional and statewide campaigns.
“We are thrilled to have Evan join our team, expanding our capabilities in Florida and throughout the Southeast and pro viding our clients services second to none,” said Todd Reid, managing director, Florida.
Berryhill’s hire comes on the heels of the firm’s decision to ex pand into the Sunshine State, led by Reid and Emily Brown Firehouse Strategies is a full-service public affairs firm focusing on targeted campaigns for a wide variety of clients, including For tune 100 companies, trade associations and business coalitions.
Floridian Group expands legislative advocacy team
Jason King has joined Floridian Group as an associate lobbyist, the full-service con sulting firm announced.
“Jason has enormous experience in com munity relations and public affairs at both local and state levels,” said Daniel Sohn, the firm’s managing partner. “We couldn’t be more excited for our clients who will have the opportunity to work with such an expe rienced professional as Jason.”
King brings an extensive background to the Floridian Group. Prior to joining the firm, King served as a government relations consultant at Becker & Poliakoff. Before that, he served as the legislative affairs manager for the City of Delray Beach. He also previously served as the assistant to the city manager in Homestead and as the associate director of community relations and legislative affairs for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
King currently serves on the Oakland Park Planning & Zoning Board, and served stints on the Fort Lauderdale Community Services Board, the Fort Lauderdale Char ter Revision Board and the Broward County HIV Health Services Planning Council.
Founded in 2017, Floridian Group, LLC is a full-service consulting firm operating throughout Florida. The firm’s services in clude government relations, advocacy and community affairs.
Scott Ross named managing partner at Capital City Consulting
cott Ross has been named managing partner at Capital City Consulting.
“I’m honored to be selected to help lead such an outstanding group of professionals. We are privileged to work with amazing clients and I look forward to continuing to help grow the top firm in Florida,” Ross said.
Ross joined CCC in 2015 and has more than a decade of lobbying expe rience. Before entering Florida’s lobbying corps, Ross served as a deputy secretary at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regula tion, which has informed his lobbying expertise in policy related to gam ing and other regulated industries.
Adding to that expertise, Ross’ resume also includes working as the director of government relations for one of the world’s largest gaming and entertainment companies, Las Vegas Sands.
“Scott is smart, strategic and trusted by all firm members. He is an ob vious choice for managing partner and we are excited to see how his lead ership will shape our continued growth,” CCC co-founder Nick Iarossi said.
Co-founder Ron LaFace added, “Scott has always been one of the go-to people for firm members needing help on an issue or developing a client strategy and we are excited he agreed to formally take on the role of man aging partner.”
Ross moves up at the firm as Capital City Consulting itself continues to rise — the firm consistently places among the top-5 firms in terms of lobbying revenues and it recently announced that South Florida-based Prodigy Public Affairs would merge with the firm, becoming Capital City Consulting Miami.
“It’s no surprise Scott has made managing partner at Capital City Con sulting. His attention to detail, his relationships and his fierce advocacy for his clients really stand out,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican who is headed to the state Senate after the November election.
This Primary Election Day saw fierce contests in Florida’s capital city. Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried cast her vote ahead of that day’s Cabinet meeting, and candidates in Tallahassee’s local elections posted up on street corners to energize and turn out supporters. The bitter mayoral race will be allowed to fester, as County Commissioner Kristin Dozier earned more votes than incumbent Mayor John Dailey — but not enough to secure victory before the Nov. 8 General Election. And other incumbents, like County Commissioners Rick Minor and Bill Proctor and City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, fended off serious challenges for their seats.
1. Josh Johnson waving at the corner of Monroe and Tennessee streets for evening com mute. Johnson is in a run off in November. 2. Nikki Fried leaving her polling place after voting before heading to the Cabinet meeting. 3. Kristin Dozier on the corner of Monroe and Tennessee for morning commute. She is in a run-off for Mayor in November. 4. Diane Williams Cox on the corner of Monroe and Tennessee for the morning commute. She won her race in the Primary. 5. Jeremy Matlow at the corner of Monroe and Tennessee for evening commute. Matlow won his race in the Primary.
6. Donna Pearl Cotterell waving on the corner of Monroe and Tennessee for morning commute. She lost her race in the Primary to Bill Proctor 7. John Dailey and Joey Lamar waving along Thomasville road. Dai ley is in a runoff for Mayor in November. Lamar lost his race in the Primary to Rick Minor
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Tallahassee Ft. Lauderdale Miami Washington, DC
Shaping decades of Miami development
Significant other? Children? Grand kids?
I married my college sweetheart, Therese Marie, and we have three beautiful children, which we call the Dominick, Christian and (their little
In 25 words or less, explain what you do.
I am a results-obsessed professional problem solver who uses his passion for helping others to create sound government affairs strategies for our modern world.
Without using the words Democrat, independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I am the child of Cuban exiles, who left everything and everyone they knew to come to a land that respected freedom and the rule of law. I became a lawyer, and a legislator, in order to protect basic human rights.
If you have one, what is your motto? “Never, never, never give up” — Winston Churchill
During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Early on in my legal career I represented a divorced Haydee. Every week, she would come and pay me with a fresh Cuban flan. We got a great result on the legal case and I got flans. Everyone was ecstatic!
What are you most looking forward to during the 2023 Legislative Session? I am really looking forward to seeing incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo take the helm. I firmly believe that she will lead the Senate with grace and conviction.
If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, I would not trade my client list for anyone else’s. I have some of the best clients in Florida, and my abuela always taught me to be appreciative of those people and institutions that have put their faith in you.
Jose Felix Diaz
Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? I have had the privilege of working on some of the largest and most important real estate projects in the city of Miami over the past fifteen years. From the Design
District, to the Brickell City Centre, to Little River, to Midtown Miami, to the Faena Hotel, to Wynwood Norte, I drive around Miami and feel like I have had a part in so many of Miami’s most iconic and transformative developments.
Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I am a big fan of Brendan Farrington from the Associated Press. Not only is he named after the patron saint of my alma mater, but I really respect his constant promotion of “kindness” online. He has a big heart and is a very talented writer.
Other than FloridaPolitics.com, your reading list includes… Of course, I still read my partner Justin Sayfie’s website, the Sayfie Review.
What swear word do you use most often? As a bilingual dad, I thought it would be funny to teach my sons some fake bad words in Spanish. So, when they get mad, they scream things like “fuacata,” “chifforobe” and “cutarra.” They are basically saying “wham,” “furniture,” and “sandals,” and that makes me laugh out loud.
What is your most treasured possession? Growing up, I was a HUGE baseball fan (I still am). As a kid, I got to meet Hall of Fame legends Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and they both signed a picture for me from the prime of their careers.
You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? I’d invite Marco Rubio to talk about the Miami Dolphins; Ambassador Carlos Trujillo to discuss Latin American politics; former Rep. Clay Ingram to talk about the Walking Dead; and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez to chat about our kids.
Favorite movie? Growing up, I watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” like five thousand times. I still want to be Ferris when I grow up.
If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Rather than go the religious route, I will stick to politics and say that I would have loved to have dinner with Teddy Roosevelt. I am a BIG National Parks guy and currently sit on the board of directors of the National Recreation and Parks Association.
Significant other? Children? Grand kids? I’m married to PSC Chairman and Florida Channel star Andrew Fay. We might have our first child depending on when this issue is published. … Baby Fay is due on Oct. 4, 2022. We also have two adorable fur babies — Beau and Bailey.
In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Develop and execute strategies that meaningfully move the needle for our clients with both the legislative and executive branches.
Without using the words Democrat, independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I spent six years in the Rick Scott administration so that probably gives you a pretty good baseline of my ideology, but it really depends on the issue.
If you have one, what is your motto? In the wise words of Richard Branson, “Say yes and figure it out later.”
During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? I always enjoy being able to use my insights and relationships in government to assist friends and family when they need help navigating the system.
Three favorite charities. Second Harvest of the Big Bend, Ronald McDonald House, and Metropolitan Ministries.
Any last-day-of-Session traditions? This sounds boring, but after a 60-day sprint I’m usually ready to go home and get a great night’s sleep.
What are you most looking forward to during the 2023 Legislative Session? Not being pregnant.
If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … I’ll be honest, our clients are great, and I wouldn’t want to trade them with anyone.
Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? The 2017 Special Session was a huge professional victory for me. As part of the Governor’s senior staff, the 2017 Session was a constant fight with the Legislature over key areas that I oversaw, but ultimately, we were able to work with legislative leaders during a Special Session, which resulted in victories for the Governor and Floridians.
Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No Gucci loafers, but I have a slight addiction to Jimmy Choo pumps.
Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Andrew Atterbury because he’s a nice guy and a good reporter.
Other than FloridaPolitics.com, your reading list includes … Mainly political news, emails and documents from clients, Twitter, and a good (or average) murder mystery novel.
What swear word do you use most often? I’m guilty of using a variety of four-letter words, but currently working to tone it down before baby Fay’s arrival.
What is your most treasured possession? Probably my engagement ring, which is a family heirloom, or the Care Bear I’ve had since I was born.
The best hotel in Florida is … The Breakers.
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? Charlie Crist as a Republican, Charlie Crist as an independent, Charlie Crist as a Democrat, and Charlie Crist as whatever party he joins next.
Favorite movie. Mean Girls.
When you pig out, what do you eat? dressing and a good bottle of wine.
If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be?
Navigating the Process for Rick Scott, new clients, friends and family
Positioning clients to succeed
Significant other? Children? Grand kids? My wife, Jessica, and our daughters Abby (13) and Lucy (8)
In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Try to put our clients in the best position to succeed.
Without using the words Democrat, independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Government is a necessary evil that should be very limited when possible and the most important trait an individual can have is common sense.
If you have one, what is your motto? “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Haven’t had the opportunity to yet.
Three favorite charities. Brehon House, United Way, Dreams Come True of Jacksonville
Any last-day-of-Session traditions? I always stay ‘til the end — got to make sure it’s completely dead.
What are you most looking forward to during the 2023 Legislative Session? Interacting with the new members.
If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … Love the clients I have! Always have more love to give.
Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Not losing my sanity … or at least I don’t think I have.
Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter? Steve Bousquet
Other than Florida Politics.com, your reading list includes … Florida Daily, Profootballtalk, Bleacher Report and GolfWRX
What swear word do you use most often? The worst one constantly!! But I don’t shy away from the others. It’s my worst habit.
What is your most treasured possession? Colt 1911 Gold Cup that was my grandfather’s
The best hotel in Florida is … The Biltmore Miami
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? Ryan West, Darrick McGhee, Ray Walker and Henry Kelley
When you pig out, what do you eat? Wings, pizza and a chocolate-dipped cone from Dairy Queen
If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Ed Ball
The universe of RON DESANTIS
Casey DeSantis — They say behind every great man is a great woman, and that’s doubly true for the Gov ernor. The First Lady not only makes her husband look good by prioritizing issues such as mental health and cancer research, she plays a significant role be hind the scenes in crafting Gov. DeSantis’ message.
James Uthmeier — He’s been in orbit for a while, join ing the Governor’s Office as Deputy General Counsel shortly after DeSantis inauguration, then stepping up to General Counsel a year-and-a-half later. That role put him in the outer belt at the very least, but now that he’s Chief of Staff he’s the de facto second rock from the Sun.
Generra Peck, David Abrams, Ryan Tyson — This team of consultants and campaign vets have helped keep DeSantis’ message clear and his favorability among voters above water through several contro versial policy priorities and the onslaught of negative media attention that came along with them.
Heather Barker, Tucker Obenshain — Cash wins campaigns. They raise cash. A lot of it. One week into September, DeSantis had nearly $120 million in the bank for his re-election bid. That’s the kind of money you’d expect from a presiden tial primary campaign, not a gubernatorial race.
Richard Corcoran, Mori Hosseini — Education has arguably been the top focus of DeSantis’ first term, and Corcoran and Hosseini were instrumental in iron ing out policy and adept at enforcing them in K-12 and higher ed, respectively. And they’ve helped the Gov ernor strike a balance between carrots, such as teach er pay raises, and sticks, such as anti-woke curricula.
Adrian Lukis, Shane Strum — Being the Chief of Staff to a Governor, especially DeSantis, is like sitting in a pressure cooker. Each aced their tour of duty as the top staffer for “America’s Governor” before exiting the administration on good terms. There’s a reason why both former Chiefs landed enviable post-public service positions — they’ve been in the trenches and earned the Governor’s trust.
Nick Iarossi, Drew Meiner, Scott Ross, Brian Ballard — One doesn’t become one of the top lobbyists in the state without having the Governor’s ear. All four of them do — DeSantis may not pat lobbyists on the back in pub
lic, but the ones he trusts do get a seat at the table be hind closed doors. If you look at the appropriations that survived the ‘Red Wedding’ and its sequel, or the new Seminole Compact, it’s clear DeSantis trusts this set.
Phil Cox — Everything we’ve said about DeSan tis’ other campaign consultants also applies to Cox, a former executive director of the Republican Gov ernors Association and among the most respected GOP political operatives at the national level.
Christina Pushaw — She was a staunch DeSantis de fender even before her paycheck depended on it, and the Governor doesn’t forget that kind of loyalty. But she’s more than a true believer — love her or hate her, she has also expanded the Governor’s lex icon and turned the public’s opinion toward some of DeSantis’ more controversial policies. Press secre taries rarely make the orbit, but Pushaw isn’t working from the same playbook as past comms pros.
Adam Laxalt — DeSantis wasn’t always planning to run for Governor, but Laxalt saw potential in him and en couraged him to challenge a candidate that was once seen as inevitable rather than run to be Florida’s top cop. Reading tea leaves on its own didn’t get him a back stage pass to DeSantis world, but the former Nevada Attorney General also has close personal ties to the Gov — they were roommates during naval officer training.
Scott Wagner — DeSantis rode into office with an am bitious set of environmental goals, and he put some of his most trusted allies on water management dis trict boards. Wagner, now serving as Vice Chair of the SFWMD, is one of them. But he’s more than a mere appointee, he’s also a fellow Yalee and among the most vocal sunshine pumpers of DeSantis’ policies.
Kent Stermon — He’s a major campaign donor and argu ably one of DeSantis’ closest friends. His support was re warded with a spot on the State University System Board of Governors shortly after DeSantis’ inauguration, and he also serves on numerous boards in Northeast Florida, DeSantis’ home turf before he was propelled into state wide office. Just like others in the orbit, Stermon benefits from being in DeSantis’ corner before it was en vogue.
Promises made, promises broken
Loan reimbursements earmarked to compensate ‘Socially Disadvantaged’ farmers remain in limbo while some recipients face foreclosureBy Greg Baker
Buried in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was a section (1005) that would reimburse “Socially Disad vantaged” farmers for loans either directly from or guaranteed by the Farm Service Agency. The $4 billion would reimburse up to 120% of the loan balance to cover principal and tax bur dens arising from the award. Section 1005 defined Socially Disadvantaged farmers as Black (African American), Ameri can Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, or Ha waiian/Pacific Islander. These groups have historically faced discriminatory practices in government lending, with most of the funding going to white farmers.
It wasn’t without objection, as is the norm with govern ment initiatives to bring equity and compensate for past wrongs. Before passage, banking groups protested the plan, claiming rapid repayment of loans would affect their profits and hurt investors.
Court challenges came soon after. Litigants labeled the program, designed to atone for discriminatory practices, as discriminatory itself. Jacksonville U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Morales set an injunction against the program after Scott Wynn, a white farmer from Jennings, Florida, filed suit because he could not apply for the program. A similar case in Wisconsin resulted in a temporary restraining order, and at least six active lawsuits are pending to block the program.
Unfortunately, Washington and planting season don’t op erate symbiotically.
Many farmers who had completed the application process and were approved for funds leveraged that money for capital purchases to improve their farms. Checking the mailbox for their award, they instead received notices the program was on hold. Not only did they now owe the balance of the original loans, they also owed on loans taken to pay for new equipment with no certainty of ever seeing the money for which they’d qualified. Some now faced foreclosure from the USDA — the same agency in charge of distributing the loan reimburse ments that weren’t coming.
With 1005 in limbo and no resolution in sight, Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, attempted to mitigate the issue with an 11th-hour provision in the Inflation Reduc tion Act (IRA) signed into law on Aug. 16. Section 22007 pro vides $2.2 billion in compensatory funding to farmers who have historically faced discrimination in USDA programs before Jan 1, 2021, and another $3.1 billion in loan help for farmers in severe financial hardship. Additional key points of 22007 provide $1.25 million in technical and other assistance, $250 million in land loss assistance, $250 million in research,
education, and extension, and $10 million to fund the cre ation and operation of “equity commissions” to address racial equity issues within the Department of Agriculture. Most of these measures bear earmarks for the less-than-specific “un derserved farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, including veterans, limited resource producers, beginning farmers and ranchers, and farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners living in high poverty areas.”
It also repealed 1005.
Some farmers see this as the best, most reasonable path forward given the challenges. Others, like John Boyd, see it as a betrayal. Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Asso ciation, said in a public statement, “what could be worse than having another President to overturn legislation you enacted to help Black and other farmers of color during a pandemic? Repealing your own legislation to take it away while they are being served foreclosure notices in a recession with the high est record of input costs in 40 years while sending hundreds of millions in aid to Ukraine farmers.”
According to a recent study by the American Economic Association, discriminatory practices in the USDA have cost underrepresented farmers $326 billion in farmland over the last century. However, researchers agree this number is like ly grossly undercounted. With that land loss came the loss of economic opportunity and the disintegration of a healthy mid dle class of farmers of color.
With efforts to directly address this issue tied up in court and now repealed, lingering questions remain over how the USDA will distribute the funds from these programs.
There are no stipulations or guarantees that those who qualified under 1005 will qualify for these new programs. If they do, there is a $500,000 cap on any assistance “as deter mined to be appropriate.” It is not without some justification that some view with skepticism how the agency recognizing previous discrimination is now determining appropriate com pensation levels for those practices.
How this shakes out remains to be seen, but Boyd is poised to challenge the repeal of 1005 in court to ensure he and oth ers like him see the funds on which they staked their financial security. The bill contains no small number of measures to ad dress the plight of underrepresented farmers and ranchers, but it leaves much unresolved for many.
Greg Baker is a chef and restaurant consultant and is the principal of the Chef Greg Baker Group (CGBG) based in Tampa.
Building bridges to find common ground in Israel
A visit to the Holy Land highlights divisions and a desire for peaceBy Yolanda Cash Jackson
If you want a glimpse into the potential role intersection ality of people, politics, religions and belief can play in helping bridge differences, spend some time in Israel.
I was one of a dozen lobbyists, elected leaders and oth ers from the U.S. who toured Israel on a week-long trip in July arranged by the American Israel Public Affairs Com mittee and the American Israel Education Foundation. It was an eye-opening journey through modern and historic times and the conflicts that span the ages, and represent ed a desire to find common ground.
I felt the possibilities as we toured the Mount of Be atitudes, where Jesus is believed to have delivered his Sermon on the Mount, and prayed with Brazilian Chris tians beside the Sea of Galilee. I felt it as we walked the narrow streets of Old Jerusa lem and prayed at the Western Wall, where I tucked a hand-written note in the cracks between its stones.
We spent time with Ethiopian Jews, whose own exodus is a remarkable tale, and shared Shabbat dinner at the home of Jill and Ambassador Daniel Meron, who welcomed us in a tradition held among family and friends dating back thousands of years. Be ing a born-again Christian daughter of a pas tor, my baptism in the River Jordan where Jesus was said to have been baptized left me spiritually renewed. I truly felt the spirit of “He Lives” as I walked ground sacred to Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike.
I saw the promise of hope contained in the Bible come to life before my eyes.
So steeped in religious significance, you’re left to won der how conflict can exist in such a place. Yet, this was more than a tourist excursion, and geopolitics were central speaking points on the agenda.
It was clear as we crossed the border, passports in hand, to visit Ramallah, the administrative capital of
the Palestinian Territories, and as we talked with jour nalists who have covered the conflict. When we drove north to the Golan Heights, we saw Hezbollah soldiers in the distance across the border with Syria. As we vis ited the south, we saw Gaza, from where a week after our return, rockets would rain down on the surround ing Jewish communities.
It was these visits that helped me realize the challeng es and threats Israel faces daily, as well as the benefits they enjoy.
To be sure, they have internal conflict. The Israeli Knesset, or legislative body, has dozens of individual par ties, from far right to far left. Think having two major parties and several factions is hard to nav igate politically here in the U.S.? It seems a miracle Israelis can build coalitions and craft compromises.
But they do. I suspect it falls back on the cultural, spiritual and practical intersection ality they live with day-to-day. Simply put, they must make it work.
