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for re s ok ratu o l an mpe g r Moect te n Joh perf the A Publication


The New GrayRobinson Inside the blockbuster deal and what it means to Florida politics

Disney vs. Airbnb, Mears vs. Uber & Lyft and the politics of disruption A foodie’s guide to dining with Harry Potter & Mickey Mouse Examining the ‘Seminole Solution’

Buddy Dyer King of Orlando

Exit Interview: Andy Gardiner

In focus: Orlando & Central Florida politics








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@ SaintPetersBlog


y wife, daughter and I live in St. Petersburg and yet we probably visit Orlando — 90 miles away — more often than we do Tampa, which is just across the bridge. The reason for this slight to my friend Bob Buckhorn can be explained in two words: The Mouse. Our daughter is almost four years old and is in deep, deep love with Mickey and Pluto, as well as Rapunzel and Mulan and Belle and a menagerie of other characters. Truth be told, my wife, Michelle, and I love Disney almost as much as Ella Joyce does. Our idea of heaven on Earth is on the beach in front of one of the cabanas on Disney’s private island, Castaway Key, reached only by taking a Disney cruise, on which we just embarked for the 11th time. Yeah, we’re a Disney family. Of course, anyone who actually lives in bustling Orlando and the surrounding communities will tell you the region is much, much more than what surrounds Cinderella’s Castle. This fact was never more true than in the days and weeks that followed the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub. Elements that often unite communities — sports teams, food culture, generations of residents living in the same neighborhood — are young or nonexistent in Orlando, where nearly two-thirds of all residents were born out of state. Such a situation has left a vacuum in Orlando that has been filled with symbols of Gay Pride, a result of the tragedy brought on by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Signs are all around Orlando; rainbow


banners fly alongside the American flag at City Hall; many hip neighborhoods and suburbs like Winter Park proudly display Pride stickers and similar symbols. Lake Eola’s fountain — the heart of Orlando’s downtown — is awash nightly with gay pride colors and stores quickly sell out of T-shirts sporting “#OrlandoUnited” with rainbow hearts. My wife and I witnessed this unity firsthand during a recent, non-Mickey visit. We were in town for a benefit performance staged by Bravo’s Andy Cohen and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Before they walked on stage, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, his shoulders burdened with the weight of the world, was given a thunderous standing ovation by the crowd. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. In this edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, veteran reporter Scott Powers examines Dyer’s pre- and post-Pulse legacy. As difficult as dealing with the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy has been, Dyer — unencumbered by term limits and presiding over a booming boom town — may have one of the best jobs in Florida politics. If Dyer is king of Central Florida, there still remain many, many princes and princesses who wield significant, um, influence. This issue introduces you to many of them, while also exploring why the increasing number of Hispanics in Central Florida have so few identifiable power brokers. If there is a center to Orlando politics outside of City Hall, it may be the law offices of GrayRobinson, which represents many of the largest interests in the region,

including the City of Orlando itself. Our cover story is about the new GrayRobinson, forged by its merger with former House Speaker Dean Cannon’s lobbying shop, Capitol Insight. Like everything else in town, GrayRobinson seems to be growing by leaps and bounds… including the size of this magazine, which is now more than a year old and, in this period of declining ad revenue for print journalism, is close to “making it.” Our editors and reporters are beginning to pivot to the next phase of this project, which includes more original reporting and features, especially about important policies. Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster does this with her story about “The Seminole Solution,” while Mitch Perry explains how Central Florida is ground zero for “The Politics of Disruption.” Of course, there are still pages and pages of fun features, like Rochelle Koff’s guide to adult dining at the theme parks, Fred Piccolo’s cool infographics, and our quick hits in the Political Aficionado section. Dare I say reading this edition of INFLUENCE is like taking a tour of — Oh boy! — a theme park about politics.

Peter Schorsch Publisher

PHOTOS: Benjamin Todd and from Schorsch collection

Card-carrying member of the Mickey Mouse Club ... and couldn’t be more proud!




Peter Schorsch


Phil Ammann




CONTRIBUTORS Phil Ammann Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster Tisha Keller Rochelle Koff Jeannette Rivera-Lyles Gina Melton

Mitch Perry Ben Pollara Scott Powers Jim Rosica Dan Tracy Melissa Ross


Fred Piccolo


Benjamin Todd Mary Beth Tyson


Harold Hedrick


Rosanne Dunkelberger Tisha Keller Rich Bard

SEARCH... How do I | How do I make a website? How do I create a logo? How do I gain social media presence? How do I raise money online? How do I grow my email list? How do I get more likes? How do I hire the most experienced digital team in Florida?

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he tourism numbers tell us people from around the globe visit the attractions in Central Florida. How lucky are Floridians to live with

such easy access to the most popular tourist attraction in the world? So, for this Orlando-centric issue, we asked our contributors to tell us: What is your favorite ride or attraction at Disney World or Universal Studios and what might that say about your personality?

Scott Powers

The Amazing Adventures of SpiderMan. I’m old school. For more than a decade, independent ride designers pointed to this ride as the best virtual ride in the world, and I agree.

Rochelle Koff

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I’m a kid at heart — well, basically I’m mentally age 12, so I love the fantasy (quidditch, c’mon!). My daughter and I read Harry Potter while she was growing up so it brings back fond memories.

James Rosica

I can’t remember the last time I was at either park. Well, not true, I think I was last at Universal in the early 2000s. I seem to recall getting on the Incredible Hulk Coaster and instantly regretting it and then keeping my eyes closed the whole time. So what it says about my personality is that speed and heights freak me out.

Mitch Perry

Jeannette Rivera-Lyles

I’m a Potterhead who gets stomach butterflies every time I ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, my favorite ride. The sensation of flying fast, feet off the ground, that it delivers is just awesome. Magic, of course, isn’t real but it is still fun to let the imagination go wild pretending that it is. It would have been hilarious (and helpful) to have Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat to sort our recent presidential candidates. Oh, the suspense. Who would get sent to Slytherin, home of the cunning? Who would be worthy of Gryffindor, home of the brave at heart? I dare not say.

Phil Ammann

I have frequently trekked to Epcot’s World Showcase, which allows park-goers to wander, cold beer in hand. Begin to the left, and the Mexico Pavilion offers La Cava del Tequila; to the right, you’re greeted with a Canadian Molson. Either way, arriving at the Norway Pavilion means park goers have (at least) two adult beverages under their belt. And there, nearly hidden in the back, was my favorite Disney ride — the late, great Maelstrom. It was a literal oasis of air-conditioned comfort for weary (and tipsy) travelers halfway around the “world.” Many times, I’ve enjoyed its brief respite, preparing my second wind. What does that say about me? Your guess is as good as mine.

Not to sound elitist or out-of-touch, but I’ve never been to Disney World, nor Universal in the 16 years I’ve lived in Florida. Now, I was born and raised in California, and did visit Disneyland five times by the time I was 18. Always a fan of the Matterhorn, I recall.

Dan Tracy

Rosanne Dunkelberger

Tisha Keller

The Haunted Mansion. My family went the first year Disney World opened and it was one of the original E-ticket (I date myself) attractions. It was thrilling to see the twirling dancing ghosts and the singing statues. I think this tells you I like scary — as long as it’s not TOO scary.

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

It’s been eons since I’ve been to Disney or Universal, but if I had to pick an attraction to best describe me it would be “It’s a Small World” — pleasantly annoying … until it’s not.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is my favorite ride. Reminds me of political discourse — plummeting faster all the time.

When I was a kid, we had annual passes to Disney — and we lived in Orlando — so we went there all the time (as in, for dinner and on bored weekends). I always favored the People Mover in the Magic Kingdom. I loved how it peeked into the nearby rides and carried the promise of a “can-you-imagine-it-future.” I adored it so much, in fact, that years later as a Disney cast member in college, I often went in early just to ride a few times before work. I haven’t been back to Disney in a long time, mainly because I really like remembering it the way I experienced it as a kid — and I maintain that it really is magical, even when you’ve worked “Backstage.”

Mary Beth Tyson

This is sad but I haven’t been to any of those places in 18 years.





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PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

102 The New GrayRobinson One of Florida’s largest law firms celebrates a commitment to each of the 13 communities it serves and welcomes back Dean Cannon and his Capitol Insight lobbying team. BY JIM ROSICA

The Central Florida Issue 81 The Green in Orange County

94 Ground Zero for Disruption

113 The Three C’s of John Morgan

Big projects, big decisions and the occasional big brouhaha are par for the course for Florida’s biggest tourism tax budget. BY SCOTT POWERS

How new tech-based services like Uber and Airbnb are changing the original land of disruption. BY MITCH PERRY

A longtime associate gives us a look into Florida’s most recognizable lawyer as he enters his seventh decade. BY BEN POLLARA

85 Demographics + Democrats

100 The Seminole Solution

121 Politics and Puerto Rico

Growing minority populations mean things are looking a bit bluer in Orange County these days. BY DAN TRACY

One Central Florida school board’s attempt to find a better way to test students’ achievement. BY JENNA BUZZACCOFOERSTER

As Central Florida’s Hispanic population grows, so grows its political clout. BY JEANNETTE RIVERA-LYLES

90 A Force for Change When Central Florida’s chambers of commerce speak with one voice, powerful things happen. BY SCOTT POWERS

108 Big City Dreams Long-serving Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has a vision for his hometown, and the gumption to make it happen. BY SCOTT POWERS



124 42 34


Now Serving

When it’s time to dine out, ROCHELLE KOFF takes us on a tour of theme park eateries designed to delight the grown-ups


Art of the RFP

Insider’s Advice

Experts share advice for “constructing” the perfect pitch.


BLAKE DOWNLING wonders, Is the next Apple hatching at Orlando’s Technology Incubator?

Fourth Floor Files

Top lobbyists, most with a Central Florida connection, answer questions both serious and slightly silly.


65 Going for Gold

Buddy Dyer’s Orbit

Defying gravity with Orlando’s bigthinking mayor.


On the Move

79 Hanging by a Line

Political Aficionado’s Guide


Briefings from the Rotunda


What I’ve Learned


The Big Question 148

STEVE VANCORE assures us that the art of the poll is alive and well.

81 Crowd Sourcing NOREEN FENNER explains the benefits and potential pitfalls of pooling resources in a political committee.

PHOTOS: Michael Murphy Photographic Studio and Gallery; Daniel Reinecke; courtesy Universal Orlando Resort; Mark Wallheiser; courtesy Flint;


17 29

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the Political BEST STUFF



Aficionado’s  Guide to ... |






This season, savvy politicos will need gumption, guile, and the right kind of gear to survive the long, hot march toward Election Day. Whether you’re canvassing the streets or working strategy behind the scenes, we’ve got stuff to keep you (looking, at least), cool. BY TISHA KELLER

PHOTO: Design Army X Harper Marcaw

Cheeky Chocolates

Bars wrapped in strikingly witty red, white, and blue sleeves, The (Very) Political Collection is a joint venture by DC-based Design Army and Harper Macaw that features bold, graphic partisan designs, playfully running the gamut of U.S. political parties and issues, with flavors to match: Left Wing bars that are full of nuts; Red State bars with red berries, conservative dark chocolate and free market capitalism; and FlipFlopper that’s sweet one moment, salty the next. $9–$51;


Just Between Friends (of Friends) The Outreach smartphone app for Apple and Android devices helps you post a question privately to friends-of-friends, so you get trusted information from your extended network— great for instant feedback of a political nature. Free download through Google Play and the App Store;

Stand-Up Guy ShirtProp is a removable product that fixes your collar instantly, eliminating wrinkles and sagging shirt necks by providing support to the shirt’s button seam. Made from translucent materials, ShirtProp goes undetected in your shirt, letting you get all the kudos. $19.99/10-pack; Strong Yet Sweet Europe has already discovered Vietnamese coffee, and its kick. Prepare traditionally by hand and enjoy with sweetened condensed milk, yogurt, even fruit. Low acid but smooth, bold flavor. Farmers Blend Coffee, $8.97/8.8 oz.;

Pastry Pleaser The Best. Morning. Ever. Mug’s specially-designed lid provides superior insulation to keep your beverage heated and more flavorful for longer. This lid also serves as a mini hot plate to hold and warm those campaign-HQ doughnuts. $19.95;

Lint Ender Meet Flint: the tiny, travel-size retractable, refillable lint roller. Perfect for the quick fix and clean-up; great for campaign season. In six colors, Flint is made using the highest quality Japanese tape, made extra sticky but not too sticky. The core is made from recycled plastic. $6.99;


PHOTOS: Courtesy Flint, FitKit, Best.Morning.Ever, ShirtProp, Farmer’s Blend and Outreach

Pack a Punch Pounding the pavement during political season leaves little time for the gym. Enter FitKit, a brandable, portable, packable fitness solution with all the tools for a total body workout, including 250+ exercises for cardio, strength and stretching, and bonus nutritionon-the-go tips. $39.99; save 20% with code INFL20;

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... BIG SCREEN

George Clooney plays a candidate for President in the “Ides of March” movie (2011).

PHOTO: Courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment

Campaign Cinema Turn off the real thing and enjoy Hollywood’s take on elections. BY MITCH PERRY

As we near the general election, Florida will again be at its fulcrum. Not only could the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes decide who becomes our next president, but our U.S. Senate race is crucial to the balance of power of the world’s oldest deliberative body come next January. Elections, and politics in general, can be incredibly dramatic and exciting. While many note that Donald Trump’s candidacy has been something never seen in recent American politics, what about the depictions of the process as seen through the eyes of Hollywood? Here are some of the best films about elections and politics, a list in no particular order, other than what came to mind for us.