I’m not naive. I know the conflicts there are deep and entrenched; no one-week tour of any country will make me an expert.
Through it all, however, I saw the breadth of tolerance and an honest desire for peace.
In America, we should yearn to learn from this intersec tionality of peoples. As lobbyists, my peers and I live and work at the intersection of politics and society. Currently in America, we’re struggling to find our path through the convergence of government, race and religion. Embracing our shared past must become an imperative if we are to work toward what will be our shared future.
Yolanda Cash Johnson is a state-level lobbyist with Becker Law. She rep resents HBCUs, the Urban League and municipalities. Learn more at www. beckerlawyers.com
I truly felt the spirit of “He Lives” as I walked ground sacred to Christi anity, Judaism and Islam alike.
Making friends, finding inspirationBy Steve Schale
When traveling, usually against my better judgment, I try the local hooch. In Infanta — a small town in the Philippine province of Quezon — that thirst quencher is lambanog. And on a Saturday night in the rain in Au gust, my new friends and I raised a glass of it to my new goddaughter Lexi, while a local karaoke band belted out songs like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”
It was, in a word, perfect.
The road to Infanta is long — literally and figuratively. Getting to this fishing town on the Pacific side of the main island of the Philippines, requires a 4 to 5-hour drive from the capital city, navigating both Manila’s gridlock of humanity, as well as a steep mountain range.
While Manila is booming and modern, Infanta is rural and simple. Fishing and agriculture dom inate the local economy, both practiced at a scale that’s advanced very little over the years. No where is this clearer than the Infanta Fishing Port, where fish is sold in plastic buckets, and the entire port celebrates the return of a successful catch.
I’d come to celebrate Lexi’s christening. Lexi is the 2-year-old daughter of Lord Arnel “LA” Ruanto, the town’s Vice Mayor, and my mentee through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.
Infanta isn’t a place frequented by guys like me, and LA rolled out the red carpet. Banners announcing my visit (and that of fellow ACYPL’er Numan Afifi of Malaysia) dot ted street corners. The attention was weird, but this day wasn’t about me: I was there because my visit, on many levels, was important to LA.
I also was there for me. Spending time around young lead ers in the developing world is inspiring. The word “courage”
gets tossed around a lot in America, and 99% of the time the descriptor is total bullshit.
You want courage? Afifi, my friend on this trip, is an open ly gay man fighting for human rights in Malaysia, where the very act of being himself is illegal. Or LA, who works to dis rupt the political system in a country known for political vi olence. That’s courage. Selfishly, helping and spending time around leaders like them renews my own purpose.
I dreamed of being a diplomat when I was younger, and while that dream has passed, these trips are my chance to do what I love: testify to the decency of our nation, and the values underpinning it.
I truly believe on her best day, America is both a source of goodness in the world, and an inspiration for those striving to improve their own country. I love trying to be an example of both in conversations with young people around the world, as well as shine a small light on their work.
The challenges in the Philippines are over whelming, yet it’s home to a truly warm, joyful and resilient people. Our countries have real shared history — a history that plays out in how Americans are welcomed there. And on that Saturday night, with the lambanog flowing and everyone saying how lucky the town was for my visit, I stood there knowing the real truth: I’m the one who received the gift.
Steve Schale is an associate with The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners. He also serves on the board of The American Council of Young Political Leaders, a bipartisan organization that brings togeth er rising political leaders from around the globe.
The challenges in the Philippines are overwhelming, yet it’s home to a truly warm, joyful and resilient people.
True profiles in courage can be found in the young leaders of developing nations
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Why is Moore ranked by O’Dwyer’s as the state’s No. 1 Public Affairs firm? At the top of the list are the expertise and talent CEO Karen Moore has cultivated since founding the agency 29 years ago.
Moore is a highly specialized and fully integrated communications agency. Spread across three time zones, the team bolsters its grassroots and grasstops successes with digital advertising, crisis communications, media relations and event support guaranteed to drive influence with key target audiences. Working side-by-side with lobbyists ensures Moore builds a strong foundation of strategy and action to achieve client wins together.
Moore’s campaigns impact the entire state, building collaboration among Florida’s industry leaders. For example, Moore is currently helping its longtime client CareerSource Florida, along with the Department of Education and Department of Economic Opportunity and trusted partners such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with the Reimagining Education and Career Help (REACH) Act priorities. Unanimously approved by legislators, this comprehensive blueprint will enhance access, alignment and accountability across the state’s workforce development system.
Florida’s future is being forged today. Choose a public affairs partner who has proven influence and success.
Learn more at themooreagency.com/public-affairs
MOORE’S PUBLIC AFFAIRS TEAM SHARES A FEW FAVORITE WINNING MOMENTS.
CEO & Founder
I am proud of our multiple wins with Florida Constitutional Amendments. One effort was the Florida Amendment 7 ballot initiative. Composed of three parts— First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits, Supermajority Board Votes for College Fees and State College System Amendment—it won by 67 percent!
Managing Director of Public Affairs
I’m honored to stand behind nearly 10 years’ worth of wins for the Florida Dental Association, including the launch of their comprehensive initiative to improve oral health for all Floridians and the passage of priority legislation to establish a dental student loan repayment program to connect Florida dentists with rural and underserved communities.
With one week’s notice from the White House, Moore Ied strategic communications and logistics surrounding two single-day events headlined by the First Lady of the United States, generating local, state, national and international media coverage of nearly half a billion media impressions around critical cancer policy imperatives and improving access to care and outcomes for women.
Associate Managing DirectorBY O’DWYER’S
We helped to secure passage of The Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, which achieved parity and access to life-saving orally administered cancer treatments for Florida’s cancer patients. Creating and demonstrating advocate support, we helped secure unanimous support from 96 sponsors in the House and all 40 senators.
Working with the Florida College System (FCS) Council of Presidents during the 2022 legislative session, we secured statewide media coverage that, in working with our lobbying partners, resulted in record legislative funding to strengthen the FCS Program Fund, improve dated college infrastructure and reinvest in performance funding.
President & COO
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill set off a historic environmental disaster. Moore represented Florida’s tourism and seafood industries, tapping media relationships to secure more than 800 targeted media hits—including USA Today, The Washington Post, NPR, Fox Business Report and CNN—coverage that helped voice concerns and get answers.
Initial polling showed that only 25% of Florida voters supported proposed Amendment 10 when the Florida Sheriffs Association hired us to develop an integrated, informative campaign. Through compelling storytelling and substantial earned media and digital advertising that earned 125 million impressions, the amendment passed with more than 65% support.
Moore developed and executed The Vote’s in YOUR Court on behalf of The Florida Bar to help educate voters on the importance of judicial merit retention. All three state Supreme Court justices on the ballot that year were retained.
Associate Managing Director
After a mass shooting in Tallahassee, Moore helped to develop and launch “Maura’s Voice.” The launch event united bipartisan legislative leadership and garnered 1.3 million impressions, but the real impact is the ongoing research to inform policy solutions targeting the intersection of hate and violence.
Raising A Digital BridgeBy Drew Wilson
Glenn Kirkland Jr. and Jon Menendez are no longer in the lobbying business, but they’re not leaving The Process.
Those in the Tallahassee lobbying corps know the duo for their work at Kaleo Partners. As one of the top informa tion technology-focused firms in the state, it was an attrac tive acquisition for Continental Strategy.
In the two months since that deal went through in mid-July, Kirkland and Menendez have been working on their next venture: KR2 Technology.
As the name implies, the new business will put their two decades of IT consult
byists — they told INFLUENCE they have canceled all their executive and legislative branch lobbying registrations with the state.
That does not mean they have severed ties with their for mer lobbying clientele, which featured some of the biggest names in the tech industry, including several Fortune 500 com panies. Many of them will be working with KR2 Technology as their “value-added reseller,” or VAR.
For those unfamiliar with tech-industry jargon, VARs serve as a crucial bridge between solution, service provid ers and government customers. Their role is to know the ins and outs of their partners’ offerings as well as their cus tomer’s needs, weaving them into a package that provides
Through the experience gained at their former firm, Kirk land and Menendez launch KR2 with valuable knowledge and understanding of the enterprise cloud, cybersecurity and SaaS
Their experience will, of course, make recommending them a no-brainer should any of their former colleagues in the lobbying corps have clients who need a knowledgeable and responsive VAR. Simply put, resellers don’t compete with lob
“This move gives us the ability to leverage a broader ca pabilities set while still bringing the level of service and val ue our partners and customers have come to expect from
However, leaving the lobbying industry behind also
“Florida will still be ground zero,” Menendez told INFLUENCE, but KR2 Technology will also be looking beyond the Sunshine State — other states in the Southeast are already on the radar and Menendez said the company is also eyeing key mar kets in other areas of the country down the line.
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Florida’s mammoth health care agency is moving forward with one of the state’s biggest — and most ex pensive — contracts. And it’s going to be quite an undertaking.
The Agency for Health Care Admin istration ultimately will be tasked with awarding new six-year contracts to a hand ful of managed care companies, making them responsible for the health care of more than 4.24 million residents.
Rarely publicized state data shows the current contracts for Medicaid are worth billions to the managed care companies operating in the system now. And those who have been deeply involved in past contracts say it is a highly complicated process to navigate.
Data suggests managed care plans with Medicaid contracts could be paid close to $100 billion over the six-year period cov ered in the next round contracts.
Managed care plans reported receiving more than $65 billion in Medicaid premiums during the first four years of the current con tract, according to Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR)-produced managed care reports. Nearly $20 billion of that premium was collected in 2021 alone, according to Florida Politics’ analysis of the data.
No managed care plan reported more Medicaid premiums in 2021 than Sunshine Health Plan. More than 83% of Sunshine Health Plan’s premium for the year came from Medicaid. Sunshine Health Plan also was one of the most profitable managed care plans in 2021, reporting a $537 million profit, according to state data.
The mother of all contracts
A seismic shift in Medicaid program could be aheadBy Christine Sexton
To ensure managed care plans didn’t incentivize profits over care, the law lim its how much profit plans can earn from Medicaid before having to return a share of the profits to the state. AHCA calcu lates the so-called “achieved savings re bate” (ASR) annually.
The state has not finalized the ASR amounts for 2021, according to AHCA.
But in 2020, when managed care plans collected $16.4 billion in Medicaid premi ums, the contracted plans in total returned nearly $275 million to the state, according to a document prepared by the Bureau of Medicaid Finance. The $275 million figure more than doubles the $129.9 million ag gregate ASR managed care plans returned to the state in 2019.
2020 marked the start of the pandemic and also included a three-month shutdown for “optional” medical care. And when the economy reopened for business, people continued to delay seeking health care.
Managed care plans file financial state ments and enrollment reports with the National Association of Insurance Commis sioners (NAIC). Florida’s OIR compiles the unaudited reported data from the NAIC fil ings to assemble the quarterly reports. The reports provide details on the amount of premiums collected broken down by insur ance, assets, liabilities and capital for each managed care plan.
Florida Politics analyzed the quarterly reports for managed care plans between 2018 and 2021 while also reviewing the OIR-published data for the first quarter of calendar year 2022.
Between January and March of this year, managed care plans reported collect ing $6.17 billion in Medicaid premiums. That’s $1.5 billion more than what the plans reported for the first quarter of 2021.
Preparing to seek bids
Meanwhile, those who have worked on Medicaid procurement say a lot goes into the process before actual bidding requests head out the door.
Before Melanie Brown-Woofter headed the Florida Behavioral Health Association, she was the bureau chief of AHCA’s Medic aid managed care unit.
As such, Brown-Woofter worked on the “team” that helped develop the procurement documents used for the 2014 contracts.
She also worked on the Medicaid con tracts Florida used in the precursor to the statewide mandatory managed care program: a five-county managed care pi lot program.
In other words, she has been there, done that.
“They should be at least rounding the corner to see the finish line for drafting the document and issuing the procure ment,” Brown-Woofter said when asked about what’s happening behind the doors of AHCA.
Brown-Woofter recalls an agency staff team was assembled with people from the various Medicaid bureaus — from man aged care to finance to quality and proj ect management. The team, which also included staff from the agency’s general counsel’s office, met for more than a year on the procurement.
“When we looked at it as a process, it was all the way from what requirements and quality metrics are we going to have (in the contracts) all the way through implementation,” she said. “It was well thought out.”
It had to be. At the time, the agency was required to conduct a Medicaid managed care procurement in each region across the state. That meant 11 different procure ments, each of which could be challenged by health care plans that weren’t awarded the lucrative Medicaid contracts. (Worth noting: the Legislature this year changed the law to allow for one statewide procure ment. It also reducred the number of man aged care regions from 11 to eight.)
Ultimately, 16 Medicaid managed care plans had contracts in 2014 to provide care to the state’s poor, elderly and disabled population. And it was done without any significant litigation.
“It was just very, very rewarding,” Brown-Woofter said.
While the first procurement was more than a year in the making, Brown-Wooft er said the contracts that were used bor rowed heavily from the contracts used in a Medicaid Reform managed care pilot program that initially operated in Broward and Duval counties in 2006 and expanded the following year to also include Nassau, Clay and Baker counties.
“It was a great learning opportuni ty,” Brown-Woofter said, noting that the Medicaid Reform pilot project gave the agency first-time insight into the con tracting between managed care plans and health care providers and “the pain points that came out of that.” Similar to today’s mandatory program, the five-county pi lot also required beneficiaries to choose a managed care plan — those who didn’t were assigned a plan. The agency learned
the approach sometimes resulted in the bifurcation of a family’s medical home, with a parent being assigned to one plan and their child or children to another.
“Sometimes it’s easier for families to only have one plan to go to,” Brown-Wooft er said. The agency was able to alter the assignment policy to provide families more choices, she said.
Additionally, the Medicaid Reform pi lot gave the agency insight as to whether managed care would be of benefit for peo ple with serious mental illness.
From that, the Medicaid managed care specialty plan was born, Brown-Woofter said. The state in 2014 had signed Medic aid contracts with managed care plans that provided treatment for serious mental ill ness, HIV and AIDS, and medically complex pediatric conditions. The state also had a signed Medicaid contract with a managed care plan that provided health care to chil dren who were in the custody of the state.
When the state began working on the second procurement in 2016 it also applied lessons learned from experience, said Jus tin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.
Prior to heading the statewide hospital association, Senior was Florida’s Medicaid Director and also was the AHCA Secretary. Senior said the agency had certain goals with the second procurement, including accelerating and encouraging alternative payment arrangements between managed care plans and their contracted providers. Alternative payment arrangements allow plans to pay providers a lump sum for man aging a patient’s care. Financial incentives can be awarded for successful results.
Alternative payment arrangements replace a fee-for-service reimburse ment where providers submit bills to the managed care plan with codes for the services provided. The reimbursement arrangement incentivizes visits, Senior said, and outcomes.
AHCA also wanted Medicaid managed care plans to reduce potentially prevent able hospital events by 22%; hospital ad missions/readmissions by 21% and emer gency department visits by 14%.
“They are going to be looking at that right now to figure out — ‘do we want to put an emphasis on this in the next con tract? Do we want to score this in a way that our top performers get more points than our worst ones?’” Senior said of the requirements in the 2018 contracts. “That’s the type of thing you need to think of here. You need to get the health plans that are most likely to help you achieve the result that you want.”
Equitable health care for all?
Tallahassee attorney Anne Swerlick worries the state may not take steps to ad dress health equities in the new contracts being developed. Swerlick, in the 2022 Leg islative Session championed a bill requiring Medicaid managed care plans to, beginning in the 2026 calendar year, stratify some of
the data it is required to report to the state by age, sex, race, ethnicity, primary lan guage and disability determination.
But, at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families’ virtual conference this summer Swerlick told Daniel Tsai, the deputy ad ministrator and director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, that the agency did not mention health equity in the Medicaid Request for Information it published earlier this summer. The RFI was issued to help give AHCA guidance as it worked on the procurement.
“There was not one mention in that RFI of health equity or health disparities or any signal of a commitment by the state to use this as an opportunity to ad dress these issues. We were quite disap pointed by that,” Swerlick said.
“Sometimes it’s easier for families to only have one plan to go to. The agency was able to alter the assignment policy to provide families more choices.” — Melanie Brown-Woofter
Ten Races to Watch
With Florida’s Primary season complete, the General Election has come into focus.By Jacob Ogles and Peter Schorsch
After U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist won the Democratic nod to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Val Demings officially faces Sen. Marco Rubio , the cycle is destined to draw na tional attention to the Sunshine State. But peering down ballot, which rac es deserve attention this fall? Editors at Florida Politics identified the follow ing must-watch contests for November.
Florida’s 2nd Congressional District
Gov. Ron DeSantis controversially insisted that a new congressional map produced by the Legislature eliminate a Black-performing dis trict spanning from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. That denied U.S. Rep. Al Lawson a Democrat ic-leaning seat in which to run. Instead, he’s chal lenging U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn in CD 2, a seat the Panama City Republican has held since the same court-ordered redistricting that initially created the path Lawson took to Washington.
Longtime friends across the aisle, the two representatives worked hand-in-hand on region al matters from hurricane recovery to COVID-19 assistance. Now Lawson taunts Dunn as a “farright Republican” wrong on assault weapons and access to contraception, as Dunn ties Lawson to President Joe Biden’s most unpopular policies and holds the Democratic majority responsible for inflation and costly gas. Past performance suggests Dunn holds an edge in a seat Donald Trump carried with 54.86% of the vote.
Florida’s 13th Congressional District
With Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist seeking the Governor’s Mansion, the Pi nellas County seat he won in 2016 holds no in cumbent. Now the constant battleground hosts a heated battle between Republican Anna Paulina Luna, an Air Force veteran who challenged Crist in 2020, and Democrat Eric Lynn, a senior advisor to the Pentagon during President Barack Obama’s administration. A Pinellas County native, this St. Petersburg son hopes to keep this swing seat in the blue column. Democrats also hope a GOP Primary marked by Luna accusing opponents of death threats and slashing her staffers’ tires will leave voters receptive to supporting Lynn. But unlike in 2020, Luna enjoys a lift cour tesy of the new map, which shifts CD 13 east ward, leaving it a jurisdiction Trump won by seven percentage points as he won Florida statewide by just three. Trump’s vocal support for Luna in the Primary will likely continue through the General Election.
Florida’s 27th Congressional District
Rep. María Elvira Salazar surprised many observers when she unseated Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala in 2020, just two years after Shalala beat the Republican in a seat Hillary Clin ton carried in 2016. Redistricting helped make CD 27 a little more GOP friendly, but it’s still Florida’s most divided seat. Trump won 49.76% of the vote here in 2020, but Biden won 49.49%. The incumbent since then has presented herself as a moderate, breaking with GOP House lead ership to support the Respect for Marriage Act,
though refusing to support Democrats’ Equality Act. She now faces state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat who helped flip a South Florida Re publican Senate seat blue in 2017. She seems equally hawkish on Latin America and criticized Biden for removing FARC, a Colombian revolu tionary group who killed her father, from the list of foreign terrorists organizations. She also kept her legislative seat in 2020 as Miami-Dade skewed rightward and will test if she can hold those voters in a federal race.
Senate District 3
his Panhandle seat has been one Republi cans long wanted to seize to end a Demo cratic hold dating back to Dixiecrat dominance. Loranne Ausley, a Democrat who long represented Tallahassee in the House, kept the seat blue in 2020 when she defeated Marva Har . Now, she faces Corey Simon, a for mer NFL and Florida State University football player previously appointed by DeSantis to lead Volunteer Florida. DeSantis personally recruit ed the Republican into the race, and the GOP feels bullish he can break through Ausley’s de fenses and finally paint the Florida Capitol City red. Ausley can draw some comfort in the fact that 50.89% of voters in her district went for Biden even as Trump won Florida. But the Dem ocratic President this cycle likely will handicap the incumbent as she attempts to earn a second term in the upper chamber.
EVERYONE STORY TO TELL. HAS A
Senate District 10
Sen. Jason Brodeur barely scraped out 50% of the vote when he secured his place in the Senate in 2020. That means he can cred ibly claim he would have won regardless of a “ghost candidate” scandal that has since led to three people in the Senator’s political orbit now facing criminal charges. Still, controversy hangs as he seeks a second term for the Central Florida seat.
The redistricting process hit him with a double whammy this year. First, it drew the incumbent into a seat Biden won by more than four percent age points. Second, it drove Democratic Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, a credible opponent who flipped a district blue in 2018, to challenge Brodeur instead of a Democratic colleague drawn into the same district. But Republicans feel confident a national GOP wave will help keep this seat in the red.
Senate District 14
In a year known for tight elections, Sen. Janet Cruz in 2018 clinched one of the closest and most consequential Florida races of the year, unseating Republican incumbent Dana Young by just 441 votes. But then a wave a Trump re sentment resulted in high Democratic turnout in metropolitan areas.
Will the Tampa Democrat fare as well with Biden now in the popularity dumps? SD 14 re mains a seat Biden won with 51.25% of the vote,
but Republicans feel good about their chances after DeSantis recruited Green Beret Jay Collins to run for this seat instead of an open congres sional contest. Unburdened by a voting record and decorated in honors bestowed during the War on Terror, Collins will charge ahead car rying the banner of DeSantis’ GOP. Cruz, a for mer Democratic Leader in the Florida House, enjoys a reputation and campaign experience but enters as tough a battle as ever.
BUSINESS TRAINING GRANTS
Senate District 38
The Florida Legislature could soon boast a record four LGBTQ lawmakers, but only if Janelle Perez can deliver in a closely watched con test for this South Florida Senate seat. Biden car ried the seat with more than 53% of the vote in 2020, but Republican Alexis Calatyud out-raised and out-spent the Democrat as of the end of June. Perez seemed to bounce back with massive August fundraising.
Both candidates boast the same level of ex perience as a candidate — none. Calatayud orig inally filed this year to succeed her old boss in the Florida House, Vance Aloupis, but saw op portunity on the new House map to try and take this seat. Republicans feel some confidence in that South Florida voters often prove willing to vote GOP for down-ballot races even if they go for the Democrat on top of the ticket. But Perez also continues to marshal progressive forces, in cluding the Giffords PAC, to back her candidacy.
When Ben Diamond left Democratic leader ship for a since-aborted run for Congress, he also left behind a purple House seat that could provide Republicans a pickup opportunity.
Audrey Henson, a Republican heavily backed by the state party, gave up a run for Congress to run for this seat and cruised to the GOP nomina tion. She may have an uphill climb in a district that broke for Biden with 54.92% to Trump’s 43.52%. But House Republicans, with no realistic fear of losing their majority in this political climate, see a chance to secure a supermajority.
In their way? Lindsay Cross, Diamond’s en dorsed successor, started into the General Elec tion with six figures in cash on hand and party demographics on her side. The environmental sci entist has the support of the local Democratic es tablishment including former St. Petersburg May or Rick Kriseman, Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard and Gulfport mayor Sam Henderson.
House District 100
R ep. Chip LaMarca long grazed the Legislature as a bit of a unicorn, the mythical Broward County Republican. Always elected on difficult terrain, the Lighthouse Point incumbent seeks a third House term in a district Biden carried by less than a percentage point. But he’s kept up fundraising, entering the General Election cycle with north of $300,000 at his disposal and the backing of local health care institutions.
He faces a rematch against Linda Gonzalez
Thompson, a Democrat he defeated by 10 per centage points in 2020. Thompson, a retired fed eral State Department employee, picked up Crist’s endorsement early and will hammer the GOP in cumbent on his vote for an abortion ban with the help of Ruth’s List and other pro-choice groups. LaMarca is also disappointed LGBTQ groups with a mixed record, supporting a ban on transgen der girls in female sports but voting against a law branded by critics as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
House District 120
State Rep. Jim Mooney eked out a Primary vic tory in Florida’s southernmost House district, winning the Republican nomination over chal lenger Rhonda Rebman Lopez by just 88 votes.
But his campaigning can’t stop there. He fac es Adam Gentle in the General Election in one of the state’s most sharply divided communi ties. Trump won the Key West district in 2020 with almost 52% of the vote, but DeSantis lost
it in 2018, when Democrat Andrew Gillum took more than half the vote in the Governor’s race there. The anti-corruption lawyer seems ready to make a case that the purple Keys need a blue Representative fighting a Republican Legisla ture that entertained unincorporating Key West over its port preferences. Mooney wouldn’t join in that. But it’s up to voters to determine wheth er he still gets sent out to sea this fall.
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.
The most influential people in Florida politicsBy Peter Schorsch
It’s repeated with each issue of the INFLUENCE 100 list: influence is difficult to quantify, but you know it when you see it.
This year’s challenge was not in deciding who wields all-important influence, rather when to make tough choices about who doesn’t make the cut. This year, and the long months that turned into years pre ceding it, have grown Florida’s political climate to epic proportions. Not only did the COVID-19 pandem ic drive new residents to the Sunshine State, it also elevated Florida politics to the national stage unlike anything seen since the recount of 2000, with a Gov ernor eyeing the White House and unafraid to take on national issues and bring them to kitchen counter conversations throughout the state.
With new and proposed state laws such as “Don’t Say Gay” and the Governor’s prized “Stop WOKE Act,” not to mention Donald Trump’s new status as Flori da Man, Florida has attracted a political audience and the influencers are both flocking and responding with newfound fervor.
The influx of kingmakers and hopeful king un-mak ers prompted this list to grow this year, from 100 to 150. While there were always tough decisions when getting up to the 100 threshold, adding 50 spots didn’t make it any easier to populate the list without omitting people who are arguably deserving.
The best of Florida’s top influencers are able to understand today’s contentious climate, and find new ways to remain relevant at a time when Mar-A-Lago raids and January 6 Commission meetings reign su preme. Once again, the list covers campaign consul tants and the people they get to open their wallets. The people who decide who becomes a candidate and who keeps their day job. Then there are the ardent ad vocates. The media elite. The people who make “The Process” in Tallahassee work. You know, the ones who decide which bill gets filed — and which ones never hear the hum 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 elected office.
JON ADRABI PLAYER
Jon Adrabi’s connections in Florida politics run deep. For more than a decade, he has been one of the top Democratic fund raisers and his relationships with Democratic donors across the Sunshine State are unmatched. For national candidates, from Governors to U.S. Senators to Mayors with a national profile, Jon is their first call when they want to raise money and build a donor base in Florida. You would be hard-pressed to find a Florida politico with more relationships nationally — especially when it comes to Democratic Governors.
Now working with one of the state’s top lobbying firms, LSN Partners, Jon has transcended the fundraising world to help deliver results for their growing national client base. He is ac tively engaged with groups like the Democratic Mayors Asso ciation and Democratic Municipal Officials, which has helped him and his firm build an impressive roster of clients.
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
In a field prone to oversized egos, Rick Asnani breaks the norm. All he does is win, and he wins with class.
Rick and his team at Cornerstone Solutions are a proven juggernaut in South east Florida and are quickly expanding their footprint across the state.
Certainly, we cannot mention Rick’s inclusion on this list without heralding the job he did and continues to do as the top political strategist for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Faced with the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in U.S. history, Rick led and assembled a team that would ultimately rebuke some of the largest gambling corporations in the world.
Fourteen Pollie and Reed awards later and there is no question about which consultant to call when running a statewide referendum.
Max Goodman, The Max Goodman Agency
MAT BAHL KEY STAFFER
For his role in orchestrating two successful presidential runs for George W. Bush, Karl Rove became known as “The Architect.” For his role in orchestrating the success of several presiding officers, Mat Bahl is more appropriately compared to the great musical conductors Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein or Igor Stravinsky. After all, we all know it is no easy feat to get the 120-member Florida Legislature — each one playing his or her own instrument — in tune to deliver, Session after Session, Republican House performances no less riveting than experi encing the philharmonic. House priorities, logistics, debate, budget re quests: Mat is the central figure behind it all. Wicked smart, but serious ly unassuming, Mat is the epitome of the phrase Theodore Roosevelt used in his Jan. 26, 1900 letter to Henry Sprague, “speak softly and car ry a big stick.” Those of us in and around the Capitol would know better than to cross him and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to watch him skillfully advance House priorities over the past decade or so.
I tend to agree with House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who in his farewell said of Mat, “in the Republican era, there has been no person who has shaped this institution more, is more responsible for its success or more deserving of credit, than you.”
Oh yeah … and for those reading who didn’t know … Mat is spelled with one ‘T,’ because who needs the pomp and circumstance of that extra “T?” Certainly not The Conductor!Ron Book, lobbyist
PAT BAINTER PLAYER
Tucked away in Gainesville, just off the interstate and far outside of the Tallahassee spotlight, is one of the most brilliant minds in Florida politics.
Behind a glass door with just a small sign indicating you’ve made it to the offices of Data Targeting sits our next generation of conservative political warriors receiving a master class from Pat Bainter
He’s humble, yet proud of the work he and his team artfully put forth for his clients and the Republican cause at large. He’s the consultant other con sultants call for advice and the mentor young operatives should be so lucky to call their own.
The research and data foundation on which Florida’s modern GOP is built is his masterpiece, yet Pat’s the first to introduce the talent pool of 20- and 30-somethings to tell you about the latest strategic developments. He’s not looking for face time or praise with his candidates, he’s looking for results, all the while being the smart est nice guy in the room.
If there is a heart and soul of the po litical consulting class here in Florida, I’d say Pat Bainter’s our guy. Pat would say that kind of self-congratulatory talk doesn’t win elections.
— Wilton Simpson, President of the Florida Senate
A MANMADE INSURANCE CRISIS HITS 30 Years After Andrew...
It's been 30 years since Category 5 Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, Florida on August 24, 1992. In the aftermath, Florida faced a property insurance crisis of epic proportions. Fast forward to today, and Florida’s property insurance market is once again on the brink of disaster. Only this time, it’s not a hurricane that has forced insurers out of business and homeowners scrambling to find insurance: the crisis is manmade. While the Governor and legislature have already taken important steps to improve Florida’s market, it’s clear more must be done.
Whether you are already painfully aware or just beginning to feel the effect, if unaddressed, a destabilized homeowners’ insurance market will continue to impact your company, employees, community and ultimately Florida’s competitiveness. Join together this Fall with business leaders, insurance experts and state officials for interactive discussions on the challenges facing Florida’s insurance market, legal system and more, and to unite around solutions that will insure Florida’s futurethe right way.
AMY BAKER WONK
Data drives decisions and dollars at the State Capitol, and when policymakers want to know where Florida stands, they turn to Amy Baker. For more than two decades, she has led the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR), the Legislature’s research arm, through growth, re cessions, transitions, contractions and a whole host of dis tractions. She is a dedicated public servant who has always proven to be a proficient, thoughtful forecaster and non partisan guide.
You think you haven’t been touched by her work? Think again. Whether she’s determining how much funding is available for appropriations, estimating the impact of leg islation, tracking population changes, or projecting Flori da’s long-range fiscal flight path, Amy’s fingerprints can be found on it all. In a world where news has such great po tential to be misconstrued, Amy manages to deliver both positive and negative reports with grace.
The independent public policy research of Florida Tax Watch regularly builds on the findings and insights pro duced by Amy and her team, and we are lucky to have her as an annual instructor for our Citizenship Institute, a train ing program for rising civic leaders, recently renamed “The Gov. Bob and Mary Jane Martinez Citizenship Institute at Florida TaxWatch” to honor one of her former bosses.— Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President for Florida TaxWatch
TIM BAKER PLAYER
Tim Baker and I first connected over our shared values as conservatives. Our friendship was ce mented when, after a long day of shooting com mercials, we made plans to grab dinner. We drove separately over to the restaurant, and I waited for him to come inside.
When he finally came in, he apologized for the de lay, 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, and 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.
— Ray Rodrigues, former state Senator and Chancellor of Florida’s State University System
BRIAN BALLARD LOBBYIST
There’s a reason why Brian Ballard is at the top of his profes sion — he’s one of the most enjoyable people to talk with about politics or any other subject.
His polite and unassuming demeanor compliments his thor ough understanding of how government works.
One of the secrets to his success as a lobbyist is that he doesn’t behave like one. He gets it in a way many others don’t.
Add to that his highly respected stable of professionals in Wash ington, Florida and around the world and you have the formula for success!PHOTO: The Workmans — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
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KATIE BALLARD PLAYER
Katie has quickly risen to become one of the top political fundraising consultants in Florida. She represents pre siding officers and many other influential legislators as their fundraiser, friend and key adviser. We started work ing together in 2013 and I quickly learned of her loyalty, tenacity and great sense of humor. I would like to believe that I was her first client and should be entitled to lifetime royalties from K Ballard Consulting. Katie is both hardworking and extremely knowledgeable about the art of fundraising, not to mention the legislative process. She is well respected by the donor and lobbyist communities and has a knack for understanding the intricacies of each of her clients to ensure they are successful. Katie is a key confidant, which is invaluable in Tallahassee.
Most importantly, it has been awesome over the years to see Katie get married (Brian) and subsequently start a family with Olivia … and soon to be another baby girl. Friendship from my time in Tallahassee remains one of the greatest rewards and it was also gratifying to watch a young entrepreneur like Katie use her talents and skills to start what is now a thriving business.— Travis Cummings, former state lawmaker PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
HEATHER BARKER PLAYER
Two things I know for sure about Heather Barker. One, Heather hates recognition and would prefer it be known that she is one part of an incredible team. She’d make sure McKenzie Sanders, Dana Mehanna, Tucker Obenshain, Mike Felici, Robert Meyer, Riley Nieporte, Alexandra Valdes, Rotem Raz and Christine Stephenson are recognized right along with her.
Second, she’d easily prefer to sit at the din ner table with Clay, Lily and Lucas than at a conference table with the most powerful people in America. That hasn’t changed since the day I met her. It never will.
The truth is, Heather is a vital component of the Governor’s team and no list of influ ential people in Florida politics is complete without her. Just don’t tell her I said that.
— Monte Stevens, lobbyist, The Southern Group
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BRICE AND HOUSTON BARNES PLAYERS
There are few Floridians with relationships with national Democratic donors like Brice and Houston Barnes. They engage in elections all over the country and develop lasting friendships with the people they encounter along the way. They are well known and respected and they have a surprise addition to their family coming in February!
— Rep. Allison Tant
RODNEY BARRETO PLAYER
In the book “Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell describes a “connector” as someone who knows people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and eco nomic circles and makes a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. They are people with a special gift for bringing the world together.
No one I’ve met in my life epitomizes the definition of a connector more than Rodney Barreto. Everyone knows him, everyone likes him, and everyone wants to be around him. He’s a smart businessman with a huge heart who spends an incredible amount of time giving back to his community and with his beautiful wife and family. Rodney is clearly one of the most influential people in Florida, but always uses his influence to help the state and the people he loves. Congratulations Rodney!— Nick Iarossi, founder, Capital City Consulting
SARAH BASCOM GREAT COMMUNICATOR
Affectionately named “Short Stuff” by her friend and mentor, the late President Jim King, Sarah might be short in stature, but when it comes to advice and strategy, she stands like a tall lighthouse keeping ships away from a rocky shore.
Over the last two decades, she has shined her light in service of some of the greatest ships ever to sail the sea of Florida politics. From President King to Speak er (John) Thrasher and President (Bill) Galvano to Speaker (Chris) Sprowls, to the many corporate cli ents that serve communities across our state, ships of all sizes have relied on Sarah’s guidance over the years. When the waters are peaceful, Sarah provides strate
gic planning, well-researched messaging and trusted media relations that help her clients chart a course for success. When a storm is on the horizon or arrives un expectedly, she is a fierce, loyal, battle-tested weapon who ensures safe navigation back to calmer waters.
Sarah helps you tell the story of your successes and stands by you in times of trouble. Whether it’s the elected officials she has served or the corporations she has advised, I am confident Sarah’s influence will light the way in Florida politics for years to come.
— Sen. Aaron Bean, Republican nominee, Florida’s 4th Congressional District
KATIE BETTA GREAT COMMUNICATOR
There have been many communications directors in the Florida Senate, but none have made a mark and had such an impact on the chamber and the state of Florida as Katie Betta
Her calm, professional manner is only matched by her fierce loyalty, defending the Senate Presidents she has served and the chamber as a whole. Katie does not respond to media requests with sound bites or quick-witted replies; she responds by citing rules, stat utes and historical knowledge that none before her or after her will be able to emulate. For years, Katie has artfully articulated complex policy issues and the in ner workings of the legislative process and seemingly does it all from memory and with ease.
But aside from her stellar and unmatched profession al accomplishments, Katie Betta is one of the kindest, most genuine people you will ever meet. No matter the hours or trials of this process and the exhausting tasks she undertakes during Session, anyone who darkens her door is met with a smile and a welcoming hello. Katie Betta embodies grace, professionalism and a tough-as-nails defense of her principal — a combina tion that makes her one of the best communications directors and deputy chiefs in the business.— Sarah Bascom, president, Bascom Communications & Consulting
AMANDA BEVIS GREAT COMMUNICATOR
Strong writer. Critical thinker. Loyal team member. These are the character istics I see in Amanda Bevis.
I’ve had the benefit of working with Amanda for nearly four years now. She came highly recommended to me by others in The Process whom I respect and trust. I knew I could benefit from an extra hand to support my office in writ ing, media relations and outreach. But we got more than that. We got a partner in Amanda.
When she started her business — Red Hills Strategies — she worked from a fold-up plastic table she purchased at Costco. Now the business is a team of five working in an office right across from the Capitol.
But I know Amanda’s most proud of what she’s growing at home — a family of boys who say “yes, ma’am” and love their momma. Brewster included.— Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo
BREWSTER BEVIS INDUSTRY LEADER
Brewster B. Bevis. What a name. What a guy.
He took on the role of president and CEO at Associated Industries of Florida just one year ago after more than a decade with the organization. And early reports indicate that leadership suits him well. The Voice of Florida Business is stronger than ever, having expanded its membership and influence across the state.
Brewster’s influence in The Process is most visible when he’s behind the podium. You know those committee hearings where no one is willing to testify? Well, then up walks Brewster. He presents his position, backs it up with facts, concrete examples and a funny story. Heck, he even sticks around and invites questions. When many folks in the Process shy away from the microphone, Brewster does not hesitate.
His influence stretches beyond the podium, though. Whether in the Capitol, on the road or on the golf course, Brewster is always working to educate members about AIF’s positions. If a policy is good or bad for the business community, he’s going to let you know.
As a result of his influence, anyone who is part of The Process knows where Brewster stands. But if you’re not sure, you can ask him yourself. Find him any weekday morn ing standing outside of Red Eye sharing a cup of coffee with his wife, Amanda. On weekends, he’s standing on the sidelines of his boys’ sports games.— Sen. Jim Boyd
JAMES BLAIR PLAYER
There are generally three attributes 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 loy alty 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 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 fund raiser in the state, Samantha BlairRichard Corcoran, former Florida Commissioner of Education
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 cellphones, 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.
And if cancer can’t best him, neither can any other lobbyist.— Broward Commissioner Jared Moskowitz
PAUL BRADSHAW TITAN
Paul Bradshaw is a true Renaissance man!
A political savant, a serial entrepreneur, the creator and chief of Greenfire Farms (ask him about the amazing chickens), Paul was the founder of The Southern Group in 1999. Paul’s leadership has sus tained this powerful advocacy group that continues to be the pre mier lobbying firm in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Paul’s influence in Florida politics over the last 25 years is impressive!
He has advised governors, Cabinet members and legislators. He has advocated and helped address some of the most significant educa tion policy issues passed by the Florida Legislature during the last 20 years. I was able to see his great advocacy skills firsthand during my time as Speaker and later as a member of the Southern Group.
Paul’s a private guy, but when you are able to spend time with him you learn, you laugh, and you go away admiring his keen intellect and amazing gifts of thoughtful insight. Not as widely known, but appre ciated by us who know Paul, is his love for Sally (one of my heroes!) and his love and unconditional support for their children. I’m proud to call him a dear friend and continue to admire his efforts to make Florida a great place to live and to follow one’s dreams.
John Thrasher, former Everything
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OSCAR BRAYNON LOBBYIST
Oscar is one of the brightest political minds in Florida. He is more than just my mentor, he’s a trusted sounding board for me and so many other elect ed officials. His institutional knowledge and ability to STILL work across the aisle in his new role speaks volumes about the man I am happy to call my brother and friend.
AUDREY BROWN INDUSTRY LEADER
There is no more knowledgeable, dedicated, and passionate advocate for quality health care for all Floridians than Audrey Brown. As president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans (FAHP), Audrey’s expertise — and heart — are at the center of the most im portant health care policy discussions across the state. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Audrey and her team advocated tirelessly for targeted resources to ensure the health and well-being of Florida’s most vulnerable cit izens. Other big wins under her leadership include new laws to stop surprise billing for out-of-network services and prevent ambu lance companies from shifting Medicaid and Medicare underpayments onto patients with private health insurance. Audrey knows that the plans FAHP represents are fighting for the best possible health outcomes for Floridians, as well as the most effective use of taxpayer resources to get there. The fact that she’s genuinely driven by good public policy makes Audrey not only a formidable champion but an extremely compassionate one. Audrey can also be counted on as a loyal colleague and trusted partner in The Process which makes her truly exceptional.Michael Corcoran, founder, Corcoran Partners
Florida’s Voice of Medicine
The Florida Medical Association is Florida’s premier medical professional association and the most influential advocate for doctors in the Sunshine State. We help physicians practice medicine so that they can deliver high quality patient care that keeps Floridians healthy, protects the public health, and enhances the quality of life in our communities.