“RECOUNT” (2008)

Since this publication will get wide distribution in Tallahassee, we have to start out with Jay Roach’s “Recount” (2008) all about, yes, the 2000 presidential recount election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. You know the plot — the stakes couldn’t have been any higher in our recent history as those incredible 36 days between November and December of 2000 played out. For those of us who were there, no movie could be as dramatic as the real thing unspooled in Tallahassee, Palm Beach County, Miami and the rest of the Sunshine State. Fun facts: Bruce McGill plays Mac Stipanovich, Tom Wilkinson is James Baker, and Laura Dern played a way-over-the-top version of former Secretary of State (and later Sarasota-based Congresswoman) Katherine Harris.



PHOTOS: Courtesy their respective studios

“MILK” (2008)

Elections, and politics in general, can be incredibly dramatic and exciting, but what about the depictions of the process as seen through the eyes of Hollywood?

compromising in Washington D.C. He’s so disgusted with himself for all the lies he’s told that he takes out a contract on himself to be killed over the weekend, and that frees him to become a veritable truth machine, telling it like it is, often in rap form.

In 2008 we also got Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” which won the Oscar for Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Screenplay. It’s the Hollywood dramatization of the life and times of Harvey Milk, who became one of the first openly gay people elected in America when he joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 at the age of 47. As a native San Franciscan who followed the city’s politics closely right around the time of Milk’s election, it’s also a primer on how the gay community — which had been building up its political power in San Francisco since the 1960s — was able to finally gain political representation in City Hall with Milk’s breakthrough victory in ’77. It came after he lost two previous bids for office in the early and mid ’70s, and only occurred after San Francisco shifted that year from at-large to district elections. Milk represented the Castro, which remains one of the iconic gay enclaves in the U.S. Milk was assassinated by one of his colleagues, Dan White, in the fall of 1978, barely a year after he was elected. His legacy lives on.

In 2011 George Clooney and Ryan Gosling starred in “The Ides of March,” adapted from a play by screenwriter Beau Willimon called “Farragut North.” Willimon would go on to greater fame two years later as the creator of the Netflix political drama “House of Cards.” The film is about a political wunderkind (Gosling) who is dedicated to the Democratic presidential frontrunner played by Clooney (who also directed). Some rough stuff goes down, and in the end, Gosling feels betrayed by his political mentor. It’s a very cynical story. It should be noted that there are some wonderful performances in this flick, with the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of a campaign operative being the most memorable.



1998 brought two of the most formidable and successful political fiction stories to the screen. First there was the very hyped “Primary Colors,” the Mike Nichols movie based on Joe Klein’s 1996 novel very loosely based on the Bill Clinton 1992 campaign starring John Travolta (as a Clinton stand-in named Jack Stanton). It’s a very funny and entertaining movie, and watching it now it can be appreciated for what was a very entertaining campaign as depicted by Klein and Nichols. It wasn’t necessarily viewed that way when it was originally released in March of 1998, when the nation was caught in the grips of what would ultimately be a year-plus-long national scandal that was the Ken Starr investigation into Monica Lewinsky’s relationship with the president. As Time magazine wrote in a cover story when the film came out, “the film comments on the scandal in ways that are downright eerie. Just as the public doesn’t know what actually happened between Clinton and Monica — or Clinton and Gennifer Flowers, for that matter — so the movie refuses to spell out what did or didn’t happen between Stanton and the women he is accused of bedding.”

“BULWORTH” (1998)

Just a few months later came one of the surprising Hollywood releases of 1998, Warren Beatty’s “Bulworth.” In the film, Beatty (who also wrote and directed the picture) stars as California U.S. Sen. Jay Bulworth, a man adrift for years from his idealism by too many years of

“IDES OF MARCH” (2011)

It’s extremely dated, but Robert Redford’s star turn in 1972s “The Candidate” remains one of the best political movies ever. Redford played Bill McKay, an idealistic, charismatic son of a former Democratic governor (which led some critics to compare him to Jerry Brown some two years before Brown became governor of California). He’s a longshot candidate and, as such, campaigns on a pretty liberal agenda. He shifts that persona in the general election so as not to get blown out, and then things happen to conspire to help him accomplish the improbable — he actually wins the race. The film’s last scene is its most famous. Meeting with his campaign manager Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) in a room away from his ecstatic supporters, McKay asks Lucas, “Marvin … What do we do now?” We never get the answer, and thus the divide between campaigning and governing is made stark.

“CITY HALL” (1996)

As with “Ides of March,” there’s a similar theme in the plot of the 1996 film, “City Hall,” directed by Harold Becker, and Nicholas Pileggi of “GoodFellas” fame. John Cusack plays Kevin Calhoun, the Louisiana-bred idealistic deputy mayor of New York City, and the top go-to political guy for New York Mayor John Pappas, played by Al Pacino. The film’s plot centers around a death, and Calhoun is the man charged with heading up the investigation, which uncovers some high-level misconduct. ][ SUMMER 2016 INFLUENCE | 21



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the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... GOOD READS

The Mouse That Roared Your guide to books about Walt Disney World BY MELISSA ROSS


When it comes to ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,’ there are typically two schools of thought. Mouse fans the world over consider Walt Disney World the ultimate Florida destination. They plan their entire year around that big Disney trip. They revel in looking for the “hidden Mickeys” sprinkled throughout the parks, try a different resort hotel each visit (or maybe stay at a favorite property again and again) and believe me, there are plenty of empty-nest adults who continue to visit Disney every year, long after their kids are grown and gone. Like my sister-in-law in Ohio, for example. (Just FYI — her husband rolls with it.) However, for many of us longtime Florida residents, Disney is something you “do” only when those relatives from up North descend around the holidays. We’ve taken the kids — many times. Or should I say we’ve “survived” taking the kids to Disney? At any rate, we’ve been to every park. We’ve splurged at least once on dinner at Victoria and Albert’s. Speaking of food, we’ve eaten and drunk our way through Epcot’s big Food and Wine Festival. By the way, that’s something I highly recommend. However, let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that you’re planning a trip to O-Town and that you’ve NEVER been to Disney. Where would you begin? Here are a few book suggestions (some reverent, some a little cheeky) to learn more about the history, the magic, and yes, the dark side, of the empire Uncle Walt built in the swamps of Central Florida. >>


If you’re a first-timer at Disney, this comprehensive guidebook by Orlando travel writer Susan Veness is a handy companion to bring along. Sprinkled throughout are some “secret” tips from Disney’s famed “imagineers,” along with basic background information about the resort’s history, plus some overlooked details about the different parks that fans will find interesting. You’ll get a better sense of how the parks were intentionally designed by some very smart and creative people to thrill visitors, and how that Disney “magic” is sparked in the minds of kids of all ages.

The Complete Walt Disney World 2016: The Definitive Disney Handbook

This is an even more comprehensive guidebook. With reviews of every single attraction, restaurant and hotel, more than 400 photos, and thousands of insider tips, consider this title one for the serious Disney aficionado who wants oodles of detail while visiting the parks. Disney itself has named the book an Outstanding Family Product, but this handbook has garnered good independent reviews as well. Not only that, make sure to pick up the 2016 edition, as guidebooks about Disney can quickly become outdated as attractions and eateries open, close, or are updated in some way.

The Dark Side of Disney

Maybe you’re looking to enjoy Disney … um … perhaps in ways not originally intended by the park’s designers. If so, “The Dark Side of Disney” by Leonard Kinsey is a fun read. Billed as a look inside “the seamy, raunchy, and often hilarious underbelly of Walt Disney World,” this is an unauthorized guidebook with tips on things like scoring illegal tickets, how to sneak into off-limits areas, and where to get drunk on Mickey — literally. (Hint: the Monorail bar crawl is explained.) And let’s say you’re interested in, perhaps, engaging in some clandestine amorous activity while at Disney. Kinsey has advice on how and where to do that, too. Definitely not a read for the kiddos. 26 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

Deep Water

Maybe you enjoy Disney but at the same time, have no illusions about its complicated presence and history in Florida. If you’re looking for something a little edgier, check out “Deep Water” by S.V. Date. In this darkly funny tale, Date, a former Florida newspaper reporter, weaves the story of theme-park king Waldo Whipple and the “ideal” designed community of Serenity, Florida. Sound familiar? When a reporter begins poking around into strange doings, he quickly learns there are some sinister goings-on behind the sunny curtain Whipple presents to the public. In fact, Ernest Warner, disillusioned reporter, and Emma Whipple, the park founder’s great-niece, know something fishy is going on at the amusement park and its attendant “resort community,” Serenity, but aren’t sure what. They just know that anyone asking questions seems to quietly disappear. This one is a great summer beach read, by the way, whether you’re heading to Disney or not. In fact, all of Date’s books are. But back to the House of Mouse.

By Karen B. Moore Before Moore, a 30-plus-year veteran of the PR biz, tells you what’s “behind the red door,” you have to know that a red door “signifies ‘welcome,’ a place where energy enters.” Then, over the course of the book, Moore explains her overarching theme: That “energy” is the action of advocacy, “an essential part of any successful communication campaign,” she writes in the introduction. In other words, show people why your side is right. Moore, CEO of Tallahassee-based Moore Communications Group, runs readers through a PR-lensed view of the process. She touches on the finer points of branding, using logos and colors, and how to partner with like-minded groups to amplify your message. What could have devolved into a vanity project instead pops with helpful graphics and relatable business examples, like Starbucks. Moore also offers tips on talking to elected officials and best practices for social media. At the end, she reminds readers it’s all about results: “Have you moved the needle? Has your influence on the issue been impactful?” If not, reflect and readjust, she says. — JIM ROSICA

“Second Chances: Florida Pardons, Restoration of Civil Rights, Gun Rights and More”

Disney Apps

Let’s say you don’t want to be bothered with reading a whole book to prepare for your Disney trip. Naturally, there’s an app for that. Several, in fact. Here are a few of the best. • “My Disney Experience” is the official Disney app featuring everything from maps to wait times to menus. • “Disney Memories” is another official app letting you take those precious photos and decorate them, Disney-style. • And, my personal favorite, “Beers and Ears” lists all the beers you can find in Walt Disney World and a map leading you to each one. One final note as you study up on Disney: Remember to allow lots of extra time for transit between those various points of attraction, and just my personal tip — try to go during any week of the year that is NOT a major holiday. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Happy Disneying!

By Reggie Garcia With voting on everybody’s minds this election season, it might be worthwhile to consider the 1.5 million people in Florida who lost that right after being convicted of a felony. And when the sentence, parole and probation are complete, Florida is one of only three states where a person remains permanently disenfranchised — unless they’re willing to go through a lengthy and complicated process to seek restoration of voting and other rights. For 20 years, attorney Reggie Garcia has been shepherding people through the process to get their civil rights restored. Realizing most people don’t have the resources to hire somebody to do the work, he’s written this easy-to-understand, do-it-yourself manual to help people navigate the process themselves. Early chapters describe the different types of clemency and how restoration of rights works — then gets into the how-tos, including a primer on performing your own background check and to-do lists every step of the way. There are also several appendices, including applicable rules, reports and a handy glossary. — ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER

PHOTOS: Courtesy their respective publishers; courtesy Moore Communications Group

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World

“Behind the Red Door: Unlock Your Advocacy, Influence and Success”

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Aficionado’s  Guide to ... T E C H N O LO G Y

Dipping into a vat of geneticallymodified A. aegypti larvae in the Oxitec lab; the modified larvae glow red under specialized lights.

PHOTOS: Courtesy Oxitec

Fighting Zika With a little genetic modification from Oxitec’s laboratory, mosquitoes become their own worst enemy BY JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER

The best defense against dengue, chikungunya and Zika might come from an unlikely source — a mosquito.

For more than a decade Oxitec has found its genetically modified insects have served as an effective mosquito control tool, reducing the population and slowing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. It has worked in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, and Panama. And now the company is poised to begin its first trial in the United States. “What we’re doing is using the mosquito against itself,” said Hadyn Parry, the chief executive officer of Oxitec, a research firm based in the United Kingdom. In August, the United States Food and Drug Administration published its final finding that releasing the modified mosquito into the wild caused no significant impact to the environment. The finding marked the final

regulatory hurdle the company needed to overcome before it could begin a long-awaited trial in Key Haven, about a mile east of Key West. While the idea of genetically modified mosquitoes may send shivers down your spine, these aren’t winged Frankensteins. Instead, the company has modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to include a self-limiting gene. Since 2002, the firm has been perfecting the science of breeding mosquitoes. Bred in a lab, offspring survive because the water is laced with an antidote that blocks the gene. When the non-biting males are released into the wild, they mate with the local female population. Outside of a lab setting, their offspring can’t survive. The mosquitoes also carry a gene that allows researchers to track how many larvae


CDC’s Response to Zika

ESTIMATED range of Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti in the United States, 2016* Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are more likely to spread viruses

















and other viruses than other




types of mosquitoes such as Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.




like Zika, dengue, chikungunya













These maps DO NOT show


· Exact locations or numbers of mosquitoes living in an area Aedes aegypti

Aedes albopictus

· Risk or likelihood that these mosquitoes will spread viruses These maps show


















· CDC’s best estimate of the potential range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States · Areas where mosquitoes are or have been previously found















* Maps have been updated from a variety of sources. These maps represent CDC’s best estimate of the potential range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States. Maps are not meant to represent risk for spread of disease.

their males are producing. Under a certain CS264451-F April 1, 2016 light, the larvae turn red so that researchers can distinguish whether the male parent was a friendly Aedes, as they are lovingly called. That helps scientists track how well their males are producing, where they might need more mosquitoes, and how well the program is working. The success rate has been phenomenal. While insecticides can reduce a population by 30- to 50-percent, Parry said in an urban environment the Oxitec mosquito can reduce a population 90 percent in six months. “It’s a huge leap forward in efficiency,” said Parry.

The reason the project is so successful? Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known to carry diseases like dengue and Zika, are city dwellers. They’re lazy, stay close to buildings, and only need a tiny bit of water to breed. And they love humans, preferring to bite a human over an animal any day of the week.