MAYA BROWN PLAYER
If you don’t know Maya Brown, you’re not paying attention. Hailed as a 2020 30-un der-30 by Florida Politics, she’s become a force in both politics and statewide lead ership. Her problem-solving, consen sus-building style has landed her on in fluential boards, including the University of South Florida Alumni Association and Urban League of Hillsborough County, but it’s her savvy, no-nonsense approach to winning history-making campaigns that’s drawn the attention of politicos all across Florida and the nation.
Her boundary-breaking influence on Flori da politics includes electing Fentrice Dris kell, the first Black woman to lead the Florida House Democratic Caucus, Michele Rayner-Goolsby, the first Black queer woman to the Florida House, Nancy Millan, the first Latina woman to be elected Hills borough County Tax Collector, and Ashley Gantt, who just knocked off the only Dem ocratic member of the Florida Legislature to vote with Ron DeSantis on “Don’t Say Gay” and the 15-week abortion ban.
If that wasn’t enough, as one of the “Flor ida’s Black Girls,” Brown has become one of the most sought-after voices of reason among progressive Democrats everywhere.
While some Democrats are retreating from Florida, Brown is staking out new ground, winning, and using her platform as one of the most influential people in Florida poli tics to push progressives forward.
Is Maya Brown the future? No, Maya Brown is now.Kevin Cate, founder, CATECOMM
MONESIA BROWN INDUSTRY LEADER
Monesia has led Walmart’s advocacy in Florida with in comparable grace and expertise for almost 10 years. There are few industry leaders who share the breadth and depth of her policy experience and are as well-re spected and well-liked across the board.
Monesia’s in-depth knowledge of state government has benefited citizens across the state through her dedicat ed community engagement during the COVID-19 pan demic, her oversight of Walmart Foundation funding, and beyond.
Monesia’s rising star has been recognized for decades, having been appointed by two governors as Director of the Agency for Workforce Innovation and most re cently to the state Board of Education. She also serves as chair of the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation, the vice chair of the Volunteer Florida Foundation and as a board member of the Florida Chamber Foundation and the Museum of Florida History.
Monesia’s star qualities shine through everything she does. We are lucky to have her, and her radiating warmth, in the Sunshine State.— Michael Corcoran, founder, Corcoran Partners
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 victo ries in the executive and legislative branches were made possi ble through David’s fundraising efforts, including the House’s supermajority takeover and former Gov. Rick Scott’s defeat of Charlie Crist in 2014. Leaders in the Senate like Andy Gardiner and John Thrasher also had David on their teams.
For the last decade, his influence has evolved from campaign fi nance to lobbying. As a partner at The Southern Group, David ad vocates 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.
— Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo
MATT BRYAN LOBBYIST
Matt Bryan is warm, engaging, and fun to be around, but so are a lot of people. Being lobbied by Matt when I worked in state government, and now working alongside him for his beloved University of Florida, has been a master class. Here’s the syllabus about how Matt built one of Florida’s most successful and respected firms over the last nearly 40 years.
Work the long hours — there is no short cut. Invest time in building relationships. Relationships can open the door, but you better be prepared once you get inside.
Ask questions and then actually listen — you might learn what’s really going on. You might also learn that you need to be flexible and take a different approach to your issue than you originally planned.
Tell the truth, even though that will be uncomfortable sometimes. And expect that the people around you live by those same principles.
I have always known Matt to be generous with his advice and counsel, so I don’t think he and his partners at Smith, Bryan & Myers will mind my giving away his se crets. In fact, we’d probably all be better off if Matt’s master class were a required part of the curriculum.
— Mark Kaplan, Vice President, Government & Community Relations, University of Florida
DEAN CANNON TITAN
Since the day I met Dean, when he was a first-time candidate for the Florida House, through the present, I have admired his intel lect, drive, focus and tenacity. He is someone who at all times sees the entire chess board and all the pieces. As Speaker, he demon strated disciplined and effective leadership, which increased the prowess of the House to new levels. Dean has brought this same lead ership and vision to the Gray Robinson law firm and remains very effective in influenc ing Florida politics. The relationships Dean has built through the years are strong and long-lasting. This includes ours.— Bill Galvano, former Senate President
CRAIG CARBONE KEY STAFFER
Everyone who knows Craig Carbone knows a problem he solved for them. From D.C. as Chief of Staff to Sen. Rick Scott or down in Miami working on getting out the vote, Craig has not seen an issue he cannot tackle. A policy expert with an eye for both the practical and the detail, Craig knows there’s a solution that will work.
Not only does Craig know how to make it work, he also knows who can get it done. His connections across Florida and throughout Washington D.C. mean he un derstands how to turn a plan for a solution into a result.
The best thing about Craig, and why his contact list is overflowing, is that he is genuine and loyal. When people talk to Craig, they know what they hear can be trusted. Craig serves Florida with eth ics and integrity, and Floridians are lucky to have someone like Craig advising our statewide elected leaders.— William Spicola
STEVE CASEY INDUSTRY LEADER
Steve Casey, executive director of the Florida Sheriffs Association, is the epitome of leadership and vision.
When you look closely at the history of the FSA and how it became the largest and most successful sheriff’s association in our nation, you’ll see Steve’s fingerprints everywhere. The Florida Sheriffs Association faces some of the most difficult and delicate issues, with a strategic direction that is driven by a firm foundation of success, which has ultimately led to a 50-year low crime rate.
Since my time serving as sheriff, I have watched Steve work with his team to navigate the association to historic legislative wins that allow our residents and visitors to feel safe, develop grants that help provide lifesaving equipment to our fiscally constrained counties, provide scholarships to future public safety leaders, and much more. It is always a point of honor for me when I talk to law enforcement leaders around the country, and they tell me the Florida Sheriffs Association is the role model organization that everyone works hard to emulate.
Even though you will never hear Steve take credit for the many victories and developments, his constant forward-think ing mentality and his tenacity have helped build an association that meets its mission of leading, protecting, and uniting.
TIM CERIO TOP LAWYER
As a die-hard FSU Seminole, I have tried to avoid writing any thing positive about the University of Florida, but I am making an exception for the General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation – former Universi ty of Florida Alumni Association President Tim Cerio. I became friends with Tim when he was the general counsel for one of my mentors, now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Tim was already an accom plished lawyer, and he returned to private practice after serving Gov. Scott. But his heart stayed in public service.
He served on the historic 2017-2018 Constitution Revision Commission, which adopted new amendments to Florida’s con stitution. He became a member of the esteemed Florida Board of Governors, which oversees our public university system (which includes the preeminent FSU – and did I mention we continue to rise dramatically in national college rankings!?) Tim was most recently appointed by the great leader of the Free State of Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. Even though a Gator, I am proud to call Tim Cerio my friend and a tremendous servant to the people of Florida.— Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis
KELLY COHEN LOBBYIST
The Beatles once said, “the love you take is equal to the love you make” and to me, this describes Kelly Cohen to a T. She is a leader with heart — heart in her work, community, and the future of Orlando.
As a professional, Kelly has a reputation of getting it done in a no-nonsense way, navigating spaces that have historically been dominated by men. As a young attorney, she paved the way for other women to be respected in the courtroom, and then did the same in government sectors, too.
As a community advocate, Kelly prioritizes lifting people up and embraces diversity as a strength. There’s a reason politicos seek her advice and insight, why clients call to request her personally, and new public affairs staffers look to her for mentorship.
Kelly has a remarkable work ethic and track record, and I know she will only continue to shine. She loves Orlando deeply, and Or lando loves her, too.
ROBERT COKER TITAN
To know Robert Coker is more than simply knowing the man who has been the face of U.S. Sugar in both Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee and other communities around the state for the past 40 years. Robert’s colleagues also know him as a thought leader on strategy, politics and public policy.
That’s all true.
While Robert has been a major contributor to many of our nation’s and state’s most forward-lean ing agricultural policies and has been the leading industry advocate for one of Florida’s foremost economic drivers, he has also been a devoted son, husband, father and grandfather to a family that affectionately knows him as “SugaPop.”
Robert’s true passion centers on his four grand children, who he and his wife Mendy enjoy im mensely. Regardless of the challenges that a busy day at the office bring, the mention of his grandchildren instantly brings a smile to his face that makes anyone who knows him understand the true joy that fills his heart. Robert’s day-in, day-out passion to advocate for all of the farm ers that feed the world is what drives him pro fessionally, but doing it knowing he is leaving a legacy for those that call him “SugaPop” makes it all the sweeter.— Steve Crisafulli, former Speaker of the Florida House PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
RACHEL CONE LOBBYIST
The friendships you form in The Process make every day more enjoyable, and I am among many in The Process who trea sures their friendship with Rachel Cone Why wouldn’t we? She has a unique mix of charm, drive, and intellect. Rachel’s kind ness is genuine, but don’t let the smile fool you. She’s the perfect mix of Steel Magnolia — more steel, less magnolia.
She hates to lose. And in fact, she rarely does. Rachel earned the title of manag ing partner of Florida’s largest lobbying firms because of her winning track record and leadership chops. And the lessons she learned from her rural south Alabama roots — the grit and the grace — is re flected in every interaction she has with those she lobbies and those she lobbies for. That’s also why Rachel has risen to the top of a highly competitive industry without losing a friend. Not one.
Her work ethic and integrity have earned Rachel universal respect. Even more, she uses her influence for good. She’s not in it for her own fame and fortune, but would prefer those around her — her family, her team, and her clients — to get the cred it. Rachel is the model of what we hope a lobbyist is, demonstrating the best of how to influence The Process. Well done, my friend. Very well done.
Herschel Vineyard, lobbyist, Adams & Reese
MICHAEL CORCORAN LOBBYIST
Mike Corcoran is a kingmaker in Florida politics. The candidates he supports for office almost always win, and many stand in line for his support. He and his wife, Jessica, started a two-person start-up firm 20 years ago and they have worked their tails off to make it the power house it is today.
Mike got his work ethic from his parents, the WWII veterans that Mike’s brother and former Speak er of the House, Richard Corcoran, spoke so emotionally about during his designation speech as Speaker. From his parents, Mike also learned the importance of kindness, hon esty and loyalty — all of which he models for his own four children.
Today, the Corcoran Partners firm of 12 employees works seamless ly together to represent clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. They deliver results in no small part be cause Mike is a man of his word, and that still matters. He has a genuine love for people and a focus on trying to always do the right thing. I am not sure I know anyone that doesn’t enjoy work ing with Mike Corcoran!— Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis PHOTO:
RICHARD CORCORAN THOUGHT LEADER
Richard Corcoran’s influence extends well-beyond the halls of the Florida Legislature and his tenure as Speaker of the House. He’s one of those rare individuals who deeply understands pub lic policy and is a master of the uniquely Florida political process.
Long before Gov. Ron DeSantis wrangled the Legislature, Rich ard was the force to be reckoned with, and the Governor should consider himself lucky Richard wasn’t Speaker during his tenure — that would have been a battle for the ages.
From his time as then-House Speaker Marco Rubio’s Chief of Staff to his ascension through his own legislative career to Ap propriations Chair and, ultimately, House Speaker himself, Rich ard had his finger firmly on the pulse of Florida politics from 2010 until 2020.
He still does.
His passion for education not only drove him to become the leader in school choice before it was a popular political sound bite, but propelled him to become Florida’s top education official as Education Commissioner.
His work in the education space will benefit Florida for decades. But it’s his ability to connect and inspire those he served with that will perhaps leave the most lasting mark.
Throughout our tenure together, some of my fondest memories of Richard occurred late at night, sitting on the back porch after hours as he wound down with a cigar and a glass of Caymus. It was there ideas were born, or shot down.
Richard has earned another glass, and is deserving of this recognition.Brandes
JOHN COURIS INDUSTRY LEADER
When the Florida Senate was looking for ad vice and counsel on how to operate safely during COVID-19, John Couris was the obvi ous choice.
When the Governor established a task force to reopen Florida, it would not have been complete without John Couris.
That’s because John Couris is the man with a plan.
With any task he takes on, there’s an innova tive, solutions-oriented, fact-based strategy to get it done.
He became president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital just a few short years ago. Almost immediately, he shared his vision for Tampa to become a Medical District where world-class clinical care, academics, research, and biotechnology intersect. Through much hard work and determination, he is seeing that big vision become a reality.
John’s leadership is not limited to Florida; it is recognized on the national level, too. With John at the helm, TGH has climbed the ranks on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospi tals. TGH has been designated a model of ex cellence by the 2022 Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals list. The system is No. 1 on Forbes America’s Best Employers for Women and No. 6 out of 100 Florida companies in the 2022 America’s Best Employers by State.
While this is all part of John’s plans for our state, if you were to ask him how he accom plished them, he would be quick to point to the excellent team around him who made it happen.
John has been a good friend and a great men tor to me. It is an honor to recognize him as one of Florida’s top influencers.— Kathy Mears, Chief of Staff, Florida Senate
RON CRISTALDI PLAYER
If anybody embodies the words of Benjamin Franklin — “doing well by doing good” — it is Ron Christaldi
Not only has he thoughtfully and methodically built Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick and Shumaker Advi sors into one of the state’s fastest growing and most highly respected law and public affairs firms, he is tireless in giving back to his community, his state and causes he cares about. He is by every measure a citizen servant, not looking for acclaim but rather the opportunity to serve.
A great lawyer, a connector of people and a wonder ful dad, his best days are yet to come.
— Bob Buckhorn, former Mayor of Tampa
BEN CRUMP ADVOCATE
Ben Crump is one of the most influ ential and impactful people of his time, leading the modern civil rights movement, and waging and winning battles on behalf of marginalized people on all fronts.
— U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters
ANA CRUZ LOBBYIST
The first time I found myself on the op posite side of an Ana Cruz client, I didn’t know I was on the opposite side of an Ana Cruz client ... until an associate of hers acci dentally CC’d me on a strategy email.
It was my first lesson into the inner work ings of Tampa politics, where Ana Cruz was a player on every issue, even if you couldn’t figure out how. If it wasn’t one of her cli ents in the mix, it was a safe bet she was acting as a sounding board for business and political leaders looking for her input.
You probably already know Cruz started in politics as a teenager; later worked for the Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore campaigns; and ascended to the top job at the Florida Democratic Party. She was al ready one of the best-connected women in the state before her partner, Mayor Jane Castor, made her “Tampa’s First Lady.”
But you may not have known the respect that even Cruz’s most-frequent opponents have for her effectiveness, as well as how she achieves it. While Cruz understands the bare-knuckles part of politics, she also understands the importance of supporting those around her, and that a rising tide lifts all boats — especially important in a state surrounded by rising water.
Although her sphere of influence has shift ed more toward federal issues in recent years, I’d bet Cruz would still lend you a few free thoughts on local matters. And if she doesn’t, it’s quite possible she’s been work ing the other side of the issue — and you just didn’t know it.
HUSEIN CUMBER INDUSTRY LEADER
Why is Husein Cumber one of the most influential people in Florida? Because just about everyone in Florida could an swer that question! Husein knows everyone and has an incredible ability to remain connected to every person he meets.
He has mastered the art of the personal note. He is an executive in the truest sense of the word — unafraid of the cold call, consistently strategic in his thinking, and persistent in an incredibly charming way.
Now, I could tell you about his professional accomplishments — like that he started in politics after narrowly missing the opportunity to be a movie star; that he is the strategic voice behind Brightline; and that he volunteers his time on the Board of Take Stock in Children and the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy Board of Visitors – all of which are true.
But what makes Husein so successful is his heart and his love for family. He is an incredible husband and father. He supports me and the kids unconditionally. He makes us laugh when we are sad, feeds the kids ice cream for dinner, and is unafraid of playing a bit of Go Fish. He can teach us all a lot.
JIM DEFEDE MEDIA
Jim DeFede is a South Florida institution. He is an intrepid journalist, allergic to BS, and often the supreme arbiter of hard facts versus political fiction — he is masterful in the art of “unspinning.” When you’re entering Florida politics with an open mind and clear conscience, you crave that first DeFede interview. If you’ve got larceny in your heart, or malice in your mind, he will crush you.
While he is innately aware that his job is to report the story, not become part of it, it’s impossible not to delight in observing his ability to casually elicit raw emotion and truth from otherwise reluctant subjects. He is tough, but fair, and sometimes provocative, but never pretentious. In his reporting on a number of issues, most recently Surfside, he moves the needle so that platitudes become policy, and rhetoric becomes reform.
And when he reads this, his stubborn humility will compel some sarcastic re mark about hackneyed accolades, and how he’ll be extra tough on my next interview — and that is perfectly fine, because Jim DeFede is everything that every community should want in a journalist.— Sen. Jason Pizzo
MICHELLE DENNARD INDUSTRY LEADER
Michelle Dennard, the president & CEO of CareerSource Florida, has been navigating the changing land scape of economic and workforce development in Florida for more than 15 years. Her experience in both the executive branch and pub lic-private partnerships makes her a uniquely qualified and trusted ex pert in her field.
I’ve had the great pleasure of work ing with Michelle in several different capacities, but am most honored to work with her as chair of the Career Source Florida Board of Directors. Through her unwavering commit ment to helping all Floridians find meaningful careers and prosperi ty, Michelle continues to advance workforce development in Florida every day. She works across the state with business, education, eco nomic development, and communi ty development partners to ensure Florida’s workforce strategies and investments are creating new op portunities.
Michelle is skilled in bringing to gether stakeholders with grace and professionalism, always looking for common ground. A stalwart person ality, she is always smiling and pos itive under pressure. Michelle’s im pact on workforce development in Florida will continue to make a posi tive difference for years to come.— Stephanie Smith , CareerSource Florida Board of Directors
CASEY DESANTIS FIRST LADY
Since Day 1 of the DeSantis administration, First Lady Casey DeSantis has poured her heart into finding better ways to help Flori da’s struggling parents and their children. She understands that government’s role must be limited and accountable, has a talent for unit ing communities to put families on a path to prosperity, and has worked tirelessly to find transformational ways to help Floridians in need by challenging state agencies to break down silos and work hand in hand with non profits, faith and community organizations, and the private sector to maximize impact.
One year ago, the First Lady spearheaded Hope Florida — A Pathway to Prosperity, an innovative initiative to help families by maximizing collaboration between the pub lic and private sectors. Hope Florida utilizes Hope Navigators to meet Floridians’ imme diate needs, while also guiding them on an individualized path to break down barriers to economic self-sufficiency and reach their long-term goals. This work has allowed us to maximize community collaboration outside of government and provide unprecedented sup port to those in need.
I truly don’t know when the First Lady finds time to rest, because since our initial an nouncement she has continued to bring more partners into the Hope Florida initiative, ex panding our reach and populations served. For her the work never stops, and every day she develops new and innovative ways to charge up a community, rally the troops and fight for Florida families.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask those who have not exhausted their charitable dollars to follow the First Lady’s example and become part of the Hope Florida solution by visiting Hope Florida.com to consider donating your time and resources.— Shevaun Harris, Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families
MALLORY DIMMITT INDUSTRY LEADER
Mallory Dimmitt is the CEO of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation. Those who know Mallory see her as a genuine leader both in the office and out in nature. Through her work in natural resource con servation and policy, she has a unique ability to connect conservation and working lands. This gift stems from her upbringing as the fifth generation to work in the Lykes Bros. family business. Coming from one of Florida’s most historic agribusinesses, she has given her authentic knowledge and connection to the lands and waters of her home state.
Mallory continued her family’s legacy by being awarded the Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship at Duke University’s Nicholas School of Environment where she earned a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) in environmental economics and policy, as well as a certificate in nonprofit management.
To Mallory, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation is not just a job. She truly cares about the mission. By not only planning, but participating in the 100-day, 1,000-mile Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition (and the four subsequent treks), she continues to demonstrate her lifelong commitment to protecting Florida’s special places and sharing them with others.
MATT DIXON MEDIA
In my years of dealing and working with members of the Capitol Press Corps, I recall the few that required but one name to get that visceral stomach reaction. One old pol said the worst words he would hear during the day was “Lucy is on line two.“ “Caputo is walking up” could do it. “Vasalinda is in the lobby with his cameraman” was another.