Surveys conducted over the years to gauge public interest showed between 10 to 25 percent of the population was against it, with the remainder of the population either for it or neutral. But as the project became more likely, Doyle said an intensive opposition campaign emerged.

To effectively use insecticides, Parry said local mosquito control board and health departments would need to spray very close to homes and buildings — even inside them — to make sure to kill all of the pests. It’s not just a logistical nightmare, it’s impractical. Releasing genetically modified mosquitoes, on the other hand, allows the mosquito to fight against itself. The offspring don’t survive, which means the population quickly plummets. And with a smaller population the chances of mosquito-borne illnesses also decreases. It was a case of locally acquired dengue in 2010 that piqued the interest of the Florida Keys Mosquito Board. Considered one of the best mosquito control districts in the country, the director at the time reached out to Oxitec because they knew they couldn’t control the population with just insecticides alone. “Our technology is an area-wide control method, it can be used to treat an entire city,” said Darric Nimmo, the Florida Keys project manager. “This is where we can really make a difference.” For the past few years, Oxitec has been on the ground in the Florida Keys. They’ve built

The outcry from the public convinced the mosquito board to put a non-binding referendum on the November ballot to gauge support. But voters in Key Haven won’t be the only ones weighing in. Two referendums will be placed on the ballot — one in Key Haven, and a second in the entire mosquito control district. “The people in Key Haven have gotten a lot of direct misinformation about the project, and they’re going to look at it differently from the rest of the population,” said Doyle. “There’s a lot of support for this. I’m convinced more than 50 percent (of people) are all for it, and some of them were angry we might cancel the project.” The recent cases of locally transmitted Zika could help convince residents there is a need. According to the Department of Health, 56 people were diagnosed with locally acquired Zika virus as of Sept. 8. Health officials believe ongoing transmissions are only taking place in small areas in two Miami-Dade County communities, Wynwood and Miami Beach. The company still needs final approval before it can begin releasing the mosquitoes, which won’t come until after the November election. Doyle is hopeful the technology will get the support from the community, and said he believes it can be used elsewhere in Florida and the United States. And some top Florida lawmakers are already considering that possibility. A bipartisan coalition of 61 Florida lawmakers, led

GRAPHICS: Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


a facility in Marathon, where the mosquitoes will be bred. They’ve attended meetings and given tours. Explained the ins and outs of how the process works, how it is safe and effective. And yet, there are still concerns. Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, said there is a vocal minority in the Key Haven community opposed to the project. The lengthy federal review process — it took five years for the FDA to issue its final finding of no significant impact — didn’t help matters, creating serious planning and public relations problems.




Zika primarily spreads through infected mosquitoes. You can also get Zika through sex. Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can spread Zika virus. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and can also bite at night. Also, Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners.


The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Repellent

• Use insect repellent. It works! • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. • Stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens. • Remove standing water around your home.

Oxitec’s modified male mosquitos being released from a van into a community in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Bazil.

PHOTO: Courtesy Oxitec

“It’s not the right strategy to focus on education and vaccines. We have to focus on the mosquito, because the mosquito is public enemy No. 1.” — HAYDN PARRY, OXITEC by House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran and Minority Leader Janet Cruz, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Food and Drug Administration asking for emergency authorization to use the technology. That authorization, according to the letter, would make the technology immediately available to any Florida community where Zika “is being transmitted or likely to be transmitted.” “The challenge we’re trying to address is the Aedes aegypti mosquito has spread around the world in alarming rates. It’s the perfect vector for all kinds of diseases, and Zika won’t be the last virus spread by mosquito,” said Parry. “It’s not the right strategy to focus on education and vaccines. We have to focus on the mosquito, because the mosquito is public enemy No. 1.”

3 4

Zika is linked to birth defects. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly that is a sign of incomplete brain development. If you have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, do not have sex, or use condoms every time you have sex during your pregnancy.

Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your healthcare provider first and strictly followsteps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.


Returning travelers infected with Zika can spread the virus through mosquito bites. If you get infected with Zika and a mosquito bites you, you can pass the virus to the mosquito. The infected mosquito bites other people, who get infected. Returning travelers should also use condoms or not have sex if they are concerned about passing it to their partners through sex.


August 2, 2016


Florida’s future is bright, and naturally, we’re doing our part to help lead the way. For nearly 120 years, we’ve been committed to the communities we serve.This shows through our continued investment in renewable energy technologies to produce electricity and our continued expansion of infrastructure to provide our customers with a clean, domestically produced energy resource – natural gas.



Sleek interiors, a nod to Japanese architecture and infinitely intricate details are just the beginning of the experience at Morimoto Asia — the food is hip, urban pan-Asian concept fare.



Ditch the Kids and Dine! Disney and Universal theme parks and resorts offer sophisticated options for ‘adults only’ meals BY ROCHELLE KOFF

PHOTO: Courtesy Walt Disney World

IF YOU’VE VISITED ORLANDO’S THEME PARKS WITH KIDS, you’re well-acquainted with its family fare: hot dogs, turkey legs — and thanks to Harry Potter, mugs of Butterbeer. But there’s another world of dining at these mega-attractions. Say goodbye to Mickey and hello to Morimoto’s at Disney Springs. Leave behind the Minions and head to Mythos at Universal. The restaurant scene at the theme parks and its environs has grown up. It’s like magic. Beyond the kiddie rides and character meet-and-greets, there’s an adult side to Orlando’s theme parks that appeals to honeymooners, professionals, conventioneers, tourists and parents who want a dining experience without kids in tow. While Universal and Disney admission is required to have a meal at restaurants inside those attractions, you’ll find even more adult dining options at theme park resorts plus entertainment destinations, Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and Universal CityWalk. “The theme parks are appealing to grown-ups,” said AJ Wolfe, who writes for the blogs, Walt Disney World for Grownups and “Disney World has four theme parks and over 20 resort hotels. And Disney Springs is reawakening with high-end restaurants and shops in a revamped space. The place is massive and has something to offer for every potential visitor.” And that includes movers and shakers. “Disney Springs has brought worldclass dining back to the theme parks,” said Orlando lawyer John Yapo, of the firm

Foley & Lardner. “They’ve recently added Morimoto’s and STK, and those places are stellar.” Universal’s CityWalk has added eight dining options in recent years, including the new Cowfish, a “sushi burger bar,” Vivo’s Italian Kitchen and Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food. Adults with a sweet tooth are likely to join the kiddos at the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen coming to CityWalk later this year. Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando remains a fine dining staple at the entertainment and dining complex. Along with Emeril Lagasse and “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, count Todd English at bluezoo at Disney’s Dolphin Hotel among the celebrity chefs at the theme parks. Chef Art Smith is bringing Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine to Disney Springs this summer. Farther afield, renowned chef Norman van Aiken launched Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes. A lot of adult choices are bound to be high-end. While it’s not a hard-andfast rule, the pricier the restaurant, the more likely it is that you’ll have an adult experience. Stately Victoria & Albert’s in the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is the only Disney spot where you’re guaranteed to dine without any little ones around — customers have to be 10 and up to dine there.

Consider that timing can make a difference when it comes to a grown-up outing. It’s likely that parents of small children will either be putting kids to bed or getting a babysitter once the fireworks are over rather than dragging them out to an expensive meal at 9 or 10 p.m. It’s easy to find extravagant experiences with options like VIP tours, private dining rooms, dinner cruises or private dining aboard Disney’s Grand 1 Yacht (include a butler for an extra cost). But if you want to keep your visit within a budget, check out theme park dining plans to see if they’re more economical. For a more casual outing, there’s no shortage of lounges and bars in the resorts and entertainment complexes. For starters, consider the Irish pub, Raglan Road and Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs; the new Nomad Lounge at Animal Kingdom Theme Park (admission required); Margaritaville at Universal CityWalk; or Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar on Disney’s BoardWalk. Rix Lounge at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is a hot spot for thirtysomething partiers. Whether you want to celebrate a special occasion, conduct a business meeting or just enjoy a night out, rest assured. Dining at the theme parks is not just kids’ stuff anymore. Here’s a sampling of some grown-up dining destinations.




Walt Disney World (For restaurants at Disney resorts or in the parks, you can make dining reservations online at or call 407-939-3463 or 407-939-5277 up to 180 days in advance. You might have better luck making reservations by phone. If you can’t get a reservation, don’t give up. Try the day before your desired date — there are cancellations and you can make direct reservations at some restaurants outside the parks.)

Todd English bluezoo Modern, coolly contemporary bluezoo features glass accents, fun chandeliers and an aquatic theme. No surprise the focus is on seafood, complemented by an extensive wine list and creative cocktails. You can order the same menu in the adjacent lounge. Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort, 1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd., 407-934-1111

Victoria & Albert’s

Modeled after the New York City original, this elegant space at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers chateaubriand and Tomahawk steaks for two, salads and seafood on its high-end menu. 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, 407-597-5500

For a royal splurge (and we mean splurge), try this romantic restaurant, which Visit Florida has dubbed the “grande dame” of the city’s fine dining scene. The luxurious Victorian setting, in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, offers a seven-course, prix fixe menu of New American dishes and a wine list featuring 700-plus wines from more than 16 countries. Foodies may want to book the chef’s table dinner. Among the dress code requirements: dress jackets for the gentlemen, dress, dressy pants or skirt for the ladies. Leave the flip-flops at home. 4401 Floridian Way, 407-939-3862

California Grill

Yachtsman Steakhouse

RESORT RESTAURANTS Bull & Bear Steakhouse

Come for the gourmet California cuisine and sushi and stay for the fireworks — if you can get a reservation. Located on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the fine dining venue is known for its panoramic views of the Magic Kingdom’s nightly light extravaganza. Customers can also watch the fireworks on the observation deck or lounge if dining before or after the fireworks. If you can’t get a reservation (through Disney), the California Grill Lounge serves the same menu but it’s first-come, first-serve. The catch is you’ll have to arrive early to get a seat and a prime view. If you don’t care about the fireworks, stop by around 5 p.m. The Grill also serves Sunday brunch.

Capa This sleek rooftop dining experience on the 17th floor at Four Seasons Resort Orlando offers a Basque menu and Spanish-influenced cocktails. The hotel boasts terrace “setback views” of the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, and the “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” show at Epcot. 10100 Dream Tree Blvd., 407-313-7777

Jiko The Cooking Place: Savor African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine while sipping South African wines at this vibrant venue where you can watch chefs preparing dishes in the open show kitchen. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. 2901 Osceola Pkwy., 407-938-4733


The New England-themed Yachtsman may be labeled family-friendly but the atmosphere at the high-end restaurant in Disney’s Yacht Club Resort is decidedly grown-up, with a pricey menu featuring beef aged in-house and seafood plus charcuterie with rabbit and bison sausage. 1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd., 407-934-3818

Portobello Country Italian Trattoria The menu offers pasta, house-cured meats, seafood and wood-fired pizza, with a lengthy list of Italian and American wines. Another benefit: a view overlooking Lake Buena Vista (try the waterfront patio). 1650 Buena Vista Drive, 407-934-8888

STK Orlando Joining its big city siblings, the high-energy steakhouse, which opened in late May, exudes a lounge atmosphere with a DJ spinning tunes on the rooftop terrace, multilevel seating and private rooms. The music gets louder and the lighting softer the later it gets. 1580 Buena Vista Drive, 407-917-7440

INSIDE THE THEME PARKS (You’ll need to book reservations online or by phone through Disney at most of these; park admission required).

ANIMAL KINGDOM Tiffins Restaurant – The new Tiffins and the Nomad Lounge dining rooms offer elaborate, sometimes exotic menus with pan-seared duck breast and leg confit, Wagyu strip loin and braised short rib, and whole fish in rooms called galleries. You’ll also find an extensive wine list plus after-dinner liqueurs, dessert wines and specialty drinks. 2901 Osceola Pkwy.



The upscale waterfront locale features a lavish menu with starters like caviar and carpaccio and entrees of steaks and seafood. For dessert, you can feel like a kid with an ice cream float. After dinner, take a ride on one of their rare Amphicars — cars that float — or an Italian Water Taxi with chocolate-covered strawberries and a champagne toast. Wine cruises also available. 1620 E. Buena Vista Drive, 407-939-2628

The World Showcase offers the biggest selection of sophisticated restaurants in the Disney theme parks, with dining represented by 11 countries. For a true foodie experience, visit during the 21st Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. This year’s event runs Sept. 14–Nov. 14, expanding from 53 days to 62. Here are some of Epcot’s staples to check out all year:

Morimoto Asia

Le Cellier Steakhouse – Find fine din-

This two-story stunner from chef Morimoto of “Iron Chef” and “Iron Chef America” brings a hip, urban vibe to Disney. Glimmering, 20-foot-long chandeliers, an upper level sushi bar, private rooms and an open kitchen (you can’t miss the Peking duck) set the stage for Morimoto’s first pan-Asian concept, featuring creative Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes. 1600 E. Buena Vista Drive, 407-939-6686

Opposite: Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian; seared scallops at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill; fresh seafood salad at EPCOT’s Tutto Italia Ristorante.

ing in a Canadian-style chateau with specialties like cheddar cheese soup made with Moosehead beer, bison as well as tofu, and variations of poutine, Canada’s famed French fry classic.

PHOTOS: Courtesy Walt Disney World


Monsieur Paul – Savor traditional

Tutto Italia Ristorante – Traditional

French cuisine at this gourmet dining pick in the French pavilion, a classic for a special occasion.

fare in Italy’s pavilion with an emphasis on pasta, seafood, steak and vegetarian options. For fine spirits, visit the pavilion’s Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar.

San Angel Inn – It’s said this romantic oasis is modeled after a 17th century hacienda at the base of Mayan ruins. Whatever the backstory, check out Mexican fare served under soft lights with a view of small boats (from the Three Caballeros ride) gliding by. After dinner, visit the pavilion’s La Cava del Tequila, with more than 100 choices of Mexico’s national drink.

MAGIC KINGDOM Be Our Guest Restaurant – While

The Hollywood Brown Derby – The

Magic Kingdom is the most kid-intensive park, this fanciful tribute to “Beauty and the Beast” is the most upscale choice, offering French-inspired cuisine. The castle-like setting is the only one that serves alcohol in the park. It’s tough to get a reservation for dinner at prime times, so book early.

park’s signature dining venue is a replica of the famed California restaurant. Expect American cuisine paired with classic cocktails.

More mouth-watering adult noshes with Universal Studios’ offerings on page 38 >>



ORLANDO EATS Clockwise from top left: The Cowfish’s “Burgushi” tops its eclectic sushi menu; Antojitos Authentic Mexican food offers adult-size fun; the food at Mythos is an art for all the senses.


(You can reserve seats in advance up to 30 days online through Universal at or by calling 407-224-3663.)

The lively restaurant boasts Mexican street faves found in carts and cantinas. The drink menu lists tequila, mezcal, beer and wine, and there’s live music. 6000 Universal Blvd., 407-224-3663

RESORT RESTAURANTS Bice Ristorante The sophisticated space offers Northern Italian cuisine and a big wine list. Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel, 5601 Universal Blvd., 407-503-1415

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop While the restaurant’s name refers to New Orleans’ Tchoupitoulas Street, the home of Emeril Lagasse’s flagship restaurant, the cuisine at this wildly colorful resort is a fusion of Asian and Polynesian flavors. Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort, 6300 Hollywood Way, 407-503-2467

The Palm Soak up the New York atmosphere and savor the big portions of beef and Nova Scotia lobster (plus Italian fare) at this handsome steakhouse decorated with caricatures like the Big Apple original. Hard Rock Hotel, 5800 Universal Blvd., 407-503-7256 38 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food

Cowfish The new, high-energy eatery is dubbed a “sushi burger bar” serving both items as well as the fusion, “Burgushi.” Burgushi choices are billed as sushi rolls that use burger components, and pick-up style sandwiches use sushi ingredients. The casual spot serves sake and martinis as well as milkshakes. 6000 Universal Blvd., 407-224-2275

Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando A longtime choice for grownups looking for a fine dining alternative, with Creole cuisine and a 12,000-bottle wine gallery, cigar bar and specialty cocktails, 407-224-2424

Vivo’s Italian Kitchen The chic, contemporary venue features traditional Italian vittles and vino in an open kitchen where you can watch cooks prepare house-made pasta and other dishes. 6000 Universal Blvd., 407- 224-4233

Restaurants are considered family-friendly but here are some highlights for adult diners. You can make reservations through Universal or independently at most sites.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS Finnegan’s Bar and Grill – Kick back in this Irish pub, which looks like it was plucked off the streets of New York, and grab plates of Gaelic favorites washed down with a swig of Guinness. 407-363-8757

Lombard’s – Universal Studios’ flagship restaurant aims to recreate San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Lombard’s specializes in seafood, but burgers, sandwiches and salads round out the menu. You can combine a visit to Lombard’s with a movie tribute as part Universal’s Cinematic Dining Experience. 407-224-6401

ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE Mythos – Located in the Lost Continent attraction, the popular restaurant looks like an ancient sea cavern. Enjoy outdoor seating with a view of the park’s lake. The blog rates Mythos a consistent winner for “some of the best food available in any theme park for the price.” 407-224-4012 ][

PHOTOS: Courtesy Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando




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Briefings from the Rotunda

Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee Attorneys Receive Recognition

Jesse Panuccio goes to Foley & Lardner JESSE PANUCCIO, FORMER HEAD OF THE STATE’S DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY (DEO), joined the Foley & Lardner law firm this spring. He’ll be based in South Florida and work out of Foley’s Miami and Washington, D.C. offices. Panuccio, a magna cum laude Harvard Law grad, is now a partner and has a regulatory and appellate practice consisting of high-stakes litigation. “My departure (from DEO) was about my career,” Panuccio told INFLUENCE, saying he had “achieved much of what I wanted to do” at the agency. “I’m excited to return to the private sector,” he added. “That was the plan all the time, but the governor kept giving me great opportunities, and I kept taking them … Now I’m going to apply everything I learned about government and our economy in Florida to help clients with difficult issues.” Panuccio was picked by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013 to run Florida’s jobs agency. He also has served as Scott’s general counsel.


(Clockwise from top left): Barry Richards, Fred Karlinsky, Michael Cherniga, Michael Moody and Fred Baggett

PHOTOS: Courtesy Greenberg Traurig and Foley & Larnder


ive Greenberg Traurig attorneys in Tallahassee have been “recognized as being among the top attorneys in their practice areas in the state for 2016,” the firm tells INFLUENCE. Barry Richards, Fred Karlinsky and Michael Cherniga were noted in the latest Chambers USA Guide, a London-based lawyer evaluation service. And Fred Baggett and Michael Moody won spots in Florida Super Lawyers, a rating service owned by Thomson Reuters. Richards is perhaps the best known, having successfully represented then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the Florida litigation over the contested 2000 presidential election. These days, he represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida in the fight against the state to keep offering blackjack at its casinos. Karlinsky, who has close ties to Gov. Rick Scott, co-chairs the firm’s Insurance Regulatory & Transactions Practice. He’s well-known around the Capitol, with more than 20 years of experience. Cherniga, co-chair of the firm’s Health & FDA Business Practice, has long represented health care organizations and professionals. Baggett, the Tallahassee office’s managing shareholder, has 30-plus years of experience in a range of business and government cases, and statutory creation. Finally, Moody focuses his practice on complex business litigation in state and federal courts and in bankruptcy courts throughout the Southeast.

RFB Nikki Fried opens her own Fort Lauderdale practice

PHOTOS: Courtesy Karen Skyers and Nikki Fried

FAMU taps Karen Skyers as Distinguished Alumna LAWYER-LOBBYIST NICOLE “NIKKI” FRIED has left Colodny Fass to form her own South Florida influence shop. The new firm, called Igniting Florida, will be based in Fort Lauderdale. Fried now works in Sunrise. Fried, who’s become a go-to person in medical marijuana lobbying, will keep her clients. They include San Felasco Nurseries, the Gainesville-based grower that won an administrative challenge for a medical pot-growing permit. It was issued a license in April. This past session, she also helped get a bill (HB 307) passed that expands the state’s Right to Try Act to include medical marijuana. The expansion means terminally ill patients will be able to use medical marijuana during their final days. She also represents health care and insurance concerns, and The Florida Bar. In 2014, she received an award from The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee “for her leadership of the Florida’s Children First lobbying team,” according to her bio. She worked on passage of a bill “that provided $4.5 million in appropriations to ensure Florida’s disabled dependent children have access to lawyers,” the bio says. Fried now serves on the Bar’s Standing Committee on the Legal Needs of Children. The 38-year-old received her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Florida, where she was student body president, and a Hall of Fame and Blue Key member. Fried then got a master’s degree in political campaigning and law degree, also from UF. She currently serves on her alma mater’s Governmental Relations Advisory Committee.


ampa attorney Karen Skyers has been named a member of the “Distinguished Alumni” by the Florida A&M University College of Law. Skyers, now with the Government Law & Lobbying Practice Group at Becker & Poliakoff, received the award May 14. It “recognizes alumni who have excelled in the legal profession while contributing to the community and school,” according to a press release. She graduated from the law school in 2010. Skyers, who also speaks Spanish, was secretary of the Black Law Student Association and a leader in the Hispanic Law Student Association during her time at FAMU Law in Orlando. She was a legislative aide to state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, the Tampa Democrat who rose to serve as Senate minority caucus leader in 2014-16. Skyers later was a lobbyist for Southern Strategy Group. She is a former public defender for Hillsborough County and worked as a child protective investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families, according to Skyers’ bio. She also has interned for the federal Public Defender’s Office in Orlando, and at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C.



Briefings from the Rotunda

‘Good guy’ Bob Levy

was a well-respected mentor to many in the Process

lahassee and South Florida, finally lost his fight against cancer in April. He was 67, having just celebrated his birthday on March 27. Levy, president of Robert M. Levy & Associates, “worked as a political consultant and developed hundreds of campaigns since 1977,” his online bio says. He also mentored dozens over the years in “The Process,” with a devoted band of followers calling themselves “Levites.” Levy was known for his fondness for Ketel One vodka and hosting informal Sunday night dinners in Tallahassee. Tributes poured in to his Facebook page, including one from Cynthia Henderson, a current lobbyist and former state department head for Gov. Jeb Bush. “‘Lead by Example’ is what you look for in a mentor," she wrote. “Bob Levy was the most selfless giver I’ve ever met and he mentored so many people in the process. The world is truly a lesser place without him.” State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican, said in a text message that Levy “was one of the first people I met in Tallahassee. He was old school.” “He cared more about substantive discourse than about one-upping anyone in the process,” Diaz said. “He was one of the good guys.” “My heart is broken,” said state Rep.


“We support candidates on both sides of the aisle and try to not get bogged down in the politics of the process,” he told for a 2012 edition of The 4th Floor Files. When asked which professional accomplishment he was most proud of, he mentioned “the 1987 repeal of the Services Tax.” “It’s a fading memory for many, but I took six months of my life to co-chair the Sales Taxes Oppressing People campaign — STOP — and in that period succeeded in something not many people achieve in the

The world is better because Bob Levy made it so. — RON BILBAO Lobbyist Ron Bilbao called him “my boss, my mentor, my confidant, my friend.” “He believed in me when he took me on as a headstrong 17-year-old,” Bilbao said. “And he taught me how to be an ethical, honest, and hardworking lobbyist. “More than that, how to be a compassionate human being,” he added. “My life is fuller because Bob Levy came into it. The world is better because Bob Levy made it so.” For 2016, Levy was registered to lobby for 42 clients, including the Florida Movers & Warehousemen’s Association, Florida Nurses Association, Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts and even the National Guild of Hypnotists. He also represented an array of cultural and social interests, such as Miami’s Actor’s Playhouse; The Arc, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged. Levy focused on health care lobbying and campaigns of judicial candidates.

process — then and definitely not now,” he said. “We got the Legislature to stop and listen to the people and reverse their policy.” More recently, he was behind this year’s passage of a bill that allows physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners, or ARNPs, to prescribe certain drugs. The bill was fought by doctors for years. Levy was a Vietnam veteran and was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, The Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts, his bio says. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy and Penn State University. “I wouldn’t trade our client list for anyone’s — truthfully — because of the nature of our work,” Levy said in the 2012 interview. “Our clients become our friends and we work as closely as possible with them to achieve their goals," he said. “I’m very happy with those who have entrusted their fate in the process with our firm.”

PHOTO: Tim Chapman, courtesy Miami Herald

Robert M. “Bob” Levy, a longtime lobbyist and campaign consultant in Tal-

Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican. “Bob taught me so much about public service, and I will always credit him for any successes enjoyed in my professional life.” Raschein, who interned in his office as an undergraduate at Florida State, praised him for his “patient teaching, encouragement and belief in me.” “...So many of us who were blessed to work with him ... are so very sad, and will miss Bob so very much,” she said.

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Briefings from the Rotunda

Boyd Gaming cancels Florida lobbying contract B

oyd Gaming Corp., which bills itself as “one of the largest and most successful casino entertainment companies in the United States,” ended its relationship with its Tallahassee-based lobbyists. The casino company’s representation by The Mayernick Group was “canceled” back in July. Firm principal Frank Mayernick declined comment and Boyd spokesman David Strow did not respond to an email or phone call. Boyd has nine casinos in Las Vegas and 12 others across the South and Midwest, according to its website. More recently, it sold its stake in Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa to its partner, MGM Resorts International. It also once was part-owner of Dania Casino & Jai Alai in South Florida but sold its interest to a team of investors in

Argentina three years ago. Since then, Boyd had sought to put up a new casino adjacent to the Florida Panthers’ arena and at the Sawgrass Mills shopping center in Broward County. But Boyd needed state approval. And its plans, like other casino operators’, idled under a Legislature that historically has choked in the face of any gambling-related legislation. This year’s gambling overhaul bills, including renewal of a blackjack revenue-sharing agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, also died by the end of session. Another prominent operator, Las Vegas Sands Corp., last year gave up efforts to get a destination casino resort in Florida. It canceled its representation by lobbyist Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting in September.

Ethics Commission clears staff director for lobbying The Florida Commission on Ethics says

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a legislative bill drafting staff director isn’t covered by the state’s lobbying ban on some state workers. The commission approved a staff-written advisory opinion at its July meeting. Joseph Gillespie, the staff director of the House of Representatives Bill Drafting Service, requested the opinion the previous month. The office’s bill drafters write the first draft of bills for lawmakers to file. In a letter, Gillespie told the commission he “will be seeking positions that require me to represent other persons or entities before the Legislature and register as a legislative lobbyist.” State law, however, says certain state employees “may not personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the agency with which he or she was employed for a period of two years following vacation of position, unless employed by another agency of state government.” The opinion said the law includes only staff directors of legislative committees, party offices or those of the House Speaker’s Office or Senate President’s Office, so Gillespie isn’t bound by the two-year lobbying ban.