There are fewer reporters these days, fewer outlets. We have to scrap to gain interest for candidates and caus es. We pitch, they take, they pass, and very often Dixon just is not interested. But when he is, it’s going to be a sto ry. Or come next year, a book about our world of Florida politics.
He’s been a thorn in the side of ad ministrations, agencies, Cabinet offic es, Fourth Floors and Adams Street.
“We’re not talking to Dixon.” “Eff Dix on.” And the definitive pronounce ment, said sternly, bitterly: “Dixon is cut off.”
Yet, he somehow gets excellent pri vate information, delicious leads and tasty nuggets that are the coin of his realm, all with shocking frequency for someone who is a castoff that no one will talk to.
I first became Dixon-aware when he worked for the Villages Sun, and lat er the Naples Daily News and Florida Times-Union. He really hit his stride when he became part of the POLIT ICO galaxy of stars. Now, seven years later, many won’t take the call when they hear “Dixon on the phone” or see his name pop on their cell.
But they do know his name. And I bet they will buy his book.— David Johnson, David Johnson Group
ERIKA DONALDS ADVOCATE
Erika Donalds is a driving force in the field of education in Florida. Whether it is as an elect ed member of her local school board, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission or heading an education Foundation, she is working tirelessly to make our education system a world class leader. As a school board member, Erika fought to bring equality to all students in Collier County. She brought her knowledge as a CPA to increase the financial efficiency of the $900 million budget. She continued that drive as a member of the once-every-20-years Florida Constitution Revision Commission.
After stepping down from the Collier School Board, Erika decided to give of her time and talent to a new nonprofit, Optima Foundation, where she works to provide equality of out come for all.
Erika has truly made it her mission to make education the Civil Rights battle of our generation.
—Sen. Joe Gruters
BRETT DOSTER PLAYER
Nearly 10 years ago, when I was a City Com missioner in Longwood, I got this crazy no tion about running for higher office. After the 2012 elections, there were several open state House seats in my region. I started down the path of looking into whether to run.
So many questions arose, including who I should choose as my political consultant.
I did not want to swing and miss — I wanted to win. To do this, I needed someone whose val ues mirrored my own. I needed someone with integrity, someone who was honest, fair, and effective and had good connections and was a devout Christian. I figured someone with these credentials would be extremely hard to find, but when I started asking around, several names popped up.
Brett Doster’s name came up more than oth ers, so I decided to give him a ring. With that very first call, I was impressed, and we decid ed to meet for breakfast in Tallahassee. That meeting lasted two hours and when I left the restaurant there was no doubt about who I would choose to run my campaigns.
The first thing I asked him was whether he “played dirty” or “engaged in negative mail ers.” The way he answered this question sealed the deal for me. Brett not only became my consultant, but at once became a family member for my wife, children, and family. We did several campaigns after that great win in 2014 — we won some and lost some — but in the end, there is no better person I would want on the battlefield with me.
Brett Doster is truly a remarkable man.
— Bob Cortes, former state lawmaker
CAROL DOVER INDUSTRY LEADER
Representing more than 10,000 mem bers of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Carol Dover has made it her life’s mission to protect, educate, and promote the diverse in terests of the Sunshine State’s vibrant hospitality and tourism industry. She travels the state weekly to advocate for industry priorities and celebrate the dedication of the hospitality workers in every corner of Florida, and she is just as comfortable in a dive bar in Key West as she is hosting celebrities and digni taries at black-tie events.
She is a well-respected leader of FRLA with several team members who have been with her for decades. Their col lective team successes have absolutely strengthened the tourism industry.
Beyond FRLA, Carol has also taken leadership and board roles with the National Restaurant Association, the Council of State Restaurant Associa tions, the International Society of Hotel Association Executives, VISIT FLORIDA, Florida State University College of Busi ness, and the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park. But she is more than a nationally known professional; Car ol is a devoted wife of Walt Dover for 44 years, a loving mother and grand
mother, an accomplished equestrian, as well as a breast cancer survivor, and a tried-and-true farm girl at heart.
Carol is the epitome of hospitality; she is the type of client who wel comes you into her office and home, throws a massive party that has the best food and drink (Champagne
with strawberries always!), and the whole event benefits a worthy chari table cause for our community. While I consider Carol a friend, she is also a role model to me, both personally and professionally.Allison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husband & Daughton
GARY FINEOUT MEDIA
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Gary Fineout’s passion for report ing is doubtless fueled by his curios ity, but also by a decades-old blend of indignity and moral outrage. Once, when he was fussing at length about some controversy early in the Rick Scott administration, I chided him, “Jeez Gary, pick your battles.” He stopped, stared at me for what seemed like a second too uncomfort ably long, and retorted, “No, Jim. No battle too small.”
Some still remember his early days at the dearly departed Florida Flam beau student newspaper at Florida State, stalking Tallahassee City Com mission meetings, lying in wait for an open meetings violation when two Commissioners would attempt a pri vate chat on the dais. He made an other mark at the Tallahassee Demo crat, where he often did battle with a cantankerous managing editor.
After a succession of news outlets in the years hence, he now stalks the Capitol for POLITICO Florida, as eager to button Gov. DeSantis on some abstruse policy question as he is to slap an old friend on the back and ask how his kids are. May he never change.
Jim Rosica, who worked with Fineout in the 1990s at the Democrat, is a Florida Politics alum and is now editor-in-chief of City & State Florida.PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
MARTY FIORENTINO LOBBYIST
I’ve known Marty for three decades and count him as one of my closest friends. In my past roles as Mayor of Jacksonville and president of the University of North Florida, Marty has always been my first call when I needed wise counsel on major deci sions. So it was no coincidence that he was my first call when I decided to leave public service and enter the private sector.
Marty graciously welcomed me into The Fiorentino Group. We had a blast working together on a variety of client issues and projects until I eventually decided to re-enter the world of higher education. I admire Marty’s style and commitment to his firm’s motto of “Influence with Integrity.” If it doesn’t feel right, he doesn’t do it. And I think that’s what has made him so successful and in fluential in Florida’s ever-changing political landscape. Friends, clients, and elected officials know they can depend on Marty’s word to be truth ful and transparent. He has always said that a man is only as good as his reputation, and he has always strived to live his life and operate his firm in that manner.
Congratulations, Marty on this pres tigious recognition!— John Delaney, President, Flagler College
BEN GIBSON TOP LAWYER
Florida has become the center of the conservative political universe. Everyone knows the big dogs: a former President, the Governor, Senators, and an ever-grow ing list of media personalities. But who are the behind-the-scenes players helping to shape and grow this movement? For Republican lawyering, one name pops up again and again: Ben Gibson, chief counsel to the Republican Party of Florida; lead Florida counsel for the Republican National Committee; an early supporter, Transi tion General Counsel, and now counsel to Gov. DeSantis’ reelection campaign. Ben has his finger on the pulse of Florida politics and government.
Allergic to self-promotion, you won’t find Ben telling you he’s one of the best and most influential political lawyers around. But Ben has become a trusted adviser to Florida’s political heavyweights because of his long history of providing wise coun sel, strategic insights, and (importantly) discretion. And, as if his legal influence were not enough to merit inclusion on this list, Ben also serves as vice chair for the State Board of Education, putting him at the center of one of the most important policy issues in the state. Ben’s star continues to rise in the Sunshine State, and we are lucky to have him.Jesse Panuccio, partner, Boies Schiller Flexner
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,
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.
When policy impacts your business… You need a team to help you impact policy.
GOVERNOR’S STAFF KEY STAFFERS
If you have had the privilege to work with James, Taryn, Alex, and Stepha nie, you know that there isn’t a harder working team in government. They don’t take any days off and they don’t slow down. Helping Gov. DeSantis lead the third-largest state in the union re quires unflinching dedication, and they meet that challenge every single day.
James leads with humility, loyalty, prin ciple, and a steady hand. His smarts are only outmatched by his class, and his devotion to public service is only outmatched by his devotion to his wife and two beautiful children. If you want to see an example of his defining at tributes, look no further than the his toric 2021 gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe: the pressure was on, the stakes were high, and he delivered without batting an eye.
Taryn is as fierce as they come. If you pick a fight with her, you have already lost. And the reason is simple: you can’t match her passion. She pours her heart and soul into her work, and it shows. No details are lost. No ground is ceded. The Governor is a fighter for the peo ple of Florida and so is the head of his communications team.
Alex is honorable. To know him is to re spect him. This is because he’s honest and shoots straight, but also because he is a deep thinker. He speaks with meaning because his ideas are steeped
in countless hours of consideration and preparation. With his approach to his craft, Alex has quietly played a major — if not lead — role on most of the major advancements in educational choice in Florida in the last decade. The only person more impressive than Alex is his wife, Leda!
I used to think I could outwork anyone. And then I met Stephanie Kopelou sos. The hardest working Governor in America has — without question — the hardest working staffer in the country. As I said at the outset of this, the entire Governor’s team is comprised of hard workers, but Steph is at a different lev el. I learned over time that the force with which she approaches public ser vice is fueled by intense loyalty and love. Stephanie is the most productive legislative affairs director in Florida’s history, but her loved ones would tell you that it’s nothing compared to her credentials as a friend.
While not part of this assignment, it is difficult to mention the above tal ent without the rest of the Governor’s leadership team: Katie Strickland, Melissa Smith, Ryan Newman, Kath erine Anne Russo, Drew Meiner, and Savannah Kelly Jefferson and Taylor Schrader are each deserving of their own shout outs (like Chris Spencer is getting!).— Adrian Lukis, lobbyist, Ballard Partners
MIKE GRIFFIN PLAYER
People often marvel at how Mike Griffin, one of the most respected Tampa Bay business lead ers, accomplishes everything he does. The an swer becomes apparent when watching Mike in action — he is the definition of focus, dele gation, determination and efficiency, resulting in major wins for those blessed to benefit from his leadership and passion.
At work, that means rising to executive man aging director and Tampa market leader within Savills, one of the world’s leading real estate providers with 600 worldwide offices. As a commercial real estate broker, his completed transactions total more than 8.5 million square feet in more than 18 states and 15 countries for clients including Fortune 500 companies to all levels of government.
Within the community, you’re hard-pressed to find an organization Mike hasn’t positively impacted. Just 41, Mike was the inaugural cochair of Emerging Leaders of Tampa Bay, the youngest chair in the 130-plus-year history of the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, a gubernatorial-appointed member of the Tam pa Port Authority Board of Commissioners, vice chair of Rays 100, a member of the Junior Achievement Tampa Bay Board of Directors, and co-chair of the 2022 American Heart As sociation Heart Ball through which he raised nearly $1.5M.
The cause for which Mike is best known, however, is the University of South Florida. A two-term student body president, found ing chairman for the Financing Corporation Board of Directors, and past chairman of the National Alumni Association Board of Direc tors, Mike bleeds green and gold. As a result, he currently serves as vice chair of the Board of Trustees, through which he has chaired the Finance, Campus Consolidation, and Presiden tial Search Committees.
Above all, Mike cherishes his family, including wife Melanie, son Maverick, and Golden Lab Molly, all of whom are incredibly proud of him and all he does to positively impact Floridians.
— Melanie Griffin, Secretary, Department of Business and Professional Regulation
THE INTERSECTION OF BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT IN FLORIDA.
OUR TALLAHASSEE GOVERNMENT LAW & POLICY TEAM:
David C. Ashburn
Fred W. Baggett
Elizabeth DudekDirector Samantha B. Ferrin Fred E. Karlinsky
RegulatoryTimothy F. Stanfield Of Counsel
JEFF HARTLEY LOBBYIST
Trustworthy. It’s a rare quality in politics. But it’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of Jeff Hartley. And it’s what makes him influential in The Process. Any one can count on Jeff Hartley to be fair, to be truthful, and deliver on his promises.
Hartley started in this business as a cam paign worker, knocking on doors and put ting up yard signs. Soon after, he joined Smith, Bryan and Myers.
There’s a lot of movement in The Process. It’s a merry-go-round of professionals jump ing from one opportunity to the next. Hart ley opted for the road less traveled. He’s been a part of the same firm for more than 25 years. Through hard work and grit, Hart ley excelled in his career. Now the managing partner at Smith, Bryan and Myers, Hartley is a leader of one of the top firms in the Sun shine State.
What’s most important — Hartley is a good man with a great heart. He’s a fighter for his family.— Sen. Ben Albritton PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
ALEX HECKLER PLAYER
You might not see him around Adams Street, but make no mistake, Alex Heckler is everywhere. Since leaving Shutts & Bowen to launch LSN Partners in 2010, Heckler has built one of the premier government relations firms in the nation focusing on public sector procurement and contracting at all levels of government. While he’s based in Miami Beach, with his wife, Tiffany and daughters
Gabrielle and Juliette, you’re most likely to bump into Alex at Miami International Airport, servicing one of LSN’s many airport clients, getting on a plane to a Democratic Governors Asso ciation conference, or on some days, both. Heckler earns his spot on this list year after year, for the same reasons LSN Partners continues to grow exponentially under his leadership: he lives and breathes The Process and is absolutely relentless on behalf of his clients.
— Ben Pollara, president of Pollara Consulting Group.
Mori Hosseini has been a stalwart supporter and under writer to many of Florida’s top leaders for decades. Sim ply 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, Speak ers, and Presidents would call Mori a friend, which speaks volumes about his character. People always ask, what’s his secret? How did he become so deeply en trenched 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 mov ing to the 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 influ ential 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, former Florida Commissioner of Education
Training the Most New
RYAN HOUCK PLAYER
In today’s crowded media landscape, creatives need 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 Genera tion X for his appreciation of movie quotes and classic video games, his millennial ideal ism shines through in his work. With the vi ral 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 Ryan 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, count less 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 con sultants 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
NICK IAROSSI LOBBYIST
Not many people know this, but Nick Iarossi frequently calls me for fashion advice. That’s why I find it inexplicable that he continues to prefer Canali over cargo shorts and Tom Ford dress shirts over those tent-like PFG fishing shirts that hide your waistline while offering real functionality if a trout stream happens to break out on your walk to the Capitol. Yet, de spite his poor sartorial choices, somehow the man continues to prosper.
It could be because he was one of the first lob byists to read the zeitgeist and offer his early support for Ron DeSantis when he ran for Governor. Or it could be because he has assem bled around him a talented team of lobbyists who reside a stone’s throw from the Capitol in their exceptionally nice new headquarters. Or it could be because of the legendary work ethic that keeps him on the road hustling for his clients year-round. Whatever it is, Nick and his partners at Capital City Consulting have pushed their lobbying firm into the top tier of Florida’s lobbying elite, and with their expan sionist plans — they recently opened a Miami office — it’s clear they intend to stay there and try to scramble their way to the top.
If you’re a student of the governmental process and the lobbying firms that remora-like cling to it, Nick and his team are on the very short list of firms to watch in the next few years. As his competitor, I can tell you it’s a firm we watch every day. Hopefully, he will not crack the code and trade in those Ferragamos for the classic white New Balance, and we can stay a step ahead.— Paul Bradshaw, founder, The Southern Group PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
ERIN ISAAC GREAT COMMUNICATOR
From local government to the Governor’s Mansion, the halls of Congress to committee rooms in Tallahassee, and across every cam paign trail in between, Erin is a tested, trust ed adviser who has helped her clients excel in local, state and federal offices for more than 20 years.
A thoughtful, skilled writer and expert in a crisis, Erin has a well-researched, data-driv en, collaborative approach to communica tions that helps her clients connect with their constituents and the media in a personal and meaningful way. Honest and loyal, fierce and unflappable, Erin has a keen ability to help clients transition from the rigors of the cam paign to the responsibilities of elected office.
From volunteering at a local food bank to the hours she spends quilting creative gifts for family and friends, Erin has a heart for service. She has a talent for doing the hard work be hind the scenes and then making sure other people get the credit. Like many of the in fluential and effective elected officials she advises, you may not always see her name, but her fingerprints are everywhere. In fact, after more than two decades of influencing Florida politics, Erin knows that her most im portant influence is as a wife and mother, and she is happiest when the only place she sees her own name is on the “Joke of the Day” she packs in her son Michael’s lunchbox.— Katherine Betta, Communications Director, Florida Senate
CHRISTINA JOHNSON GREAT COMMUNICATOR
When you are in the heat of a potentially bad media story, intense legislative fight, or a tough campaign, it matters who is sitting at the con ference table beside you. Christina Johnson is that person for me; I know this because I’ve worked with her in myriad roles and on varying issues for more than 25 years. She is one of the most dedicated, intelligent, dynamic, and intu itive people in this process and she does it all with a great sense of humor and a huge smile on her face.
Christina founded and built On3 Public Rela tions into one of the go-to communications firms in Florida. Beyond her communications talent, Christina mentors and has trained many of the talented communications people work ing in The Process today; many of whom are on this list year in and year out.
I am grateful to have known and worked with Christina and will continue to do so because I know I have the best in the business. Christina uses her influence to have an incredible impact, not just on the issues she is tackling on behalf of her clients, but to make Florida a better place … and this process a little more fun.— Chris Clark, Chief executive Officer, Florida Medical Association
DAVID JOHNSON PLAYER
DJ (aka the Deege) is hard to encapsulate in a mere 200 words.
To say that he is a legend also does not quite capture his great ness. DJ could easily hold the title of GOAT in the political world.
Ten years ago, he took a chance on a House candidate in the state’s southernmost district and the rest is history, a history filled with belly laughs made possible by indescribable wit peppered with fatherly advice, guidance and unmatched intelligence. Work ing with him in many various capacities over the years has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.
Cheers to the man, the myth, the legend.
— Holly Raschein, former state lawmaker and Government Relations Director for AshBritt.
ERIC JOHNSON PLAYER
Eric Johnson is an expert in South Florida politics, which is why he wins so often.
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 mine fields to avoid getting your face blown off.Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney
MARVA JOHNSON INDUSTRY LEADER
Marva is one of the most widely known, well-respected, and influential leaders in the communications industry. She is revered for her passionate advocacy in ensuring the most vulnerable have access to education, workforce opportunities, and health care through broadband connectivity in unserved and underserved communities.
In the last several years, Marva led the charge to close the digital divide in Florida’s rural communities. Through Marva’s charisma, knowledge and perseverance, she found suc cess in a daunting endeavor with few allies. Marva built coalitions to work closely with the Legislature and the Governor’s Office to create and fund a Broadband Grant Program that will provide connectivity to unserved ar eas in Florida. In 2021 alone, Charter Com munications provided more than 125,000 unserved households with broadband access.
In recognition of her extraordinary leader ship in bridging the digital divide in education for low-income families, Marva was honored with the Minority and Telecommunications Council’s Champion for Digital Divide Equal ity Award. However, Marva’s accolades and accomplishments far surpass her impressive legal, regulatory and policy credentials in the communications industry. Marva still man ages to find time to serve and chair count less state and national boards, including the Florida State Board of Education, Enterprise Florida, Global Board of Women in Cable Telecommunications, and the National Board of PACE Center for Girls.
Most importantly, Marva has a heart of gold and is a wonderful friend to have in a very tough business. While she can be tough as nails, she instills loyalty and dedication for all of us who have the opportunity to work by her side. I am so proud to call her my friend and watch her star continue to rise.— Bill Rubin, founder Rubin Turnbull & Associates
FRED KARLINSKY LOBBYIST
Few are more loyal than Fred Karlinsky. There are few people in the political system who will say what they mean and mean what they say. Fred is one of them. He is a gifted attorney, and his work in the insurance industry is legendary. He not only serves clients in Florida but now across the country — and even the world. He is now also taking a lead role in connecting state government leaders with the executive teams of homeowners insurance companies in order to navigate the challenging environment of Florida’s rap idly growing population amid the national economic headwinds of high costs and inflation.
He is a co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Insurance Regulatory and Transac tions Practice Group. Fred and Autumn are also incredible friends to me and my wife, Katie. Our kids have also become friends with their kids, and for that I am grateful. Whenever a hurricane forms off the coast of Florida, Fred is still on the shortlist of people I call to begin to assess its risks and mitigate its impact on Florida insurance policyholders. Fred will surely remain a leader in Florida politics for years to come.
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JOHN KIRTLEY ADVOCATE
Almost no one understands the effect of what John has been doing for the last 20 years in this state. He has fought to bring educational freedom to now hundreds of thousands of Florida families who had none before. He has defended countless legislators who vote for these programs and are targeted by special interests. He has quietly donated his personal funds to schools in poor neighborhoods that serve Step Up scholarship students. The mag nitude of all of this was made clear to me when I led a Tallahassee march with more than 10,000 people organized by John’s group to protest a lawsuit that aimed to shut down the scholarship program. As I said at the time, it felt like an extension of the civil rights movement that I partic ipated in years before.