Paul Hawkes joins Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney’s lobbying team

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


obbyist and former appellate judge Paul Hawkes joined the Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney firm in Tallahassee this May, according to John “Mac” Stipanovich, head of the firm’s state government relations team. “Paul is an outstanding addition,” Stipanovich said. “We had been pursuing him for some time. No one in Tallahassee is smarter or more experienced in every form of government relations.” Hawkes has been a prosecutor, a GOP legislator for Citrus County, and a top aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush and two Republican House speakers, Dan Webster and Tom Feeney. He’s also a close friend of House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, the Land O’ Lakes Republican who takes the reins at the end of this year. Most recently, he was registered to lobby for a range of interests, including Duke Energy, the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges, the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Public Defender Association, and the Florida State University Foundation. He also represented The Stronach Group, which operates South Florida’s Gulfstream Park. Stipanovich said he will continue to represent all those clients. Online records show Hawkes reported his January-March 2016 compensation in the range of $100,000-$249,999. State law requires lobbyists to report revenue, but only requires them to do so in general ranges, not in precise amounts. “He is an outstanding attorney, has quality relationships in both chambers of the Legislature and has fine taste in courthouses,” Stipanovich added. Hawkes, as chief judge of the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal, had overseen the design and funding of a new $48 million home for the court that became the poster building for pre-Great Recession excess. Tampa Bay Times reporter Lucy Morgan doggedly began covering the courthouse saga in 2010, resulting in the edifice’s nickname, the “Taj Mahal.” Hawkes left the bench in January 2012 amid controversy surrounding his role in securing funding for the project. In an interview with INFLUENCE Magazine last year, Hawkes said the courthouse “doesn’t define what I do know. I would hopefully still be doing what I am right now.” SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 47


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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? My family, friends, and coworkers are the significant others at this point in my life. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Criminal justice reform advocate promoting policy that increases public safety for the citizens of Florida and provides offenders who’ve made mistakes with second chances in life. If you have one, what is your motto? “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.” — Alexandre Dumas. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? I’ve had the pleasure of working with a great Tallahassee-based nonprofit called Living Stones International. They are a faithbased outreach program that deals with the children and families of inmates and helps provide them with the tools necessary to reunite as a functional family unit.


Three favorite charities. St. Jude Children’s Hospital, The Boys and Girls Club, and Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.


because of the wide array of clients they represent, but also because of their civic engagement in the community through the organizations they represent. Like the late Fred Leonhardt, they are always giving back. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Being able to engage in my first “Client Graduation” and “Family Day” at Bridges of America. When people think of our offender populations, it is typically in a negative light where these individuals are viewed as lost causes. There’s nothing quite as inspiring as watching a man who came into prison at third-grade reading level, leave with a GED as his family watches on with pride and happiness. It’s as if all the mistakes they’ve ever made in their life cease to exist. It’s the power of redemption. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Pete Schorsch, Julie Brown, and Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald). These individuals report on issues that are difficult, hard-hitting, and not always the popular issues that people don’t want to read about, but need to read about. There’s integrity in covering the sort of subject matter that strikes a chord in those that read it. Other than, your reading list includes … Sayfie Review, Lobbytools, POLITICO, The Miami Herald, The Washington Post, and Florida Politics.

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? The issue of criminal justice reform being tackled by our legislators in the House and Senate. Having long been an ignored subject matter, there has been a huge shift in ideology at the state and federal level, and our legislators are beginning to realize the impact it has not only on our economy, but on our families as well. It always feels good to provide a voice for those populations often cast aside by society and I’m proud of where our state is going on this issue.

What is your most treasured possession? An original pair of glasses my grandmother used to wear. She was 93 years old when she passed away and raised me a big portion of my life. I think of all the remarkable history that was witnessed through those glasses and all the places they’ve been. They watched me grow up and are a part of my own history.

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be ... Rob Stuart, Chris Carmody, and Chris Dawson of GrayRobinson. Not just

If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Otto von Bismarck. I can’t think of many in the history of the world that operated with such political savvy and diplomacy.

You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Gov. Rick Scott, Commissioner Adam Putnam, Sen. Jack Latvala, and Speaker Richard Corcoran. When you pig out, what do you eat? Sushi and pizza. Sometimes together.


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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Married to my undisputed better half, Jamie, for 17 years. We are blessed with two healthy, well-rounded children, Jackson (12) and Ainsley (9). Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. True North then take a Right. If you have one, what is your motto? Life is Half-Full, Enjoy it! During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? From a pro bono standpoint, I have worked to help secure funding for the Ronald McDonald Houses across Florida and pass the optional tag and license renewal $1 donation checkoff. Great to help out all the RMH statewide; every little bit counts. Three favorite charities. Ronald McDonald House, TreeHouse and Big Dog Rescue. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? I like to wear a tie. Seems like many loosen up on the last day, but I find better results keeping buttoned up to the bitter end. I also wear a pink carnation in honor of Marvin Arrington.

Cameron Yarborough

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Well, having completed this past legislative session on time and with a balanced budget, I hope to continue the streak next year. Some comprehensive gaming strategy for the state would be nice … If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … Silly question. I’m assuming I don’t have to trade any of my A-List clients, but I would enjoy working with many of the Associated Industries of Florida’s member/client list. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of issues in just about every policy area. It’s rewarding when something you work for has an actual impact on Florida, and society as a whole. I have represented

pro-vaccine policy initiatives in Florida for many years and am proud to see my kids go in for a shot at the doctor’s office and know I helped the protection of my children against avoidable diseases, as well as preventing the spread to others with simply the prick of a needle. Nothing is more important than protecting our children, and this is a meaningful and personal contribution. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? What’s wrong with a nice Italian loafer? Duh. Yeah, I own some. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Gary Fineout. My impression is he does his homework and is not afraid to report the inside baseball of what really is happening. Other than, your reading list includes … Wake up with a morning dose of Sunburn (when you are not on a Disney cruise), next open up WSJ for my national headlines, followed by Sayfie Blog ticker and finally pepper in some Twitter throughout the day. What swear word do you use most often? Not sure it qualifies as a real word – “but-that’s-some-fraginackinbullshit” is in my rotation often. What is your most treasured possession? Not to sound cliché, but my family is by far my most prized possession. It is what matters most in life. The best hotel in Florida is … The Pearl, Rosemary Beach, Florida. Anywhere on 30-A is hard to beat. 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? Jeb Bush, Adam Putnam, Bob Buckhorn and Marian Johnson. When you pig out, what do you eat? Fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas and green beans cooked in bacon fat with a tall glass of whole milk — pure Southern goodness. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Machiavelli.


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FAN OF GOLF, GOOD WORKS AND THE BIG GREEN EGG Significant other? Children? Kristin – Bride of 10 years; three daughters, Georgia Kate (7), Pearce (4), and Parker (1). In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Navigate government at all levels. Advocate for clients and their priorities. Develop, build, and sustain meaningful relationships with decision makers. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I lean to the right, but believe government has the ability (and responsibility) to do great things for people and can/should positively impact quality of life, business climate, infrastructure investment, and those who need a hand. If you have one, what is your motto? Don’t guess. Do the necessary research/work to make sure you know what you’re talking about and are always providing accurate information.

Robert F. Stuart, Jr.

During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? While not a client, per se, my father committed his life and career to ministry 20 years ago by becoming the Executive Director of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida. This ministry, supported by hundreds of local churches of all denominations, exists to serve “the least of these” and provide hope and support to the broken in our community. I am so proud of his work and have loved being a small part of it.

PHOTO: Daniel Reinecke

Three favorite charities. The Christian Service Center for Central Florida, Bridges International and Florida Citrus Sports. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Hurry home to my wife and kids! What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? The pace, and the opportunity. I love the energy and craziness of

the Session, and how every year brings a (more or less) clean slate and fresh start for our clients. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … Wouldn’t trade the wonderful folks I get to work with for anything. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Sunrail. It was early in my career, and I was part of a large and talented group of advocates, but I learned an immeasurable amount about the process during that effort and the project itself had (and will continue to have) a transformational impact on our community. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No Gucci loafers for this guy. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Fineout … budget savant. Other than, your reading list includes … Marc Caputo and Mike Allen’s morning playbooks. Also my 7-year-old and I have been on a run of Star Wars books lately. Collective nerd level is high. What swear word do you use most often? (Pass) What is your most treasured possession? My golf clubs and Big Green Egg. The best hotel in Florida is … Waldorf in Orlando is amazing, and GM of whole Bonnet Creek property, Peter Kacheris, is one of my favorite people. 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? My uncle (former State Senator and 1990 Gubernatorial Candidate) George Stuart, Charlie Gray, Jeb!, and Bob Graham. Favorite movie. Caddyshack. So I got that going for me … which is nice. When you pig out, what do you eat? Something smoked in the aforementioned Egg. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? JFK SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 59

FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Grandkids? Married to Kory Thibodaux for 16 years. I have the best of both worlds — son, Drew, 12, and daughter, Kaitlyn, 9. Also have an 18-month-old yellow lab, Boudreaux. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. While day-to-day can be very different, generally I am a problem solver. I look for solutions both proactively (and sometimes reactively) to clear away hurdles and help our business succeed. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. From an economic perspective, I believe it is key for government to create an environment where businesses grow and prosper. I also believe in personal responsibility and government’s role to support the private sector to provide resources and assistance to those in need. If you have one, what is your motto? I don’t have a motto, but my grandmother always said that “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” and that has resonated with me and as a lobbyist; it probably rings true. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? I have always been on the corporate side of government relations, but have utilized my skills through board service with not-for-profit entities to provide guidance by navigating through challenging legislative/regulatory processes.

Beth Thibodaux PHOTO: Daniel Reinecke


Three favorite charities. SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Canine Companions for Independence, and Healthy Start. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Hopefully my issues are wrapped up before the last day and I’m back in Orlando! If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … I’m pretty happy where I am. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? It is hard to single out one example, however I am proud that I have had the opportunity to build my career in Orlando over the past 17 years and have worked for leading companies within

various industries, including health care, hospitality, and tourism. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No Gucci loafers or Gucci heels for that matter … However, if I do decide to splurge, my weakness is on a good bag. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corp reporter and why? I don’t have one favorite, I tend to follow and read them all. Other than, your reading list includes … POLITICO Florida, Sayfie, Texas Tribune — and associated news clippings. If I’ve had my fill of political news, I will typically grab novels from the best seller list. I wish I had more time to read — it is one of my favorite things to do! What swear word do you use most often? I seldom swear when I am around others … However, if I do, it will tend to be situationally specific so my choice will vary (and most likely when I am driving). What is your most treasured possession? My family. The best hotel in Florida is … My favorite spot in Florida is North Capitva Island. Can only get there by boat and once there, you feel completely separate from the rest of the world (and the Florida mainland!) You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Gov. Rick Scott and former Florida governors Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist, and Bob Martinez. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Amelia Earhart. I would love to find out what gave her the drive and fearlessness to push herself to do something no other woman had done before in such an untested and dangerous field. That type of drive and ambition is inspiring. Favorite movie? Favorite TV show? “Steel Magnolias.” By far “VEEP” — it literally makes me laugh out loud. When you pig out, what do you eat? Any authentic Cajun food, which I can’t find enough of in Florida.


What’s in a Name? Everything.

Character I Respect I Influence

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The AIF lobbying team is well recognized as the most powerful and influential voice advocating for the state’s business community. Ethical, experienced and well connected—Florida’s decision makers know they can trust our word, our actions, our people. Led by former Speaker of the Florida House and Congressman Tom Feeney, along with the most talented lobby team in Florida, AIF can help your company achieve a greater level of success in the State Capitol. Tools of AIF: • State & Federal Legislative Advocacy • Legislative Session Issue Briefing • Issue Advocacy Campaigns; Statewide & Local • Industry Centric Council Advocacy • Issue & Campaign Related Polling; Statewide & Local • Political Candidate Interviews • Issue Oriented Focus Groups • Business Centric Publications • Issue Based Statewide Conferences To become a member or for more information, please contact Brewster Bevis, Senior Vice President–State and Federal Affairs at 850.224.7173 or

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{ insiders’ ADVICE

Hanging On by a Line steven vancore assures us that the art of the poll is alive and well IS POLLING DEAD? “Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio…” In this classic Shakespeare scene, Hamlet reflects on life and death as he looks back on an easier and more joyful time. He holds aloft the skull of his friend and court jester, Yorick, who provided him with levity and companionship during his youth. In much the same way, many pollsters are now reflecting on a time when finding a random and representative sample was so much easier and respondents were so much more cooperative. While the general public — especially those poor unfortunate likely-primary-voting souls who were called ceaselessly during the summer — wishes that the madness would stop and they could hold up the skull of every caller who intruded on their family dinners. Yet the polls, and the annoying calls, continue and they do so for two specific reasons. First, the public — yes that same skull-wielding public — loves reading about polls. “Who’s ahead?” “Who’s behind?” “Is my candidate winning?” That is why many daily newspapers and TV news outlets report and even conduct their own polls. The public loves knowing the score. Second, those who run campaigns for a


living simply must know what is happening in the electorate in order to make key strategic decisions. “Who to target?” “What messages work?” “How does a new attack play among likely voters?” But here’s the problem and why the demise of polling will remain part of the discussion. Polling is far more difficult than ever. With higher respondent resistance, avoidance technologies and the widespread use of cell phones, coupled with the dwindling use of landlines, pollsters — good, high quality pollsters — are engaged in an arms race of sorts with their audiences. The techniques and tools necessary to complete a usable document simply must be more sophisticated in their modeling and pollsters must take extra pains to ensure that the people they are talking to are the right people. And there lies the rub. When news outlets release made-for-​ public-consumption polls, we see ridiculously wide variation in the results. These polls often trumpet unrealistic swings in voter opinion, which makes no sense. What makes sense and is so important to understand is that voters aren’t swinging back and forth on a weekly basis. Different pollsters — especially those who are cutting

costs — use different techniques to create a made-for-prime-time report. Some of these made-for-public-consumption polls will talk to any random person who answers a phone; some only speak with likely voters, while others make no serious attempt to make the sample even marginally resemble the electorate. The end result and the wide swings diminishes the public’s faith in these results and they openly question the validity of ALL polls. So where does that leave us? Readers of this magazine love to consume polling data. But in reading the latest front-page polling report — especially if the poll was conducted by and/or for a media outlet — you simply must treat it like the eye candy that it is. Keep it in context and consider it for entertainment value only. But also know that real polling, the kind most people will never see in a news outlet, will carry on … more complex, more difficult and more exacting than it has ever been. Put the skull away. Polling is changing, but make no mistake, it lives on. Steven Vancore is president of ClearView Research, a political polling and research firm in Tallahassee. Steve has been conducting polls, focus groups and related research projects in Florida for nearly three decades. He can be reached at

{ insiders’ ADVICE

Going for Gold blake dowling wonders, Is the next Apple hatching at Orlando’s Technology Incubator?


client loaned me a book the other day — “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. WOW. I have never understood these Mac disciples, and their worshiping of all things Jobs. I have a small idea now. I even found myself watching Steve introducing the Mac in the ’80s on YouTube clips. And then the legendary “1984” Super Bowl ad, featuring a dystopian world of sameness about to be shattered by the advent of the Macintosh. The Apple Board shot it down — but the Woz (co-founder Steve Wozinak) and Jobs said “Let’s do it anyway.” It’s been called the best commercial of all time. Regarding Apple worship, I’m in … sort of. I also love my new Windows Latitude 2-in-1 tablet (writing this column on it). So I’m in, but keeping the Kool Aid on the shelf.