— Reverend H.K. Matthews, legendary Florida civil rights leader from Pensacola who marched across the Edmund Pettus bridge with John Lewis and others on March 7, 1965, in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
RON LAFACE LOBBYIST
The influence business can be a grind — long hours of hard work followed by more hard work. It takes a lot of discipline, perseverance, and a strong will to win for your clients. However, all that hard work means nothing with out substance and credibility.
Ron LaFace is one of the hardest working and most dis ciplined people I know. Ron developed his craft watching his late father who was also a giant in the industry. He shapes public policy with a relentless work ethic and un matched knowledge of the facts. Ron’s low-key style and credibility with policymakers easily makes him one of the most influential people in Florida.
I’m always thankful to have him as my business partner, but more thankful to also have him as a friend. Congrat ulations Ronnie!Nick Iarossi, founder, Capital City Consulting
Where proven science and
BRIAN LAMB INDUSTRY LEADER
I will never forget the first time I met Brian Lamb more than a decade ago.
He was a young bank executive and newly elected board member of the University of South Florida’s (USF) Board of Trust ees. USF was going through a legislative crisis involving the Polytechnic Institute, and Brian was sent to meet with legisla tors to try and smooth things over.
I remember how calm, mature, earnest, intelligent and thoughtful he was. He was in his early 30s at the time, but there was an uncommon wisdom about him that struck me. We became fast friends after our first encounter and have remained so ever since. Brian has a mixture of charis ma, intelligence, and authenticity that has always inspired me.
Hailing from rural north Florida as a Black American, the pathways to success are not easy or guaranteed. Brian comes from an incredible family that taught him what was important in life — his faith, his fami ly, and his integrity. Brian has had success in every aspect of his professional life. As a collegiate basketball star at USF, a global business leader at JP Morgan, and a public servant, this is a man who lives his life with purpose. Unsurprisingly, he now leads the Board of Governors overseeing the entire Florida State University System, the best university system in America.
In summary, some people just “get it.” Brian Lamb “gets it,” and he is just get ting started. I don’t know where life will take Brian and his family, but I do know wherever it is, he will make a real differ ence and be successful.
I just hope it involves Florida!— Will Weatherford, former Speaker of the Florida House
ANDREW MACKINTOSH KEY STAFFER
In 2011, I approached a young man to interview for a job which he declined, due to a great opportunity presented to him in the Florida Senate. That young man was Andrew Mackintosh. I im mediately knew during our first meeting that his work ethic, calm demeanor, and approachable personality would be a tremendous asset to the legislative process. In just a few years our paths would intersect again. Our positions required working together to coor dinate House and Senate process needs. I appreciated Andrew’s immediate ability to understand The Process, absorb complicated and controversial issues, and develop pathways to success for the task at hand. It was not only remarkable but underlined a genu ine servant’s heart for people and policy. Andrew continues to fly under the radar, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure Florida Senators and their teams are successful and their issues are pursued and implemented. I was thrilled, but not surprised, when I heard he would be the Chief of Staff for incoming Senate Presi dent Kathleen Passidomo. He is so deserving and will represent the President-designate and the chamber admirably. What an honor and privilege to work with my friend Andrew again to ensure the success of the two chambers.— Allison Carter, Chief of Staff, Florida House Speaker-designate Paul Renner
BRIAN MAY LOBBYIST
Brian May has decades of experience in The Process, running the gamut from public service to high-level lob bying to political consulting. There isn’t enough space here for an exhaustive list of his accomplishments, but there are many and they are massive. It’s difficult to attribute Brian’s success to any one thing, because he has several standout qualities that make him deserving of a spot on this list.I’ve never known anyone as evenkeeled as Brian. He’s level-headed. He’s meticulous in his approach. His demeanor defines what a lobbyist should be. But one of Brian’s best qualities is that he allows everyone around him to excel, too. Many people deserve credit for helping me become successful in this industry, but none of it would have been possible with out Brian’s mentorship in the early days of my career. And there are many others who could say the same.
TRACY AND FRANK MAYERNICK LOBBYISTS
The political life can be tough. Odd hours, too much travel and lots of entertaining do not create an atmosphere for healthy, successful long-term relationships.
But then there are the Mayernicks.
Frank and Tracy fell in love with each other, started a won derful family and developed a lasting network of close and loyal friends. And they did it all while being entrenched in The Process.
How does a couple pull that off? By keeping it simple — always focus on relationships.
It starts with the two principals, Frank and Tracy, building a career as true partners, really listening to and respecting
each other, and genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
It expands and grows by pouring their heart into raising two strong daughters. It’s a scheduling challenge for sure, but work never takes precedence over creating a loving, four-person, core family unit.
With that foundation, the Mayernicks developed a power ful lobbying firm that focuses on long-term relationships with clients who stick with them in all kinds of weather, and long-term relationships with government officials who trust their judgment and integrity.
By keeping it simple, the Mayernicks are built to last.— Rob Bradley, former state lawmaker
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MARY MAYHEW INDUSTRY LEADER
The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the health care workforce, from critical short ages and staff burnout and rising labor costs – all of which continue to have a significant impact on delivering safe and effective patient care. When nursing homes, hospitals, home health providers, and others set out to elevate these issues through the Florida Health Care Workforce Coalition, we knew that the Florida Hospital Association’s Mary Mayhew would be the kind of strong leader need ed to have an impact on awareness and change.
We were absolutely right. Mayhew has made these challenges a focal point for policymakers. She has been a driving force in developing solu tions to rebuild the direct care workforce and train the next generation of nurses, ensuring high-quality care for those in need – now and into the future.
Her effective advocacy and collaborative skills helped secure $125 million in the state budget, vital resources that will expand the capacity of nursing school programs and increase the supply of future graduates. Strengthening the connec tions between health care providers and com munity and technical colleges, public universities, and other nursing education programs will sup port the recruitment and retention programs of Florida hospitals and other providers and help them meet the needs of their communities.
With years of experience dealing with the many challenges that face health care in Florida, May hew understands that growing our direct care workforce will not only help lessen the workforce crisis we’re all experiencing, but also benefit the health outcomes of Floridians to come.
- Emmett Reed, CEO, Florida Health Care Association
BOB MCCLURE WONK
When I look around at the way in which policy debates too often turn into politi cal death grudges, I am thrilled to count Bob McClure as a friend, a partner, and the definition of a happy warrior for conserva tive policy in Florida’s economy.
Always with a smile, Bob has spent his ca reer focused on securing economic free dom and opportunity for all Floridians. The James Madison Institute has become Florida’s most influential think tank in America’s most important state, thanks to Bob’s leadership and the team he’s assem bled over the years.
Florida’s economic success over the last 20 years is often related in the realms of limiting the size of government, pro moting individual liberty, and advanc ing school choice. Each and every one of those commitments can be traced back to JMI’s efforts, and to Bob’s consistently positive outlook on a state that his family has called home for seven generations.
As an education freedom advocate while serving as a school board member, on Florida’s Constitution Revision Commis sion, and now as an entrepreneur – I have always sought out the wisdom of Bob and JMI, as they are the lifeblood of Florida’s many policy successes.— Erika Donalds, CEO, OptimaEd
KATHY MEARS KEY STAFFER
Sometimes in Tallahassee, you’ll stumble upon that unicorn who operates at the very pinnacle of staff power over a period of decades and for an unending procession of elected officials, always maneuvering outside the limelight, carefully guiding their principals to make the right choices at exactly the right time so their ambitious agendas can be achieved. Even rarer, you’ll sometimes find a staffer who clearly defies bureaucrat ic stereotypes, having enough confidence in their own abili ties and willingness to take risks that their personality shines through despite the institutional compulsion to wring every bit of individuality and charm out of the governmental pro cess. If you were to travel to Florida’s Capitol and find a stuffed meerkat — literally, a taxidermied mammal — on the desk of a staffer you would know you were in the presence of such an exceptional person, and that person would be Kathy Mears
You can make the argument that Kathy Mears, aka Meerkat, has Zelig-like commanded a front-row seat on every import ant legislative decision made in Florida over the past decade while being the top staffer for the House Speaker, the Sen ate President, or any number of other high-profile politicians who seek to alter the course of this state’s trajectory. She has helped her principals survive and thrive in the often-treach erous crosscurrents of high-stakes politics, where massaging egos, forging creative compromises, and managing four-alarm crises are her daily stock in trade. In a state where term limits have the effect of limiting institutional knowledge in our elect ed officials, Kathy is a human Wikipedia of Florida politics, hav ing seen it all as a deep insider for many years. As the political environment shifts, Kathy has shifted with it, demonstrating the rare ability to apply the immutable principles of the past in a radically reframed world.
How does she do it? There’s the incandescent intelligence, of course, but you can find that sprinkled throughout the Capitol complex. What she has that many smart people lack is a pow erful emotional intelligence and empathy that I think stems from an amazing life arc that I won’t share here. Trust me: She didn’t grow up eating Wonder bread and listening to boy bands in the suburbs. Her experiences inform her decisions, and her bias is always to help people in need. When you have that level of intelligence matched by the same level of human compassion, you start to understand that Kathy has not only served Florida’s elite politicians well, but she’s also served the people who elected them well.— Paul Bradshaw, founder, The Southern Group
Holland & Knight Celebrates 50 Years in Tallahassee
KRIS MONEY AND TREY MCCARLEY PLAYERS
Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.
It would be difficult to identify a duo that’s had more influence on Florida’s political landscape in the last decade than Kris Mon ey and Trey McCarley. They’ve successfully raised hundreds of millions of dollars for some of Florida’s most influential leaders including two House Speakers, multiple Senate Presidents, and the President of the United States. In each capacity, they’ve managed to navigate the challenging waters of dealing with high-level donors and elected leaders in a thoughtful and re spectful way.
I’ve had the opportunity to work side by side with these gentle men to help elect Republicans across Florida, and I know that fundraising for Florida’s leadership demands high energy and an unwavering commitment. They’re deserving of this honor and will be a force in Florida politics for years to come.— Ashley Ross, Ross Consulting
NATE MONROE MEDIA
When former Louisiana State University quarterback Joe Burrow was leading the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl LVI earlier this year, Sports Illustrated wrote that he had “become an attitude, an expression.”
Another LSU graduate — Florida Times-Union Metro columnist Nate Monroe — has become his own kind of attitude and expression in Northeast Florida. Readers may like or loathe what Nate writes, but they are unlike ly to forget his words. His twice-weekly columns and even more frequent social media observations stir local conversations, hold public stakeholders accountable, and reveal the inner workings of influential institutions. Nate’s own influence has grown to the point where approving followers have adopted a two-word meme to compliment his commentary: “Exactly, Nate!”
When asked about the Super Bowl months later, Joe Burrow recounted that the relatively subdued atmosphere felt more like a dinner party than a football championship game. As a decidedly unsubdued columnist, Nate Monroe repeatedly crashes the dinner party of Jacksonville politics and government — interrupting polite conversation with pointed questions, challenging conventional wisdom with keen insights, and filling silences with news.
— Chris Hand, a Florida attorney and author, served as Chief of Staff at the consolidated City of Jacksonville from 2011-2015
KAREN MOORE GREAT COMMUNICATOR
During the many years I have known Karen, she has shown a continuous and exemplary com mitment to her colleagues, community, and our great state. Guided by excellence and innova tion, she leads the Moore agency, a globally top-ranked integrated communications agency, representing some of the nation’s most outstanding talent. Throughout her long and distin guished career, she’s navigated its expansion beyond Florida, dedicating her expertise to ele vating others by touching every aspect of communications.
With a passion for economic development, health care, and education, she also brings so many strategic skills to the table to deliver unified solutions. For more than two decades her per sistence in bringing advocacy to important causes has helped impact public policy and her will ingness to spark change in the community has opened opportunities for Floridians in today’s ever-changing economy. I cannot think of a more deserving person for this recognition.
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 new comer to Florida politics in 2017, I was admittedly naive to the effect Anthony Pedici ni’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.— Rep. Alex Andrade
TOM PICCOLO PLAYER
What makes Tom Piccolo stand out from the crowded field of Republican campaign consultants is not his creativ ity, although you won’t find a more cre ative or innovative political operative in Florida. And it isn’t his grasp of elector al strategy or mastery of the intricacies of political data, even though he’s an unimpeachable expert on both.
What makes Tom Piccolo unique is his concern for and investment in each and every one of his clients. Tom does not just want to win races; he wants to see his clients succeed in achieving all their political and personal goals. He puts his clients first. He never phones in a race. He gives everything to every client.
In a business that encourages self-pro motion, Tom Piccolo has built a repu tation for selflessness. You won’t find a smarter, harder working or more in sightful campaign operative in Florida than Tom Piccolo.
But for those of us lucky enough to be represented by Tom, you won’t find a better man or a more loyal friend.— Chris Sprowls, Speaker of the Florida House
DREW PIERS AND HERBIE THIELE GREAT COMMUNICATORS
They soared from interns to part ners in one of Florida’s preeminent public relations/public affairs firms in a fast decade. That path placed Herbie Thiele and Drew Piers in charge of the robust statewide and national public affairs practice at Sachs Media. They excel at helping clients and lobbyists win in the cor ridors of power by first winning in the court of public opinion.
They don’t lobby, yet consistently ‘win’ in their work on legislative and regulatory issues in multiple states. They’re on the front lines of battles in the most important and challeng ing public policy issues — including victorious efforts to pass or defeat constitutional amendments in three different states.
Thiele, 38, literally grew up im mersed in public policy as a Talla hassee native who studied political science at FSU. Piers, 31, left home town Bradenton to study public relations and also has a Masters of Applied American Politics & Policy (MAPP) degree from Florida State University. Now, Thiele serves as Sachs Media’s Director of Public Affairs while Piers – the youngest partner in the firm’s history – is Managing Director.
Even as interns and young profes sionals in their 20s, each quickly showed an aptitude for high-level strategic thinking that leads clients to success. Thiele, affable and out going, mixes easily with political in siders and public officials who often seek his counsel when navigating the state’s political environment. Piers, who owns every skill set for this high-stakes work, often takes an analytical approach to sizing up what a client needs and develop ing a smart, effective strategy to achieve it.
Together, Thiele and Piers deliver the potent one-two punch to at tract and assist clients with business before Tallahassee policymakers — and similar challenges in other states. The “Sachsession” plan the firm put in place earlier this year
surely has positioned Sachs Media to remain a dominant force in its next generation of leadership.— Ron Sachs, founder, Sachs Media Group
Thank you, Governor DeSantis, Speaker Sprowls, and President Simpson for your leadership. Florida continues to be a public safety leader because of the numerous bills that passed with strong bipartisan support.
2022 will forever be a historic legislative session for sheriffs and public safety
SEAN PITTMAN LOBBYIST
South African President Nelson Mandela once said: “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
Sean Pittman is a shining example of both; this Florida leader has not only demonstrated his abili ty to lead the Pittman Law Group, one of Florida’s most respected and highly recruited Government Relations and Civil Litigation firms, and expert ly fathered three remarkable girls, he also has a heart of gold (and garnet) exemplified through the many philanthropic gifts he and his wife Dr. Audra Pittman have given.
Over the years, the Leadership Florida Distin guished Member Award recipient and a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity has been a torchbearer for leaders throughout Florida. I know because I have been a direct beneficiary of his leadership, and most of all his friendship. His knowledge of government and transformational leadership is sought by companies and organiza tions across the United States.
In the ever-changing and highly partisan world of Florida politics, Sean Pittman, who is highly re spected by leaders on both sides of the political spectrum, has been able to successfully navigate these times by staying consistent to the Flori da State University motto “Vires, Artes, Mores” (Strength, Skill, and Character).
Florida needs people with a good head and a good heart; we are fortunate that Sean Pittman is one of them!
— Alan Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary, US Dept of Housing & Urban Development
LINDSAY POLLARD PLAYER
I know when we are asked to do these write ups I am supposed to talk about the honoree’s accomplish ments and accolades — somehow, give them credi bility and let you know they are the best of the best. With this person, when I say her name, it speaks for itself and commands respect.
Lindsay is the founder and principal of Diverse Strat egy Group. Through her firm, she has worked on his torical campaigns throughout the state. As a woman and a Black woman in this Process, her success is his toric and has set the foundation for so many behind her. She has been instrumental in the campaigns of many congressional, gubernatorial and legislative candidates. Currently, she is a senior advisor to soonto-be Congressman Jared Moskowitz.
Lindsay Pollard is much more than a sought after fundraiser, strategist, and advisor (and to be clear, she is all of that and more). What makes Lindsay special, and I would argue the key to her success, is her character. Being in and around this Process, it is hard to find genuinely good and kind people. Lind say is the person you want with you in the foxhole. She is the person that so many electeds confide in because we trust her advice and know she is look ing out for us as a person. We also know if we tell Lindsay, she will guard us with her life.
It was once said Lindsay Pollard was on the radar. I would submit to you she is the whole damn radar. It really does not get any better than Lindsay Pollard.— Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby
JEFF PORTER LOBBYIST
Have you ever tried to wrangle pirates?
Only a lucky few of us has ever had the pleasure of trying and Jeff Porter has thrived at it.
On a good day with pirates, things go your way and you win small battles few notice. On a bad day, the world knows your failures and are quick to point them out, compounded by those on the out side who don’t understand or have a 90’s vision of the Florida Justice Associ ation and things can get bleak. But Jeff is equipped to handle it as well as anybody.
We’ve had our disagreements — still do — but who doesn’t in politics? To his credit, he always listened, even when we disagree, because he knows commu nication is key, especially when you are dealing with pirates — and politics. He has always had a vision of leading the FJA to brighter days and as he keeps the bird dogs and suspenders at the ready, Jeff will be burning the late-night oil to guide the pirates safely back to port (along with quality wine.)— Kevin Sweeny
ERIC PRIDGEON KEY STAFFER
Sharply dressed, quick witted, and focused on Florida’s success, Eric Pridgeon has been an in valuable asset to this State. For Eric, being the budget chief is in his DNA. His father, James, suc cessfully steered the committee over 30 years ago, and Eric has mastered the position with grace and conviction. Eric is the type of person who does not require status or accolades. He measures his success based on the health of the legislative body and the health of the budget. As a father of four, Eric balances the stresses of work and life beautifully, all the while being the main caregiver for his mother. In the recent boom, Eric wisely directed the appropriations committee on the best ways to assure Florida’s short-term suc cess whilst also ensuring future generations are not forgotten. His poise and deep understanding of the state’s finances allowed our committee to operate smoothly and successfully. Eric is the consummate gentleman. All of the above makes Eric a fantastic Budget Chief, but his friendship sets him apart from so many that excel at their jobs. His friendship is one of the most significant gifts of my legislative career, and I look forward to seeing him thrive, and helping the state thrive, in the years to come.— Rep. Jay Trumbull
CHRISTINA PUSHAW GREAT COMMUNICATOR
Conservatives have felt outmanned and outgunned within legacy media for years. As editorial offices and social media platforms telegraphed their intent to not just report facts, but to tell viewers how to feel about facts, the Right needed champions to carry our banner in battles within historically en trenched “safe spaces” for the Left.
Whether you agree with her methodology or not, Christina Pushaw has employed effective guerrilla warfare tactics with in those “safe spaces,” amplifying conservative messaging and correcting an imbalance in coverage that has existed for years. No misleading or derogatory headline about Gov. DeSantis is safe from her targeted and relentless counterattacks. While she holds the uncontested record for journalistic complaints as DeSantis’s PIO, in the marketplace of ideas, Christina Pushaw has established herself as a fearsome battlefield commander for the Governor. Pushaw’s taken more ground and charged more hills than I can count.
She is an invaluable “force multiplier,” waging relentless messag ing battles in a fight often stacked against the Right. Depending on your vantage point, she’s either the worst thing that’s hap pened to political coverage in Florida or a hero establishing the beachhead for your counteroffensive against false narratives.— Rep. Alex Andrade
EMMETT REED INDUSTRY LEADER
Few organizations in the state carry more influence than the Florida Health Care Association, whose 650+ mem bers work to ensure high-quality care for Florida’s vulner able elders. Beyond question, much of the organization’s success can be directly attributed to the inexhaustible ef forts of its dedicated leader, CEO Emmett Reed.