Ole Steven was a hoot. In his formative years creating Apple, he didn’t shower or wear shoes, spent seven months in India walking around, hung out in an Apple orchard (that’s where the name came from) worked at Atari (they made him work the night shift because he was such an ass and smelled bad.) Atari was just blowing up thanks to Pong, and Steve had a home there. One of the best parts of the story were his adventures at Reed College. He told the dean he just wanted to hang out, not pay tuition anymore and audit classes (like calligraphy, which led to all the font choice we have in computers, now by the way). The dean said sure. (Why was this dean not at UF in the early ’90s when I just wanted to hang out and study sororities, bands and Keystone Light?) The book paints a picture of a not-so-nice man by most accounts. However, I was talking to the CEO of Just Born Quality Confections in D.C., David Shaffer, (they make Peeps, Hot Tamales, and Mike and Ike candies). His son worked at Apple for a while and he said Jobs was nothing but awesome to his son. So, as usual, there are always two sides to every story. Moving on, I was a speaker at the Orlando Sentinel’s Cyber Threat Conference hosted at Canvs, a technology incubator in

downtown Orlando. What is an incubator program? A business incubator in business-speak is a company that helps new and startup companies develop by providing services such as management training or office space. Business incubators differ from research and technology parks in their dedication to startup and early-stage companies. You may have a preconceived notion of hipsters vaping in T-shirts with blazing logos of gas stations and cartoon characters. Well, you aren’t wrong, but that’s only a small percentage of the incubator crowd. I’ve spent some time at the incubator program in my Tallahassee hood, Domi Station, and Micah and his crew have a first-class setup, giving young and old entrepreneurs a place to set up shop and get their ideas off the ground without having to worry about finding an office, etc. Canvs is unique in that it’s located in the heart of Central Florida’s coolest entertainment district, downtown Orlando. Canvs is hosting up to 50 companies and it is an exciting home for start-ups and some established businesses. So are you wondering why I was rambling about my majestic, narrow-minded selections in literature? Consider this: What if the Woz and Jobs had an incubator instead of sitting in the garage? They could have gotten that Apple 1 launched faster and not have had to hassle their parents with their shenanigans. The incubator scene in Orlando is cool, I had an absolute blast visiting with the neat and interesting personalities and characters that came to hear what we had to say. We had an excellent discussion on cybercrime and from audience members across Central Florida. If there were incubator programs back in the day, consider how many more innovators like Apple might be around today. I think the idea of the community, government and private industry all partnering together for the good of innovation is awesome. Congrats to organizations like Domi and Canvs for leading the charge. Blake Dowling is CEO for Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee, and he writes columns for several organizations. You can contact him at dowlingb@


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noreen fenner explains the benefits and potential pitfalls of pooling resources in a political committee


olitical committee here. Political committee there. Political committees everywhere. Everyone has one. At least one. Often referred to as PACs, Florida’s state political committees (PCs) connected to candidates are so popular they are siphoning contributions away from major political parties in unprecedented amounts. In 2013, the Florida Legislature passed a sweeping rewrite of Florida’s campaign finance laws, due in part to spending habits enjoyed by some committees of continuous existence (CCEs). They outlawed CCEs and stepped up transparency and the frequency of report filing. In addition, the Florida Division of Elections is taking a much more active role in compliance matters, now conducting audits of all reports filed. As you can imagine, this reverberated throughout the political world. However, this move did not curb the ability of organizations to raise and spend large sums of money. Gov. Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” is the big fish, with $52 million collected. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has quickly amassed $5 million in political committee contributions, ostensibly to be utilized in his 2018 run for governor. Florida Senate and House leadership have done well on the PC fundraising trail, too. While the Senate president war was waged between Joe Negron, the ultimate winner,

Crowd Sourcing

and Jack Latvala, each raised millions of dollars for their PCs. Speaker Steve Crisafulli has raised more than $1 million into a new political committee in less than a year, while incoming Speaker Richard Corcoran has raised $2 million into his PC. As unlimited money flows into PCs, messaging and campaign contributions flow out. While there are limits on how much can be contributed to candidate accounts, there are no such contribution limits from a PC to political parties, other political committees and electioneering communications organizations. The doling out of unlimited funds gives PCs a powerful purse to support or oppose myriad candidates and issues. Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as saying “Hey, let’s all pool our money into one account and start writing checks!” Internal Revenue Service regulations and Florida campaign finance laws abound. PCs are required to regularly report to filing officers and, in some cases, file tax returns. Fines can accumulate quickly if reports are filed late — such as a 35 percent tax penalty from the IRS or up to $500 per day from the state filing officer. In Florida, we see violations like this, and far worse, all too often. A seemingly innocent late-filed or unfiled report can result in automatic fines reaching into the thousands of dollars. Even small PCs with

limited activity have been fined the maximum allowed by Florida Statutes. For example, a late-filed report with $10,000 in contributions or expenditures can carry a fine of up to $2,500. Political committees are also under the jurisdiction of the Florida Elections Commission (FEC). FEC staff can use its subpoena power to investigate alleged violations, which carry fines of up to $1,000 per count and include everything from missing or incorrect disclaimers to misuse of PC funds. The FEC has handed down jaw-dropping fines over the years; some reaching into the tens, and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even with these hoops to jump through, political committees are well worth the time and effort. The ability to shout your message louder than the guy next to you can be greatly enhanced with the help of a well-managed political committee. After all, it is working for 900 other groups, with more on the way.

Noreen Fenner is president of PAC Financial Management, a Tallahassee-based campaign finance management firm, specializing in establishing, maintaining, and reporting for Florida candidate campaigns and political committees of all sizes. For additional information, please visit



FEARLESS FORTITUDE An instinctive and innate desire to achieve victory that escalates intensely when confronted with seemingly insurmountable odds.

Vaulting from #25 to #10” in a single quarter –

And there’s no end in sight. Our Tallahassee office doubled in size this year creating a venerable Who’s Who List of former state administrative department heads, governors’ chiefs of staff, agency heads and even presidential advisors. We counsel and lobby for clients in every major Florida city as well as nationally. F O RT L A U D E R D A L E | F O RT M Y E R S | J A C K S O N V I L L E | M I A M I | TA L L A H A S S E E | TA M PA Calif or n ia | C ol orad o | Del aware | Flori da | N ew Je r se y | Ne w Yo r k | No r th Ca ro lina | Pe nnsylva nia | Virg inia | Wa shing ton, DC



PHOTO: Bigstock


When it comes to influence,

it’s hard to ignore Florida. The third most-populous state in the nation attracts tourists, retirees, conventions, and the occasional weird criminal. Even with all the attention the Sunshine State gets, when it comes to presidential politics, the focus is white-hot on one area in particular — Central Florida. So, during this election season, INFLUENCE Magazine thought it might be timely to join the other 66 million(ish) tourists and make a visit in and around Orlando. We assigned stories about political trends (think blue-ish), local politicians, the area’s growing Hispanic influence, disruptive industries, the massive tourism tax revenues … And then, Pulse happened. Every story had to be revisited; so much had changed. And yet, somehow, what seemed an unrelieved tragedy shifted to another story — one of heroics, leadership, kindness, grace, and generosity. Orlando and its environs was changed, obviously, but a fine spirit came to the fore, captured in the hashtag #OrlandoStrong. The stories in this section are different than what might have originally been written, but they give us an even truer vision of the vibrancy and soul of Central Florida.


Orlando UNITED On June 12, 2016, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando gained international attention as it was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the events of September 11, 2001. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 injured. The world embraced the Pulse tragedy and its victims through hundreds of public vigils, memorials and shows of unity and acceptance. These are just a few examples of the how the event reinforced Orlando and Central Florida as the epicenter of love and joie de vivre.


PHOTOS: (Background) David Michael Kabot/Flickr; (top to bottom) 1, 2, 5, 6: WalterPro4755/Flickr; 3: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr; 4: ironypoisoning/Flickr;






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The Green in Orange County When the tourism tax take tops $225 million, it’s a sure bet local pols and power players will butt heads about where and how the money is spent BY SCOTT POWERS

PHOTO: Bill Morrow/Flickr


o one in Orange County could ever have imagined in 2006 that the vote they were about to take, to increase the county’s tourism development tax and redistribute it to some then-controversial purposes, would one day become critical in binding the region’s deepest wounds — and in binding the community. But there it is. In the days following Orlando’s darkest moment, in June, when Omar Mateen killed 49 and wounded 53 in the Pulse nightclub, it was the tourist tax that provided the venues for Orlando, Orange County and all of Central Florida to come together to grieve and heal and unite. The Amway Center, built with that tourist money for the city’s NBA basketball team, the Orlando Magic, concerts and other entertainment, served as the site for President Barack Obama’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s private expressions of

sympathy to the survivors and families of the Pulse nightclub massacre. The Camping World Stadium (formerly known as the Florida Citrus Bowl,) — overhauled, expanded and modernized with that tourist money for football, soccer, tractor pulls and stadium rock — became the home of the city’s relief efforts for hundreds of family members of the dead and wounded. And the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, built with that tourist money for Broadway plays and other cultural performances, became the hallowed ground where Orlando’s LGBT community and greater community came together to hold hands in grief, remembrance, love and unity, hosting several vigils and accepting thousands of hand-delivered, anonymous tributes. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs thinks back to her vote in 2006 as a county commissioner, and she all but shudders at the thought that she was the swing vote deciding to use the tax to build the venues, and could have voted to kill them. She also thinks back to her attendance at a vigil inside the performing arts center a week after the Pulse massacre. Jacobs recalls it as the moment that she realized, as a human being, she personally needed some healing, and was finding a start there that night, perhaps along with everyone else there.

“When I sat there and just took in the support from this community, I realized if we didn’t have places for the community to come together, we wouldn’t have community,” she said. Not bad for a tax that had — still has — the power to divide the most powerful players in Orlando politics. As recently as April, Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer found themselves on harshly opposing sides of a new plan to allocate the proceeds. As recently as June, Jacobs found herself in a bitter, name-calling fight with the man sometimes referred to as the Mayor of I-Drive, hotel magnate Harris Rosen. And, two weeks later, Jacobs was winning a hard-fought victory, re-establishing herself as the one in most control of the tax, yet still a long way from resolving powerful disagreements with Dyer and other tourism interests. After all, it’s a tourism tax — 6 percent on all hotel room bills in Orange County. Historically, and still in many ways, its aim is to promote tourism. Cases can and are made that Orlando’s arena, performing arts center, and especially the stadium add to the tourism draw. But those arguments are justifications for what everyone knows are really venues built for the community, not the tourists. That tax’s power comes from its unmatched bounty in Orange County, which SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 81


hosts 66 million visitors a year and lays claim to being the world’s greatest tourist mecca. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2015, the next biggest Florida county’s tourist tax take was Miami-Dade’s, at $54 million. Broward County brought in $51 million. Osceola County collected $40 million; Monroe County, $38 million; and Pinellas County, $33 million. Orange County collected $201 million that year, and is expecting far more this year, $226 million. Combined, those next-five tourism counties barely collect as much tax as Orange. “When you compare it to other jurisdictions around the state, it seems almost mind-boggling,” Jacobs said. Much of Orange County’s bed tax’s uses are locked in state law, and in the contracts with voters that Orange County used as ballot questions. The first four cents have a prescribed set of uses, chiefly tourism promotion and convention center capital and operations, and to support tourism marketing, through the Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau, known publicly as Visit Orlando. The fifth cent has a prescribed set of uses, adding sports facilities to the first four cents’ list. And the sixth cent has its own prescribed set of uses, just the convention center and professional sports facilities. Where there is overflow, priorities are set. “We called it cascading buckets,” said former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, who was in office in 2006 when the tax was expanded. “The first bucket is the convention center … a lot of money is gone up front.” But already there is money threatening to trickle out of the bottom bucket. The tax is growing, by 12 percent this year, by a projected 8 percent next year, and by 4 percent in coming years. More cash is pouring in. Orange County also had planned to throw $20 million toward a soccer stadium, and that plan was cancelled last year when the state refused to match the local tax, leading Orlando City Soccer’s leaders to say: To heck with it, we’ll build our own stadium without public money. So that money’s available, too. And that excess money will overflow in a big way, soon enough. The venues’ money is tied up in paying off bonds. Those bonds will be paid off in the early 2020s. By 2024, there could be $100 million unencumbered. Annually. “Anytime there’s a big pot of money, 82 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

The Orlando Science Center (top) features interactive exhibits for all ages; the Amway Center’s rooftop area (center) imparts an urban vibe to the Vacation Captial’s home court for the Orlando Magic (right).

there’s competing interests for that money… When you have competing interests, you can see some political, contested discussions,” said lawyer/lobbyist Angel de la Portilla, whose clients include Rosen, the biggest critic of the county’s recent use of the tourism tax, as well as numerous other businesses along the International Drive corridor that wants, first and foremost, investment in the convention center. Distinct from the I-Drive interests, Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association have always seen the tourism marketing purpose as the big benefactor of the tax. It should promote Central Florida tourism, keeping those scores of millions of people coming to the theme parks and Orlando’s other attractions, and staying in the hotels that collect the tax in the first place. In one of the more remarkable political achievements in the city’s history, in the tourism development tax expansion talks in 2006, Dyer and Crotty convinced those four interests a vibrant downtown Orlando was needed as well, said Richard Foglesong, a political science professor at Rollins College, political analyst for WFTV Channel 9 news, and author of a seminal book about tourism politics in Central Florida, “Married to the Mouse.”