When Emmett walks into a room, he immediately be comes the center of attention – and not just because at 6’4” he towers over everyone else. A fierce advocate and visionary leader, he is also one of the most compassionate and genuinely good people I’ve ever worked with. Emmett is constantly focused on what he and his association can do to help Florida’s long-term care centers in their mission to make certain that their frail residents are taken care of.
Under Emmett’s leadership, the association has become a policymaking pioneer, working with legislators to bring creative solutions to challenging issues facing our state. FHCA’s recent efforts to address workforce shortages re sulted in a win-win for both residents and caregivers, im proving individualized attention while creating a reward ing pathway to the profession for hardworking Floridians.
His efforts don’t just stop at the Capitol though. From statewide branding initiatives to highlight Florida’s top notch care to localized photo contests that capture warm smiles and welcoming staff, FHCA’s impact on our state truly reaches every corner.
FHCA represents 86% of Florida’s nursing homes – in cluding more nonprofit facilities than any other organiza tion in the state. I’m particularly pleased that Florida’s vet erans nursing homes are also represented by Emmett and the team at FHCA. Emmett holds veterans in the highest regard, something I learned while working alongside him at FHCA and now see in practice every day in my role at the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Florida’s nursing homes, their staff, and the residents they serve all stand to benefit for years to come thanks to Em mett Reed’s thoughtful, compassionate, and impactful leadership.— Bob Asztalos, Deputy Executive Director, Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
MARC REICHELDERFER PLAYER
If you plan to seek public office in the Sun shine 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 me thodical approach to politics and Cross Fit 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, trust worthy, calm under pressure, and a worldclass box jumper.
He turns down more campaigns than he ac cepts and more often than not, reluctantly agrees to help candidates largely because he believes they will be good public ser vants. While many in the political consultant class get consumed by image and materi al 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
KIM RIVERS INDUSTRY LEADER
Kim Rivers is not only a passionate and effective advocate for sensible can nabis policy, she is also a savvy businesswoman who knows how to navigate a difficult and competitive landscape. Just a few short years ago Trulieve was merely an idea and a dream. Today Kim heads an industry-leading, vertically integrated cannabis company operating in 11 states, with leading market positions in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This was no accident. Tru lieve’s success can be directly tied to Kim’s vision, her leadership, her busi ness sense and her commitment to bringing very high-quality products to market. Truly, in the tricky and challenging cannabis business, Kim stands as more than a giant to be revered, but as a champion to be admired.
The thing that shines about working with Jasmen is that she operates in the intersec tions of grassroots, activism, policy, and pol itics. Jasmen has built and grown Black Girls at the Capitol, an annual pilgrimage for young Black women which has made her a name in the halls of Tallahassee. She is a force in Flor ida whether through leading successful cam paigns; facilitating trainings for higher educa tion; growing MAVEN Leadership Collective to invest in Queer and Trans Communities of Color; or quite literally shutting cities down for marches for liberation. Jasmen is able to fluidly, and authentically, straddle these spac es which makes working with her the ultimate learning experience and adventure. You come out better having collaborated with Jasmen Rogers, and you’ll certainly always be on the right side of history.— Janee Murphy, partner, Community Partners Consulting
BILL RUBIN AND HEATHER TURNBULL PLAYERS
Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull are un doubtedly influential leaders in Florida pol itics and the government relations arena. But while some do this with boisterous en trances and a megaphone-like presence, Billy and Heather accomplish that and even more with genuine kindness and a humble spirit.
Heather’s passion for leadership, commit ment to the professional development of others and focus on providing high-quality client service makes her a force within Flor ida politics. Bill’s ability to coach and men tor others is one of his greatest strengths, making him one of the most sought-after counselors in Tallahassee.
As many are, I am grateful for their friend ship and proud to call them my friends.
Congratulations to you both on your rec ognition and your success.— Rep. Danny Perez
MELISSA SEIXAS INDUSTRY LEADER
Melissa Seixas started her career at Duke Energy in the engineering department of the St. Peters burg ops department, hand-drawing the poles and wires that run along the city’s streets. Now, 35 years later, she is the president of the utili ty’s Florida division, which serves more than 1.8 million electric retail customers throughout the state. Those who know Melissa aren’t surprised by her meteoric rise. She is relentlessly curious, unfailingly prepared and incredibly smart.
While Melissa’s knowledge of the energy industry is encyclopedic, her real passion is Florida history. After earning her master’s degree in Florida Stud ies from USF’s St. Petersburg campus, she contin ues to give back to the institution, serving on the USF Board of Trustees and as chair of the USF St. Petersburg Campus Board.
While she has one of the busiest schedules of any person I know, Melissa somehow finds a way to be incredibly generous with her time. She is a de voted community leader, a wonderful mother and wife, and — lucky for me — a true friend.— Helen Levine, lobbyist, Corcoran Partners
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ERIC SILAGY INDUSTRY LEADER
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 inves tor-owned utility. His commitment to the state can be seen in previous roles, such as chairman 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 pas sion to bring industry, education, and government together make him a leader among leaders. He is truly a visionary 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 Speaker of the Florida House
NADINE SMITH ADVOCATE
When you’ve been named among Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2022,” lead one of the largest and most effective state-based advocacy organiza tions in the country and compile a winning record against the forces of bigotry, hate, and discrimination long enough to fill its own magazine, you’re deservedly a ringer to be on this list, too.
For 14 years I’ve watched Nadine going once more unto the breach, again and again, fighting for equality in the state she loves and was born in. Her ability to hold a room with masterfully delivered insight, adroitly lead a coalition of diverse interests and backgrounds to join forces for a com mon cause and build a team of some of the best advocates and organizers in the coun try, is enviable and inspiring.
Nadine’s current and growing influence has been fueled by a potent combination of sincerity, passion, smarts and unflinch ing leadership. And she wields these attri butes in the face of an escalating onslaught of attacks on the values and communities Equality Florida works to protect every day in every arena.
Influence can be acquired and used in nu merous ways. Fortunately for us here in Florida, Nadine uses hers to fight the good fight for a better future for us all.— Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director, Progress Florida
CHRIS SPENCER KEY STAFFER
Husband, father, friend, policy wonk ... Commodore. All words that peo ple use to describe Chris Spencer.
He is a fiercely loyal friend and col league in a business that doesn’t al ways prioritize loyalty in the ups and downs of elected office. Chris has worked for some of the most pow erful elected officials in Florida and has led some of the most complicat ed policy matters on their behalf. If there is a policy or budget issue that needs an innovative solution, Chris is the first phone call for most people in the Process.
It takes a strong mind and spirit to manage the massive task of poli cy ideas and budget issues coming out of Plaza, but Chris manages his team like a true leader and does it all with a smile and a sense of humor. As the Governor’s star continues to rise, Chris will no doubt play a key role in moving an ambitious agenda that is the envy of every other red state Governor.
— Alan Suskey, lobbyist, Shumaker Advisers
RYAN TYSON PLAYER
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 hap pening, 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 levels with the highest stakes and is on the speed dial of every major political player in Florida. His operation, 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 For tune 500 boardroom or a speech to thousands.
Ryan’s talent is unparalleled, his trajectory is stratospheric, and he’ll be on this and every other political influencer list for as long as they exist.Eileen Stuart, The Vogel Group
CHRISTIAN ULVERT PLAYER
Advising a powerhouse roster of candidates and elected officials that include everyone from Pres ident Joe Biden, during his successful 2020 cam paign, to beloved Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and prominent House and Senate Democrats, Christian Ulvert has earned a well-de served reputation as the winningest Democratic consultant of the day.
But despite being just 40 years old, Christian’s in stinct, campaign and communications chops and political prowess have been honed over decades of work in state government, campaigns and pub lic affairs, consulting some of the most powerful people and entities in the state of Florida and in the world.
All this to say, Christian Ulvert is more than any thing ‘of the day.’ This man has staying power, and he’s only getting started. I first met Christian through a mutual friend and was immediately drawn to his calm demeanor, clear skill, and quick wit. Very soon after, Christian became a valued member of my own team and a trusted senior consultant whose counsel and steady guidance has helped me navigate a year rife with new pro fessional and personal challenges — just as he’s done for so many others. Because you know what they say … when the going gets tough, the tough call Christian Ulvert.— Sen. Lauren Book
JASON UNGER LOBBYIST
Jason Unger is a standout in the Tallahassee lobby ing corps.
As both a lawyer and lobbyist, Jason brings an un matched level of strategic thinking to his work. While others play proverbial checkers, Jason is playing three-dimensional chess. He also has deep relation ships not only with legislative leaders and statewide elected officials, but with staff deep within state agen cies. Any client or cause looking for excellent represen tation would be fortunate to have Jason on their team.
— Sen. George LeMieux, Chairman of the Board, Gunster law firm
STEVE VANCORE AND DREW JONES PLAYERS
In today’s bare-knuckle campaign universe, meet the best one-two punch in Florida: Steve Vancore and Drew Jones. If you’re about to get into a slug fest, these guys should be in your corner.
For better than two decades the duo has diversi fied their agency, Vancore Jones Communications, giving major corporations a reason to rethink their markets, creating the design and marketing for state and local referendums and paving the way for new and incumbent candidates to secure their place in public service.
With a seamless balance of skill sets, Vancore and Jones thrive when chaos is afoot. But if you met them individually, you’d never imagine them as partners. Vancore is, “let’s sit down and figure out how to carve a new path,” while Jones is more, “I’ve already rented a road-grader.” But it’s the combination of the two that makes their powerful firm so uniquely qualified to fix what’s broken.
And if you’re fortunate enough to be in their space, you’ll witness firsthand how your external turmoil is buffered by their measured strategies. While the wind is blowing everyone else’s hair, these guys have figured out how not to lose their hats.— Gary Yordon, The Zachary Group
TINA VIDAL-DUART INDUSTRY LEADER
In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandem ic, the county’s supply lines completely broke down. We struggled to get masks and gloves to our heroes on the front lines — doctors, nurses and hospital staff. Ba sic supplies like testing swabs had to be imported from around the globe in order to establish statewide testing sites. FDEM expanded and hired outside vendors that were experts in medical administration.
Tina was one of those experts.
There are likely countless Floridians, es pecially our seniors and those in nursing homes and ALFs, who owe their lives to the hard work that both Tina and her husband, Carlos, did alongside the state of Florida in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I gave Tina the impossible missions because I knew they would get done. Tina’s team at CDR Maguire outworked everybody. They were determined and exceptionally cre ative to accomplish the task. And good luck to you in life if you tell Tina, “No.”
Without Tina, monoclonal antibodies wouldn’t have been readily available for tens of thousands of Floridians.
Tina was one of those unsung heroes in the state’s response to a once in a 100year pandemic.— Commissioner Jared Moskowitz
ASHLEY WALKER PLAYER
Ashley Walker may be best known across the country as Florida’s most prominent Democratic strategist, but lesser known is how much her mastery of coalition-building, crisis management, persuasion, and strategic communication routinely helps some of the most important business leaders and interest groups achieve even the most challenging goals.
A Hoosier transplanted to Broward County, Ashley leads with an unflappable no-drama, no-B.S. style. Her smarts, work ethic and drive to get results made Ashley the first woman named part ner at Mercury Public Affairs, the bipartisan, global public strategy firm. She became Florida’s highest profile Democratic strategist leading Barack Obama’s successful Florida campaigns. But these days, she’s more likely to lead a national independent expenditure campaign than a can didate’s campaign.
The best and brightest business and political leaders who rely on her counsel and friendship know that just beneath Ashley’s intense, get-it-done, demeanor is a funny-as-hell devoted mom and dog lover. She’s way too discreet for it to ever happen, but boy would I love to read a juicy, Ashley Walker memoir one day about a her life in Florida politics.
— Adam Smith, Director of Communications, City of Tampa
A strong workforce is crucial to fueling Florida’s future economy, but our state has more jobs available than people looking for jobs, and too few are properly qualified — even though these openings are high-wage and high-demand.
The Future of Work Florida is bringing together job creators, industry leaders and partners to showcase careers of the future and industries with vast growth potential. With Future of Work Florida, learn how we’re accelerating industries across the state with Career and Technical Education, a modern, affordable
higher education and training.
is on the path to becoming a top 10 global economy. Workforce education will propel us there — faster, farther.
When it comes to compliance work, there is just one name in Florida: Nan cy Watkins. Her knowledge, expertise and acumen are unmatched. A certi fied public accountant with multiple certifications, her clients, both in Flor ida and around the country, read like a who’s who of politics. And if you’re a candidate for office, Watkins should be one of your first calls.
She is easily one of the hardest work ing people, yet she makes it look easy. Watkins entered the political world in the 80s when she handled the books for Connie Mack’s 1988 Senate bid. Nearly four decades lat er she is the go-to person in terms of state and federal campaign finance laws. Just ask some of her current clients like Gov. Ron DeSantis, At torney General Ashley Moody and countless members of Congress.
In a male-dominated world, Watkins has also charted a course for women of impact and power. From serving two terms as a trustee for the Uni versity of South Florida to now serv ing for the second time on the Board of Trustees at Hillsborough Commu nity College, where she already has a road named after her, Watkins yields influence like few others.
Along with her husband Robert, the Watkins form a power couple and their annual Children’s Gasparilla par ty is THE gold ticket in Tampa Bay.
— Preston Rudie, founder, Catalyst Communications
It is no surprise that the rapid rise of the Tampa Bay region has happened in parallel with Will Weather ford’s community-centric engagement. Many of the state investments made during his time as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives are now paying dividends. These include investments in the trajec tory of the University of South Florida, where he serves as Board of Trustees Chairman. As transformative as those investments were at the time of his Legislative leadership, little did we know that Will’s impact was just getting started. Under Will’s leadership, USF has achieved its highest ever national academic rank ing as measured by U.S. News and World Report, and his vision to finally bring an on-campus stadium to USF is becoming a reality – a project USF has awaited for almost three decades.
Outside of his USF leadership, Will continues to be the sought-after leader for many of our community’s largest initiatives, including chairing and navigating Super Bowl LV during the pandemic. Will’s is also a positive, thoughtful voice that many seek to help navigate our community’s biggest challenges. He bal ances these impactful roles while continuing to grow Weatherford Capital, which is rapidly becoming one of the preeminent private firms in the Southeastern U.S. With all his success, Will’s faith and his family are at his core, and it’s rare to not hear either come up in conversation with him. No matter which path is next for Will, we can be certain that his servant-leadership style will only continue to benefit his community and all those around him.— Michael E. Griffin, market leader, Savills Tampa
RON WHITAKER KEY STAFFER
I am so honored to provide a few words of praise on behalf of Ron nie Whitaker, long-time staff director of the Senate Majority Office.
Ronnie is not one of the names you hear often, but his competent, excellent, organized, and reliable leadership is felt throughout the Florida Senate. Without pride and fanfare, Ronnie has served with distinction providing accurate information and strategic advice to the Republican members of the Florida Senate for almost a de cade. Five Senate Presidents have asked him to serve in this posi tion, which speaks to his value and contribution to The Process.
As the Senate Majority Leader, I enjoyed working with Ronnie. There was never an assignment he missed or a detail left out. From policies to politics, leadership to lunches, Ronnie made sure the trains stayed on track and ran on time.
It is not just what Ronnie accomplished; it is also how he did it. Ronnie serves as an excellent mentor to the young people that serve in the Majority Office. He invests in every team member, teaching by example. His patience and kindness to others, par ticularly in the midst of many heated battles, is praiseworthy.
Above all, Ronnie is a caring and loving husband and father. While politics is his profession, his heart is for his family. It’s great to see one of the “good guys” receive recognition for a job well-done.— Sen. Debbie Mayfield
SUSIE WILES PLAYER
It was about a dozen years ago that we were in the air and on our way to Dallas to see our father, the late sports announcer Pat Summerall, when my sis ter Susie turned to me and said matter-of-factly: “I’m considering doing some work for a guy who I think will be your next governor. His name is Rick Scott.” I’d never heard of him at the time but I thought to myself: “Yep. If you get involved then he probably will be my next Governor.”
One could be forgiven for thinking that our father, being an ex-NFL football player before he started broadcasting, might have treated my brother and I differently than he did my sister when we three were growing up. Typically, fathers from his era — and par ticularly athletes — were all about “my boys,” and fe male children weren’t accorded the same treatment as the males were.
But Dad wasn’t typical, and from an early age he and my mom instilled in Susie the belief that she could do or be anything in life. When my brother and I tried to leave her out of any endeavor we were planning, dad wasn’t having any of it. “Be sure and include your sis ter,” he’d say. And I think that equal treatment was a big contributor to Susie’s amazing career.
And so no, I wasn’t really all that surprised some months after our plane ride to Dallas, when I turned on the TV and Rick Scott was being sworn in as Flor ida’s new Governor, nor that Susie was instrumental in helping make it happen. And it seemed only fitting that we were going to see our dad when she’d first mentioned his name to me. Because like her dad — and I think at least in part because of her dad — Susie rose to the occasion and delivered, as always.
Few names in Florida convey the power of connection quite like Mark Wilson as he advocates for Florida’s business com munity. As president & CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Mark leads inten tionally and strategically to pursue initia tives and pro-business policies that keep Florida’s economy resilient and growing. I’ve run many companies in my day, so as both a legislator and a business owner, I appreciate that Mark understands what drives job creation and capital investment in the private sector.
Beyond advocating for low taxes and fair and transparent regulation that promotes a competitive business climate, Mark has set his sights on securing Florida’s future. He keeps legislators and the business community well-informed with forecasts of future economic needs, from early childhood education, to cutting child hood poverty in half, to reducing harm ful and expensive litigation, and expand ing and diversifying Florida’s workforce. While previously misunderstood as being outside the realm of commercial inter ests, Mark has effectively identified the issues that impact the short- and longterm success of job creators large and small across all industries.
Most notably, while businesses in other states faced insurmountable burdens to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, Mark was a strong partner in keeping Florida free and open for business. His work during this unprecedented time undoubtedly saved countless businesses that may have otherwise been forced to close their doors.
His leadership for more than 20 years has been a tremendous asset to our state.— Wilton Simpson, Florida Senate President
RICK WILSON AND RYAN WIGGINS PLAYERS
Among American political operatives, Tal lahassee native Rick Wilson is to shrinking violets what a hurricane is to afternoon sea breezes. A longtime workhorse in the national stable of Republican political con sultants B.T.E. (before the Trump era) and the veteran of countless campaigns, the man is a brawler, but a brawler with con servative principles and an ethical gag re flex that would not permit him to go along to get along when authoritarian rightwing populism became the credo of the GOP, which is how he became a founder of The Lincoln Project, that collaboration of former Republican ronin whose mission it is to defend representative democracy against Donald Trump and his wannabes.
Something of a blue-collar Renaissance man, Rick is the author of books, plural, which have made The New York Times list of bestsellers, a prolific columnist, an auteur among political media makers, and a gifted polemicist. (It was he who coined the now universally known ETTD — Everything Trump Touches Dies.)
Ryan Wiggins, the Chief of Staff for The Lincoln Project, is an experienced political pro in her own right, and a steadying influ ence on the Lincolneers. She is a sensible, sane Sancho Panza to Rick’s sometimes off-the-hook Don Quixote and an indis pensable Tom Hagan among the Sonny Corleones in the Lincoln Project family.
As long as men and women like Rick Wil son and Ryan Wiggins are in the fight, de fenders of democracy need not despair, and would-be American Viktor Orbans cannot rest easy.— John ”Mac” Stipanovich, Republican strategist
KATIE YEUTTER INDUSTRY LEADER
Katie Yeutter is an exceptional leader who embod ies tenacity and grit. She is exactly who the Florida business community needs fighting for them.
Serving as the President of the Florida Chamber Safety Council and CFO/COO of the Florida Cham ber of Commerce, Katie provides an unparalleled vision and passion for the betterment of Florida. She has taken on tough issues including human trafficking, mental health, and the opioid crisis. Or ganizations under Katie’s leadership are providing the tools necessary to keep Florida safe, healthy, and sustainable.
As an endurance athlete, Katie brings the same innate drive and intensity that she deploys during a race to advocate on behalf of Florida’s business community. Her leadership is helping to keep our state moving in the right direction. We are fortu nate to have Katie in Florida!— Bill Yeargin, president/CEO, CorrectCraft
JOE YORK INDUSTRY LEADER
Joe York is one of the most highly regarded corporate and community advocates in Florida. Undoubtedly, many leaders in Florida count on Joe.
For more than two decades, Joe has led the AT&T Florida and Caribbean teams that have ushered in a new horizon of telecommunications policy.
While Joe has held many roles, ranging from business lead er, board chair, and community advocate, if you ask anyone close to him what comes to mind when you think of Joe it is, “family man.” He is a devoted son, husband and father and his family is no doubt his highest priority.