The opportunities to take more steps toward giving Orlando a full set of world-class amenities were too good to pass up. World-class amenities help make a world-class city. A world-class city is one more draw for a world-class tourism market. Let’s get it done, Buddy Dyer argued. Put on the gas.

Recognizing there are opportunities and needs now, in April Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and the hotel association pitched an ambitious plan to take care of unfinished business, immediately. Build the stalled Phase II of the Doctor Phillips Performing Arts Center. Give Camping World Stadium the money its backers had originally expected in the 2006 deal, for other upgrades that were shelved. Provide a pot of money for the Central Florida Sports Commission to bid on sports events, much like the $1 million a year, for three years, that Florida Citrus Sports got in an emergency vote last spring to attract the NFL’s Pro Bowl all-star game to Camping World Stadium. Provide robust tax-backing for the Orlando Ballet, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orlando Science Center and other cultural institutions. And set aside another $1 million a year for future improvements for the Big Three venues, Dr. Phillips, Camping World Stadium and Amway Center. “To meet our community’s goals of enhancing our world-class arts facility and competing for national and international sports and entertainment events, the tourism industry has developed a strategy and recommendation for future funding of organizations and facilities that drives tourism to Orange County,” argued Richard

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Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. Dyer quickly signed on. Orlando, as a player and the primary coordinator of the region’s interests, wants the investments to be in Orlando. With the growing tax, with the deletion of the planned-for soccer stadium debt, and with the anticipated revenues, all of this — more than $100 million — could be added to the Big Three venues’ package. And the tourism development tax revenue still could pay off all the bonds by 2024. The opportunities to take more steps toward giving Orlando a full set of world-class amenities were too good to pass up. World-class amenities help make a world-class city. A world-class city is one more draw for a world-class tourism market. Let’s get it done, Dyer argued. Put on the gas. Jacobs pumped the brakes. The plan had no details, she charged. It needed, she argued, careful analysis — by her staff, and by Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie’s, not others. Today’s rosy growth projections may be just another unexpected economic downturn away from being disastrously wrong. The risks of committing so much money could even endanger the top buckets, the convention center and Visit Orlando, she cautioned. Rosen, who owns seven hotels in the convention center area, expressed outrage at the April plan. None of the things on the list are technically tourism investments. For better or worse, tourism is Orange County’s economic engine, employing tens of thousands of people just in the hotels. The hotel tax should first and foremost be used to assure their economic security, he argued, not diverted to downtown Orlando. The International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce, often a Rosen compatriot, and for many huge hotels in the I-Drive area a rival organization to the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, stuck to its preference that future investment focus on the top bucket, the Orange County Convention Center, and plans to expand it again. And for a long time there has been another current of thought in Orange County, raised this year by at least a couple of candidates for the Orange County Board of Commissioners, that the tourism tax could be used for even greater needs. Tourists bring traffic. They put burdens on all civic services including law enforcement. Why not petition to do what is done in some other places nationally, and peel off a few of those tourist tax dollars to help support 84 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

those other services? “To me, it’s like everybody against Orange County,” Foglesong said. The stakes are high, as far as the region’s tourism industry is concerned. Orlando sits well. But the competition is fierce. There’s head-to-head competition with Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and in the next tier — San Francisco, New Orleans, San Antonio, Seattle, Atlanta, and a hundred other American cities. But that’s only the American side. “We’re a global destination. We’re really competing with other countries,” said Visit Orlando President George Aguel. And Orlando knows too well what happens when an economic downturn — or even a hiccup — hits. That lesson came not in the Great Recession of 2008, but in the months following Sept. 11, 2001, when the global tourism market nosedived. That, as much as anything, led to an unheralded part of the 2006 tourism development tax deal that also built the Big Three Venues: half of the new, sixth cent was dedicated to Visit Orlando. So as the Great Recession hit, Orlando’s tourism fell again. But perhaps not as much as might have happened, Aguel argued, because that extra tax revenue kept the marketing program robust. Orlando took advantage of competing cities’ declines. “Looking back now, we say, ‘Thank goodness,’” Aguel said. And looking forward? Looking forward, the tourism industry wants to keep that money flowing.

that’s been beneficial. And I understand why the tourism feels a sense of ownership, because they were also supportive of creating it with an expected purpose.” “I understand that. I understand. I just don’t technically think it’s their dollars that are collected from the visitors that come here,” she concluded. Legally, she’s right, which is why all the other players have targeted Jacobs. If she, or some future Orange County mayor says no, and the commissioners don’t override, or if she says yes, and the commissioners agree, there’s really not much anyone else can do about it. And that brings Orange County and Orlando to this year’s current fight. An effort pushed by Rosen, the I-Drive chamber, (and initially also Maladecki and other tourism leaders) would have Orange County lock in a process that would make it very difficult and very deliberative for anyone to make any changes in how the tourist tax money is spent. The initial proposal was to lock such a plan into the Orange County Charter, via a county-wide vote in November. That would have set the process in stone, Rosen told Jacobs in June, so that “you guys can’t be destructive … you guys can’t mess it up.” It wasn’t necessarily personal, de la Portilla argued. With term limits, neither Jacobs nor any of today’s commissioners will be in their current posts when 2024 rolls around. What happens this year is their policy. What happens eight years

“Those are taxes. Those are collected from our visitors who come here. ... I think legislatively there are limitations on what we can do with the money. But they still are public funds. Who do they belong to? They belong to the public.” —TERESA JACOBS, ORLANDO MAYOR But whose money is it anyway? “It’s Orange County’s tax,” Foglesong said. “There is a difference of opinion on this one,” Jacobs conceded. “A lot of the tourism industry, and certain people in particular that I won’t mention by name (Rosen undoubtedly in her mind chief among them) definitely see it as theirs. “Those are taxes. Those are collected from our visitors who come here. Those are public funds,” Jacobs contended. “And I think legislatively there are limitations on what we can do with the money. But they still are public funds. Who do they belong to? They belong to the public. But who controls them is the Board of County Commissioners. And I think over the years Orange County has been pretty good stewards. We’re conservative and I think

from now will be someone else’s. But in a bitter tug-of-war at the Orange County Charter Review Commission, Jacobs ultimately defeated Rosen and the charter amendment idea was killed. The alternative, which Jacobs wanted all along and Rosen and the I-Drive chamber now back, is to set the process in county ordinance. So Jacobs set out to develop that new law. In the meantime, Jacobs told Maladecki, Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Dyer and others backing the April spending plan, everything else will have to wait until that ordinance is developed through a long, careful process of public hearings. Maybe November it’ll be ready. Maybe December. Maybe after that it’ll be time to debate actual changes in how the money is spent. Let the next rounds of battles begin. ][


Demographics + Democrats The changing faces of Orange County means a political shift from reliably Republican voting patterns of the past BY DAN TRACY


rlando and surrounding Orange County were a reliable Republican bastion for decades, even when Florida and the Deep South were solidly Democratic. Led by largely conservative orange growers, cattle ranchers and small business types who relocated from the Midwest, metro Orlando voted Republican in every presidential election following Harry Truman’s upset of Thomas Dewey. Virtually everyone was a so-called Dixiecrat back then, even though they tended to the right with their politics and almost always went Republican when it came to the White House. Grace Chewning, who retired as Orlando’s city clerk in 2000 after 47 years at City Hall, said she registered as a Democrat when she first went to the ballot box. “You couldn’t vote otherwise,” recalled Chewning, who eventually switched her affiliation to Republican. But, starting in the mid-1990s, the pendulum started swinging toward the Democratic Party. The change was mostly a matter of demographics. More and more young people were moving to the area, drawn by the plethora of jobs offered by the burgeoning service industry catering to the tourists flying and driving into the area to visit Walt

Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and Sea World. At the same time, the minority population was growing, too, particularly Hispanics — led by an influx of Puerto Ricans leaving their island nation in search of work. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community increased as well. People under 30, minorities and LGBTs have trended Democrat for years. The result of the newcomer influx was that Bill Clinton barely lost Orange during the 1992 and 1996 elections, even though he took the White House comfortably both times. In 2000, Al Gore nudged past Republican George W. Bush, who also lost to John Kerry in 2004 during his successful re-election campaign. Barack Obama then took 59 percent of the vote in Orange during his two runs for the Oval Office, seemingly turning Orlando and Orange County solidly blue when it comes to national elections. But what about the future? Aubrey Jewett, who teaches political science at the University of Central Florida, sees more of the same. “It will be more Democratic,” predicted Jewett, who is researching a book about Florida politics. Orlando and Orange County, he said, are following the same trends as the rest

of the nation when it comes to the two major parties. As minorities grow in numbers across the country Democratic numbers are rising, while the Republican constituency is struggling to keep apace. Independents are up, too.

“Orange County has gotten incredibly diverse. That is great news for Democrats in Orange County, but discouraging news for Republicans.” —AUBREY JEWETT Pointing to U.S. Census data from 2000 to 2010, Jewett said, the Hispanic population in Orange grew more than 83 percent and African-Americans jumped 22 percent. The number of whites increased by just 2 percent. By 2020, the census projects, Hispanics will grow by another 44 percent in Orange, African-Americans by 43 percent and whites by 6 percent. Polling data indicates Hispanics are trending hard toward the Democratic Party, particularly this election cycle with Republican nominee Donald Trump campaigning against immigration and promising to build a wall along the border SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 85

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between the United States and Mexico. African-Americans, long a staple of Democratic support, seem to be sticking with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as well. And women tend to have a negative view of Trump, possibly pushing them toward Clinton, according to the polls. As of May (the most recent month available) almost 54 percent of the Orange electorate was female, according to the Orange supervisor of elections office.

Should all those trajectories hold true moving forward, Jewett said, “It (Orlando and Orange) would be bordering on overwhelming Democrat.” Party registrations in Orange, elections office statistics show, have been moving to the Democrats for nearly two decades. In 1996, Republicans outnumbered Democrats with 46 percent of the registrations to 40 percent, respectively. As of July, Democrats were at 42 percent, but Republicans had fallen to 28 percent — this as the region’s overall population has grown exponentially. There now are almost 307,000 Democrats registered in Orange, versus nearly 207,000 Republicans. Independents are closing in on Republicans with almost 199,000 registrants. Orange, according to the 2015 census, has 1.3 million residents, with Orlando checking in at almost 271,000. The 2000 census had Orange at more than 896,000 people, with Orlando at almost 193,000. As far as the local implications of the parties goes, most of the elections are nonpartisan, meaning candidate affiliation is not on the ballot. But most people know whether they are voting for Democrats or Republicans. Orlando’s elected officials are mostly Democrats, led by three-term incumbent Mayor Buddy Dyer. The Orange County Commission is largely Republican, led by two-term incumbent Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Seven of the county’s eight constitutional officers are Democrats.

That split largely mirrors the state and much of the nation, where Democrats tend to control the larger cities, while Republicans do well in the suburbs and rural areas. Long-time Democratic activist Doug Head of Orlando and Jewett said voting patterns in the City Beautiful and environs follow what happens nationally, too. In other words, Democrats turn out for presidential elections, but often stay home during the off years, when the more reliable older and whiter Republican base shows up. When Obama won in 2008, for example, 45 percent of the votes cast were by Democrats versus 33 percent for Republicans and 23 percent for Independents and other parties. In the 2010 midterms, 42 percent of the ballots were cast by Republicans, 41 percent Democrats and 17 percent others. During Obama’s re-election drive in 2012, 44 percent were Democrats, 33 percent Republicans and 23 percent others. As the election cycles indicate, an edge in registration numbers mean little if voters do not get out to the polls. Jewett said Democrats seem to need lots of ads and news coverage — like those generated during presidential years — to engage and vote. Tico Perez, an Orlando attorney and longtime Republican, takes solace in that pattern. “When they (Democrats) don’t have somebody quality at the top of the ticket … Republicans fare very well,” he said. He also said the growing number of independents helps SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 87

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Republican candidates. He is confident of winning persuadable voters. “If it’s a battle of ideas, we win that battle,” Perez said.

Head said a big problem for area Democrats is they lack leadership. The head of the Orange County Democratic Party has changed almost yearly during the past decade. Current Democratic leader Juan Lopez did not return several calls seeking comments for this story. “Both parties have kind of lost their way for what they want to do,” Head said. Republicans, he said, are engaged in a fight between the established leaders and some grassroots members, such as the arch-conservative tea party. He said a similar fight could break out the more-established versus liberal branches of Orange Democrats. “You’ve got to listen to the people,” progressive activist Head said, contending greater Orlando Democrats identify too much with area business needs and not to more traditional party interests such as environmentalists and unions. Republican Perez said his party needs to improve the way they deliver their message, not necessarily the content.

“People want to hear the stories, hear the facts,” he said. “We need to tell the story better, in a more personal way.” As for Chewning, she has seen the shift from Democrat to Republican to Democrat again. “What goes around comes around,” she said. “The past is prologue.” ][ SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 89


A Force for Change

Business Force has evolved from focusing on political races into issues of importance to Central Florida, says CEO Robert Agrusa.