Joe is generous with his time in the community and as a men tor to the next generation of young professionals. He be lieves in the power of mentorship and investing in the next generation of leaders. Something I — and many of us — have seen firsthand.
SKYLAR ZANDER PLAYER
Skylar and I have worked together for the bet ter part of the last decade and I’m glad he’s being recognized for his hard work and dedi cation to the Sunshine State. In his early days, he got his start in campaigns, knocking doors for candidates and leading grassroots efforts for conservative causes, which equipped him to lead one of the largest AFP chapters in the country. We’re fortunate to have his example and leadership in Florida. AFP Florida will only continue to grow with Skylar at the helm and I look forward to seeing the work he continues to do. This recognition is long overdue and I’m proud to call Skylar a friend.— U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack
care profession — like many sectors of Florida’s health care
is facing a chronic workforce
that has only been exacerbated by the
opportunity is ripe to reach and recruit individuals into careers in long-term care.
how to get involved by contacting us
JACKIE SCHUTZ ZECKMAN KEY STAFFER
In almost every step of my political career, Jackie has been by my side. Starting as my travelling press secretary in 2011, Jackie worked her way up to become Chief of Staff in the Governor’s office, campaign manager for my 2018 Senate race, Chief of Staff in the Senate office and now Exec utive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the first woman to ever hold that job. Over the last decade, I’ve witnessed first-hand the way she han dles opportunities and the way she handles challenges. She has an intensity that is un
matched, and a compassion that reflects her heart for service and her sense of duty to her friends, her family, her state and her country. Her intelligence is only matched by her cheerful devotion to those whom she holds dear. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Jackie and the hard work and dedication she puts in every day. And I know that everyone who has the honor and privilege to call her a friend is better off because of it.
FLORIDA’S VOICE FORDrew Eason Anne Hart Alexandra Abboud Jamie Graves LEGISLATIVE
The weekly college football rankings can only fit the Top 25 teams on their list. But several other teams can take comfort in knowing they’re also receiving votes, and are just on the cusp of getting their due. The INFLUENCE 150 list also would like to recognize a handful of Floridians in the political process who just barely missed
and Nova Southeastern alum is clearly on the Governor’s radar too, having recently earned an appointment to the influential Judicial Nominating Commission for the 1st District Court of Appeal.
Eric Eikenberg — The head of the Ever glades Foundation has been a staunch — and successful — advocate for the River of Grass, helping to sway the Governor toward environmental policy backed by the founda tion. He has also steered the organization itself through controversy, recently ham mering out a confidential settlement with the foundation’s former lead scientist.
Alfonso & Jose “Pepe” Fanjul — Under their leadership, Florida Crystals has grown from an upstart company to one of the largest private companies in the state over the past 60 years. The business tycoon brothers are among the biggest landhold ers in the state and their largess brings with it substantial influence. Their support has propelled the careers of politicians such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
Brian Hughes — He’s the man behind the curtain for many successful candidates and initiatives in Northeast Florida, most notably Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. He is a man of multiple talents, with a varied career that included a college professorship, film work, positions with federal and state legislators Rick Scott, and his campaign work.
Jeff Johnson — AARP wields tremendous influence among voters over 50, which is an especially crucial voting bloc in Florida. As the director for the state branch, John son is often at the forefront of policy battles related to long-term care and other issues affecting seniors. With such a wide reach, most pols listen to what he has to say.
George LeMieux — Though his career in the U.S. Senate was brief, he held substan tial influence before it through his work as an attorney and as a Deputy Attorney General. He has also become something of an elder statesman in the years since leav ing Washington, with the founding of the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Alphonso Mayfield — With a rap idly growing membership, the SEIU Florida Public Services Union has become a force in Florida poli tics and Mayfield’s influence has grown along with it. The union now represents more than 20,000 workers in the state, and Mayfield, as a result, has sway with several labor orga nizations as well as the Flori da Democratic Party, where he serves as a vice chair.
George Meros — When it comes to regu latory compliance and governmental affairs, Meros is the consummate pro. As a partner in the Tallahassee office of Shutts & Bowen and with more than 30 years of experience in law, Meros has worked with some of the state’s biggest players, including Fortune 500 companies, state and national health care companies, national business associ ations and government agencies, with ex perience representing clients in the Florida Supreme Court, all five District Courts of Appeal and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Marcellus Osceola — As the Chair of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, his portfolio in cludes one of the largest and most success ful gaming companies in the world. Though the most recent Gaming Compact with the state is still tied up in the courts, the deal will bring the Tribe even more success — and when the Tribe does well, so does Florida.
Monica Richardson — As the first Black executive editor for the Miami Herald, Richardson is using her digital experience to grow the paper’s audience and digital subscriptions and oversees el Nuevo Her ald and the Bradenton Herald. She also
serves as McClatchy’s Florida regional editor, all of which give her a top seat in Florida’s media climate.
Stephen Ross — The Miami Dolphins own er has deep pockets, and the influence that comes with it. He’s a top DeSantis donor who successfully inked a 10-year deal to bring the Formula One Grand Prix to his Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, where the Dolphins play their home games. Ross is also the chairman and founder of Related Com panies, which controls more than $60 billion in real estate assets.
Scott Ross — Ross, a partner with Capital City Consulting, boasts extensive expe rience in gaming and other regulated in dustries. He formerly served as the deputy secretary for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and as the di rector of government relations for Las Ve gas Sands. When it comes to client strate gy, he’s become a go-to source for his firm, which consistently ranks among the topfive firms in lobbying revenue.
Justin Senior — Few people are as tapped into Florida’s regulatory health care frame work as Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hos
pital Alliance of Florida, which advocates for the state’s 14 safety net hospital systems and smaller clinics in rural communities. He also previously served as secretary for the Florida Agency for Health Care Adminis tration and as Florida’s Medicaid Director, where he oversaw procurement, implemen tation and operation of the Medicaid Man aged Care program.
Scott Shalley — The Florida Retail Federa tion is one of the most influential trade asso ciations in the Sunshine State, representing the brick-and-mortar stores that contribute billions to the state’s economy. Shalley is often successful in shepherding the associ ation’s goals through the Legislature, with his most recent accomplishment being the crackdown on organized retail theft.
Andrew Spar — As President of the Florida Education Association, Spar heads Florida’s largest association of professional employ ees. With recent actions relating to educa tion policy, Spar has led his group through opposition to policies ranging from allowing non-degree-holding military members to teach, to low teacher pay and lagging sup port to teaching flexibility.
FLORIDA TRUCKING ALWAYS DELIVERS
Because Cuba and Communism aren’t disappearing as top issues for the Florida GOP anytime soon.
Because whether he’s shaping narratives around controversial political policy or talking up snazzy new license plates, it’s his job to remind us that the ‘Happiest Place On Earth’ is in Florida.
Because he’s the go-to guy — and a nice one at that — for countless major players.
Because he still has a hand in everything in Pensacola and Northwest Florida.
Norman Braman Nancy Brinker
Because his backing could help Marco Rubio win his toughest race yet.
Because as the leader of the global breast cancer movement, she’s creating the model in South Florida for how all communities should address cancer treatment for women with no insurance and no medical home.Dominic Calabro
Because data privacy isn’t TaxWatch’s only interest.
Because he has an uncanny ability to see the unseen and distill the nitty gritty details others sometimes struggle to explain. His reporting shines a bright light where some would prefer darkness.
Because he’s become a go-to source for Democrats in and around the Tampa Bay area and the crucial I-4 corridor, providing trusted advice up and down the ballot.
Because he’s a communications savant who understands perhaps better than anyone how earned media can make or break a campaign and he knows how to go after it through compelling storytelling.Richard Coates
Because this powerhouse GOP attorney is linked to political committees controlling millions to influence elections from Jacksonville to South Florida. Money may not buy happiness, but it can sure help win races.Vince Evans
Because this Tallahassee native parlayed his stint with Kamala Harris into something big.
Tre Evers Julio Fuentes
Because this GOP consultant is still on the top of his game.
Because, as the head of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, he leads an organization that supports over 600,000 businesses that contribute more than $90 billion.Nicole Gomez
Because she has proven unstoppable since joining LSN in 2018, rising quickly through the ranks from associate to partner. From health care and IT to transportation and telecom, she can handle it all.
Because his man, Vern Buchanan, could soon be leading the House’s most powerful committee.
Because even though the state’s largest media market is inundated with hyper-conservative voices, he’s managed to build a loyal fan base without the in-your-face ideology.
Because he’s not only an executive at FPL, but a gubernatorial appointee to the Florida Athletic Commission, showing he has what it takes to play in DeSantis’ Florida.Rich Heffley
Because he’s a lobbyist who is good at political consulting … or is he a political consultant who is good at lobbying?
Yolanda Cash Jackson
Because Mary McLeod Bethune finally has her place in the U.S. Capitol.
Because he’s at the center of all things health care policy in Florida, connecting legislators and their staff as well as state agencies to industry leaders.
Alia Faraj Johnson
Because she’s one of the classiest and smartest comms pros in The Process.Jon Johnson
Because Johnson and his team are no longer just a top-tier health care firm — they’re a top-tier firm, full stop. There’s a reason Team J&B clears seven figures a quarter.
Because someone has to step up as a leading watchdog in a shrinking Capitol Press Corps.
Because he makes sure UF not only remains the top university in the state but continues to move up in national rankings.
Because he’s maintaining his mantle as one of Florida’s most informative government reporters.
Shad Khan Chris Korge
Because that Four Seasons Hotel is finally taking shape.
Because he’s one of the best at collecting cash for Democratic candidates.
Because this transitional Chief of Staff is now showing what he can do outside the Capitol.
Because he’s arguably the top GOP consultant in South Florida with a future House Speaker as a client.
Because even though he’s leaving PNJ, we’re sure his recognizable frames will spring up somewhere.
Because whether he’s raising red flags about banning books or shining a light on government corruption, he doesn’t mince words and he isn’t afraid to make enemies.
Because he’s both a man of the cloth and a man of Park Avenue.
Because sometimes you have to be the “bad guy” before you become the good guy. Meade’s ongoing work on criminal justice reform proves that second chances aren’t always a losing bet.
Because the Jackson Health CEO helped pull MiamiDade County through the worst of COVID-19.
Carol Marbin Miller
Because no one in the Florida press corps can capture your attention with an investigative piece quite like her.
Terry Miller John Morgan
Because boutique firms might be small, but they are fierce. Miller may be selective, but the clients he accepts get something valuable — the full attention of a man with the Governor’s ear.
Because who else can drop an F-bomb effortlessly and seemingly without consequence? He not only helms the largest law firm in the nation, he’s the force (and wallet) behind both the medical marijuana and minimum wage amendments.
Because she’s always bringing her outspoken and unique viewpoints to a TV near you.
Because she remains a national gatekeeper to GOP politics and Mar-a-Lago.
Because being Jimmy Patronis’ right-hand man has its perks, and comes with some important purse strings. But Penrod wields influence in other ways, too, including as a member of the 1DCA JNC.
Because bilingual messaging and debunking fake news will only become more important for Democrats.
Because the South Florida media alum still has a hold on Democrats nationwide in her nightly MSNBC slot.
Because winning conservatives know he’s their guy. Rimes has ushered in many successful Republicans, such as incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, Libertarian-leaning Sen. Jeff Brandes and the affable former Rep. Jamie Grant
Because today’s brand of politics and a shrinking media climate didn’t deter him from becoming the inaugural editor for a new state and local news platform — he’s at the forefront of building more transparency, not less.
Because his Palm Beach-based Newsmax remains the main Fox News alternative for cable news consuming conservatives.Justin Sayfie Steve Schale
Because his Sayfie Report, a must-read for Florida politicos, has now been going strong for 20 years.
Because no task is too big for him. From his time peddling the “yes we can” message in Obama’s 2008 campaign to his work supporting Biden, Schale has become a go-to source of Democratic punditry and strategy in Florida.
Because no one dominates any beat like Christine Sexton dominates the health care beat.
Because the CareerSource Florida Board Chair is not only one of the most effective members of the Process, but also one of the kindest.
Because even Northeast Florida needs a DeSantis whisperer.
Because when it comes to crisis management she brings the cavalry — pun very much intended. The former top strategist to Rick Scott and Jimmy Patronis is one of the most sought-after GOP consultants in the business.
Because he managed to leverage his tenure as DeSantis’ Chief of Staff into a lucrative career leading a major public health system in South Florida — and Broward Health is already happy with the ROI on his hire.
Because, well, he has a boatload of money. But also because his influence has spread beyond sports and philanthropy into an elite force within the development community that has revitalized Tampa’s downtown.
Because she’s now one of the most powerful players in one of the three most powerful lobbying firms.
Because he is one of the few Floridians with direct access to The White House.
What I’ve Learned
56, BradentonFormer Senate President, Republican insider, Partner, Grimes Hawkins Gladfelter & Galvano As told to ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER
HIS (SOMETIMES VERY) EARLY DAYS:
“My Mom would tell me, ‘You can always post that you were at Woodstock.’ My (parents) had a farm in the Catskills and a place in the city. She said, ‘When you were just a baby, they asked people from surrounding areas to bring food and canned goods and water because so many people descended to this area and there was not enough for everybody. We rode in and dropped some stuff off and rode out. That’s when you were at Woodstock as a 2-year-old.’
“My dad was a son of Sicilian immigrants who even tually started caddying on Staten Island, New York and had an affinity for golf. He eventually became a quite re nowned golf pro and (was on a) television show which filmed just a few studios down on the same floor where, later, ‘Saturday Night Live’ was filming. He wrote two best sellers in the late ’50s on golf, but he was an in structor and that was his focus.
“I came down (to Florida) when I was very young, but we would go back. My dad kept his golf school in the city until I was 18. So we would spend a lot of time in the summer in both New York City and in the Catskills.”
“I enjoy the political process. I ran for office to begin with because I recognized the importance of being involved and being part of the political community.”
TRUE BLUE RED REPUBLICAN:
“My mother … deserves a lot of credit. She’s very patriotic and engaged and made sure that we understood what things were about for holidays and things of that nature.
“It just was a natural evolution for me as a child as I was growing up. …. I enjoyed the idea that in this coun try, you have the opportunity to be involved at different levels. My very first official role in politics was (as) the chairman in this area of Youth for Reagan. It was for his ’84 election.
“I went on to College Republicans and had a leadership role there at the University of Florida. I went to the Uni versity of Miami law school, but it was a little harder to do a lot of extracur ricular stuff, especially that first year. After I got out I got involved, not just
in party politics but in community or ganizations, which were very import ant too, so I stayed involved the whole way. I had actually been practicing law for 10 years before I decided to run for office. I talked to my then-partners and threw my hat in the ring.
“I announced in March of 2001 for election in 2002 and was elected, served eight years in the House. I had a hiatus, which was occupied with being on Gov. (Rick) Scott’s transition team and run ning for the Senate. And so in 2011 I ran and then was elected in 2012.
“I think one of the most valuable assets that I have taken from Talla hassee are my relationships and the friendships that I have, and some of them were just by virtue of geography. For example, in the Florida House, I began my career by sitting next to
Rep. Marcelo Llorente. To this day, we are very close.
“I was speaking with Dean Cannon today, who I served with in the House. Allan Bense has always been a mentor to me. I was with Sen. (Marco) Rubio last Thursday and we had an opportunity just to catch up. And then of course in the Senate, I made tremendous friend ships and maintain those relationships and so that’s something I really, really prized about the way we conducted business in Florida. It seemed like you had the debates and would make your arguments, but it never really got too personal and relationships were built and cooperation achieved.
“I have a very good relationship with Gov. (Ron) DeSantis. We just spoke, actually, and I’m very support ive of the Governor. I think it would be
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
fantastic if he became our President.
“I enjoy the political process. I ran for office to begin with because I recognized the importance of being in volved and being part of the political community. There are so many different ways folks can do that. Obviously, you can run for office as I did, but even not being in of fice, I work hard to help good people get elected.”
GOLF AND POLITICS:
“I’ve played since I was a little, little guy — you learn a lot about life on the golf course. One of the things my Dad used to warn against was getting too far ahead of yourself. It happens a lot of times when the game is going good and you start thinking about, ‘Well, if I could birdie the next two holes …’ and he’d say, ‘Stop and play the hole you’re on.’ I think that’s very important in life and in busi ness and in politics. Know what you’re doing now, what’s ahead of you.
“You see politicians from time to time, I wonder if they get elected to Office A thinking solely about getting to Office B and C. Or, if you’re not focusing on the task before you, it may end up being more important than what you’re gonna do on a bill tomorrow.
“And so I shared that with the members and I always tried to emphasize to my fellow Senators that we have today, let’s make every moment count. I gave them a compass with the quote from my father that said, ‘Play the hole you’re on.” I later gave them an hourglass with a quote from Lincoln that said, ‘The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.’ And I think that’s how you’re most productive in politics and in life in general and it’s always served me well. And it could be as simple as making sure you know what the bills are that day, and that you’ve read them.”
“When I look back, what I tried very hard to do — and hopefully, I was successful in terms of what a lega cy might be — I truly wanted to empower the Senators and give each of them the opportunity to be as much a part of the process as they could be and do it in an atmosphere of decorum and stability.
“I’m often asked, ‘What were some of your big goals?’ And people always think in terms of the writ ing on the paper, but I think it’s just as important that you set a tone for people and for the five people watching on The Florida Channel.
“Republicans were the party in power when I was there, but I wanted to make sure to show respect (to the Democrats) and I worked with every one of them on priorities. My hope is that if you were to this day to talk to any of them, they’d say, ‘Yeah, we had a fair shake.’”
ON HIS GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT AS A LEGISLATOR:
“If I look back on my career, I would have to say the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. It was such an unfortunate circumstance as a catalyst for it. But I think we changed the way we approached school safety completely in one piece of legislation. We covered so many different areas, some of which were just untouchable beforehand, like the red flag laws.
“It was very powerful to see everybody coming to gether — even though it was a close vote — I think as a Legislature, there was an interest in getting something done more than just lip service. It was a tough piece of legislation, but one that has proved to be very, very
successful on so many fronts.
“I think that bill was a turning point in my career. I felt like, OK, we really did what we needed to do in a very difficult time. The vote was 20 to 18 — it was bipartisan, but it was also bipartisan in opposition too. We didn’t have all the Democrats either. And the majority of members in each chamber decided this is what needed to happen. That’s when you know you’re doing something right.”
ON THE FUTURE:
“I’ve only played the front nine. I am excited about the future and get gung ho about what I’m doing and what the possibilities may be.
“I am enjoying very much building and expanding my law firm. We just celebrated 100 years this year. It started as a general civil practice firm and way back in the De pression era, Bill Grimes that they used to call threshold law — whatever came over the threshold is what you did. While Grimes Galvano is more specialized in a lot of ar eas, we still cover a wide range.
“I put a lot of energy into being a Senator, being Sen ate President and my entire political career — and now I’m putting that energy into this practice and helping oth ers in the political process.
“I’ve got a lot ahead of me, but I am very proud of the full service in both the House and Senate. And, I have met a lot of wonderful people along the way with good hearts who wanted to do good things.”
Thank you to our
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Florida ranked #2 for growth in technology jobs in 2021.
Those are rookie numbers: watch out, Texas, we are coming for your spot!
If Florida was a country, its GDP ($1.2 trillion) would put it at the 16th largest in the world. That’s a lot of oranges!
Walton County Florida is one of four places in the world to have Coastal Dune Lakes; the only other places you can find these estuaries is Madagascar, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest.
The Florida Legislature marked orange juice as the state drink in 1967 – Florida produces over 70% of the oranges in the US and is second globally behind Brazil.
5 Florida has over 7,700 lakes – watch out Minnesota!
6 Milton, Florida was originally called “Scratch Ankle.”
7 Disney World is about the same size as San Francisco, California, with almost triple the number of visitors a year.
The old Orlando City Hall was blown up at the beginning of the movie “Lethal Weapon 3,” saving the city a lot of money to not have to demolish it themselves.
9 Miami Beach pharmacist, Benjamin Green, changed the beach industry forever by creating the first sunscreen during WWII and named it Coppertone.
10 Feeling the heat? You can thank Floridian John Gorrie (1803-1855) for that AC you can crank up. He invented the refrigeration techniques that eventually became air conditioning to alleviate a Yellow Fever outbreak in Apalachicola.
11 Most people associate Orlando with Disney World, but did you know it is also home to the legendary video game company Electronic Arts? That’s right: your favorite games like The Sims, Madden, and FIFA are powered by Florida magic!
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