Coalition of Chambers is the voice of businesses large and small


ick a big Central Florida public meeting, any meeting — Orlando City Commission, Orange County Board of Commissioners, the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees, the Central Florida Expressway Authority, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard, Volusia or Polk counties. Look around the room. They’re there. In a rapidly growing greater-Orlando community where no single government entity controls much more than a small portion of the critical decisions that determine the minutiae and grand sweeps of Orlando’s future; in a region where some of the biggest business interests count their local employees in the tens of thousands and some have global presence, 90 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

Business Force is increasingly playing the role of broker. East Orange County development, the downtown Orlando UCF campus, the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center in Kissimmee, the Orange County tourism development tax. These are the kinds of issues that in the past had their backers and their lobbyists, and they still do. But now they also have a united front addressing the business community’s desires, and letting elected policymakers know they stand with them — or they might stand against them. “We’re evolving with the ever-changing times,” said Business Force Executive Director Robert Agrusa. “You had an organization in the past predominantly … weighing more into candidate endorsements and

those political races, and what I’ve gotten involved in much more since I came onboard is much more issue-oriented — certainly still involved in those political races, but much more locally focused races.” Business Force and its Business Force Political Action Committee are the lobbying force for the Central Florida Partnership, which for the past eight years has been an Orlando-led coalition of chambers of commerce throughout Central Florida, including those in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Polk, Brevard and Volusia counties. Through Business Force, the public policy messages of huge business interests such as Walt Disney World, Florida Hospital, Publix Supermarkets and Darden unite with those of hundreds of small businesses.

PHOTOS: Courtesy Business Force and Orange County Mayor’s office


In a rapidly growing greater-Orlando community where no single government entity controls much more than a small portion of the critical decisions that determine the minutiae and grand sweeps of Orlando’s future, Business Force has increasingly greater influence.

This spring Business Force also reached out beyond the Central Florida Partnership, inviting in participation from both the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida. There are others, and Agrusa said he will be reaching out to them. The Business Force Board of Directors reads like a who’s-who of Central Florida influence: Sharon Smoley of Walt Disney World, John McReynolds of Universal Orlando, Amanda Conochalla of Darden, Oscar Anderson, Pat Christiansen, Derek Bruce, Shannon Gravitte, Chris Carmody, Dana Loncar, Rusty Roberts and two dozen others. Individually, none of them is someone to be taken lightly. Together they may be a Central Florida influence Dream Team. “The idea is, we would be the advocacy arm of the chambers; we would have the ability to weigh in,” Agrusa said. The idea is not new, nor has it always operated smoothly. In 2012 Business Force’s predecessor, the Business Force Committee of Continuous Existence got involved with business efforts to block a citizen petition seeking to get Orange County to adopt a paid family sick time ordinance. The effort turned to political debacle when it was revealed that lobbyists were sending messages to Mayor Teresa Jacobs and members of the board of commissioners advising them how to vote. The controversy dragged on for more than a year, and it’s still a touchy subject with Jacobs, who fielded much of the political flak. But the ordinance was stopped. On the other side of that fight, and still on the other side of many disputes

(Top to bottom): Robert Agrusa and Craig Swygert; Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer lends star power to the Business Force image; Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs; L to R, Robert Agrusa, Michelle Strenth, Troy McNichols, and Derek Bruce.



involving Business Force, is a grassroots progressive group called Organize Now. It has no illusions about about the strength Business Force has developed. “I think they’re absolutely powerful. They’re the largest chamber in the entire state,” Organize Now President Stephanie Porta said of Business Force. “But I don’t think they’re wonderful. I think they’re big business power, right? If you want big, powerful business to be more powerful, then you go to Business Force. I think they hide behind a couple of small businesses, but they’re clearly fighting for the big corporations.” The counter, often organized by Organize Now or other grassroots in Orlando such as the East Of Econ group, together with groups such as the Sierra Club of Central Florida, bring petitions and passionate individuals. Business Force also has pushed — through the Orange County Charter Review Commission — to limit the power of citizen petitions. “It’s people power. It’s having people paying attention, and holding elected officials accountable to residents, the people, rather than the large special interests in

this town,” Porta said. “The majority of people in this town are not big businesses; the majority of people are workers, who are getting paid poverty wages to work for these corporations.” Agrusa shrugs at such criticism. It’s come before, and much of the previous controversy preceded him. While Business Force is going to be a force against such causes as minimum wage hikes and forced benefits, it has taken neutral or even quietly supportive positions on other social causes. “Wages, we’ve obviously weighed into that, not raising minimum wage, but to talking about other alternatives to create economic opportunities that would ultimately lift wages in this community,” he said. “We need to create the most pro-business economic climate that can exist in Central Florida.” The committee’s endorsements and campaign contributions have gone to candidates of both parties. Sure, as a business-oriented committee, it tends to support Republicans. Its first three endorsements this cycle were of state Reps. Rene Plasencia, Mike Miller and Bob Cortes, all generally moderate Republicans in swing districts, facing tough re-election prospects. But the group also has supported Democrats who generally have pro-business records even if they also support


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The committee’s endorsements and campaign contributions have gone to candidates of both parties ... moderate Republicans in swing districts ... but the group has also supported Democrats who generally have pro-business recrods, even if they also support many of the progressives’ causes.

many of the progressives’ causes, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, state Sens. Geraldine Thompson and Darren Soto, and Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington. One progressive cause Business Force helped champion was addressing homelessness. “When we vet these candidates we are not looking at anything beyond their positions on business and economic-related issues. Certainly, we have dug into some of the social issues, because there are economic impacts. For example, homelessness. In the past we heard it as a social issue, but we realized its actually cheaper and more effective to provide people with a home first, the housing-first model. We’ve been a model, really for the state of Florida in efforts to stop homelessness, especially chronic homelessness,” Agrusa said. Business Force also is trying to create its own generation of political leaders, through the The Central Florida Political Leadership Institute. The decidedly nonpartisan political campaign school with the unabashed pro-business agenda teaching prospective elective candidates, offers seminars in everything from fundraising and polling to using opposition research. Last year’s institute graduates include Peggy Choudhry, a Democrat and community activist running for Osceola County Commission this year; Roberto Baptiste, a U.S. Border Patrol agent who made an aborted run for Orange County sheriff; and Michelle Ertel, who is not running for anything, yet, but has long been at least as active in Seminole politics as her husband, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel. “I hope that by the end of this election cycle there will be somebody like Peggy Choudhry, who will be our success story,” he said. ][

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R y BY MITCH PER m o n co e ic tr n tourist-ce to Orlando’s n o ti p ru is d le bnb add a litt Uber and Air


Roger Chapin, vice president of Mears Transportation, which dominates the taxi and hired-car industry in Central Florida. He’s also the voice of the Florida Taxicab Association and one of Uber’s biggest antagonists in the state. No surprise: Uber’s the biggest threat to his business model.



... Gasoline vs Electric Uber vs Taxi Hotel vs Airbnb ... Change is the only constant in life.


rlando and its environs are no strangers to disruption. All you need to do is hearken back to October 1, 1971, when Disney World opened the gates to the Magic Kingdom — and EVERYTHING changed. Swampland, cattle pastures and orange groves have been transformed into the most-visited destination in the U.S., with a record 66 million tourists in 2015, Visit Orlando reported in May. Orlando is now the third largest metro area in Florida. While the word “disruption” wasn’t in the lexicon 45 years ago, it’s thrown around with abandon nowadays. And today, Orlando’s great disruption is getting a tech-based disruption of its own, particularly as it relates to “sharing economy” services such as Uber and Airbnb.

TOP PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson; OPENER ART (previous page): Andy Marlette

TAXIS VERSUS ‘THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT’ The worldwide phenomenon known as ridesharing came to Florida in Orlando in June of 2014, and — as has been the case in virtually every other community around the world — the clash between this dynamic new business model and age-old regulations hasn’t been smooth, to say the least. After several months of negotiations, the city and Uber announced they had reached a compromise in December 2014. Gone was an initial request/demand that Uber and Lyft would have to charge 25 percent more than regular taxis. In was the city’s decision to reduce the cost for vehicles-for-hire permits from $500 to $250. Subsequent negotiations led to the city agreeing to an Uber request to allow new applicants to fill out permit applications online, versus having the drivers make

their way to City Hall. But then Uber failed to follow through on what they had agreed to. “It’s kind of a lose-lose for the city,” says Roger Chapin, executive vice president of public affairs for Mears Transportation, the self-described “cornerstone of transportation” in the Central Florida region. “They said ‘we’ll lower the price (for

The worldwide phenomenon known as ridesharing came to Florida and the clash between this dynamic new business model and age-old regulations hasn’t been smooth, to say the least.

permits) and we’ll sign up twice as many drivers.’ Well, they lowered the price and Uber didn’t sign up any of the drivers online,” Chapin added. There were a few drivers, Orlando officials say, but Bryan Brooks, Orlando’s chief administrative officer, confesses that after all the time it took to negotiate the deal, the

lack of follow-through on Uber’s part was a disappointment. “We really went into it with good faith,” he maintains. “We’ve not gotten any evidence that they intend to comply with this.” Javi Correoso, Uber’s public affairs manager for Florida, would only say regarding this issue that negotiations are continuing between the two parties. Uber’s battles with the taxi industry and local governments in Florida has been well noted in recent years, and in July 2015 the company dropped out of the Broward County market after complaining of onerous regulations being placed upon them. As angry emails from Uber customers clogged their computers over the course of the next couple of months, and the county commission reversed course last October, allowing Uber and Lyft to self-regulate when it came to vetting drivers’ background and auto inspections. Subsequent deals came together earlier this year in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, but neither Uber nor Lyft have reached compliance agreements with Orlando/Orange County, Hillsborough County or Jacksonville. During the 2016 legislative session, Uber was aggressive in calling out Senate President Andy Gardiner as being the obstacle to any deal being sought. The company targeted the Orlando-based legislator in both digital and radio ads during the waning weeks of the session. They also employed old-fashioned daily mail inserts, calling on local residents to contact him to get behind a bill passed in the House by Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz that, among its other provisions, would pre-empt local governments like Orlando from creating any regulations when it SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 97


came to ridesharing companies. “It’s not hard to hold an up-or-down vote,” one web ad said. “There are only five days left in the 2016 session for the state Senate to vote on allowing all Floridians access to Uber. A bill that would do just that passed the House 108-10, but Senate President Gardiner is refusing to even let the Senate take a vote.” Uber officials also said Gardiner was ignoring the people of Florida at the bequest of “one special interest taxi company,” referring to Mears Transportation. Gardiner has been longtime friends with Paul Mears III, the company’s CEO. One mailer took a quote from the Orlando Sentinel from Paul Mears Jr. calling Uber “an existential threat to the legacy taxi industry, and from the Miami Herald, which noted that Mears Transportation has donated more than $150,000 to Gardiner and the Republican Party of Florida. Gardiner spokeswoman Katie Betta denied the Senate president was being an obstacle, saying that in fact there was no Senate companion to the Gaetz House bill. Although Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons was pushing a ridesharing bill in the Legislature’s upper chamber all session, that bill wasn’t technically related, Betta maintained, since it only addressed liability and insurance issues, not anything to do with pre-empting local governments of regulating the companies. The Florida Taxicab Association fought back, pushing out its own online digital ad that called Uber’s background check and insurance standards insufficient. While Uber’s negotiations have ebbed and flowed with the City of Orlando, it took a year before the company came into compliance with officials at Orlando International Airport, the 15th busiest airport in the nation. Orlando International charges taxis a $50 application fee, $3.15 per half-hour dwell time and $2.65 for each passenger picked up. But Uber X drivers in the summer and fall of 2014 picked up fares without paying those fees, prompting the airport to file a lawsuit against the San Francisco-based company after the Uber drivers had been flouting their rules and picking up fares there. “Guess what, Uber? You’re showing no respect for the people in this community by coming in and saying, ‘We don’t have to follow the law.’ Right, and if you want to come on our property, you will respect our region and community, and you will comply with the law,” Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher told WESH 2. 98 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

Over the last year, Airbnb has reached agreements with 27 counties and the State of Florida to begin collecting and remitting hotel taxes — the main source of friction with local governments. In October 2015 the company and the airport came to an agreement. UberBlack, the company’s more upscale product, was granted permission to pick up and drop passengers at the airport. UberX, the service that is most associated with the company, was not. With the Legislature not about to do anything regarding Transportation Network Companies until they convene again next spring, officials with Orlando and Uber say they both are looking forward to resuming negotiations. In the meantime, the Orlando suburb of Altamonte Springs became the first city in the country to come to an agreement with Uber to begin subsidizing the ridesharing company to help with the vexing “first-mile, last-mile” issue which has confounded transportation officials for years — that is, how to get people to and from their homes to the place where they can take public transit. “It’s been an unbelievable success,” gushes Uber’s Correoso. Longwood, Maitland and a couple of other suburban Orlando communities are now also taking part of the project, which Correoso says helps takes cars off the road to alleviate congestion, while also making it easier to connect people to public transportation. “We’ve seen a huge uptick in residents who are leaving their cars at home and relying on this credit that the city is offering to get to work or public transportation,” he says. Correoso adds that until the state Legislature crafts rules of the road on ride-hailing companies, Uber wants to continue to foster partnerships on issues

like first-mile, last-mile. “We don’t see ourselves as the solution to traffic and transportation issues in Miami, Orlando and Tampa, but we want to be a part of the solution to the traffic and transportation issues that these communities face.”


Like Uber, Airbnb has become a sensation with the public in its earlier infancy, but unlike ridesharing, giving the traveler another option when it comes to lodging doesn’t appear to have been as disruptive to the Orlando/Orange County establishment. That’s in part because of the vast number of hotel rooms in the Central Florida, where there’s been less complaints about how Airbnb’s avoidance of paying tourist taxes have harmed the area than in many other local communities. Over the last year, Airbnb has reached agreements with 27 counties and the state of Florida to begin collecting and remitting hotel taxes — the main source of friction with local governments. Earlier this year, the online home rental firm reached an agreement with Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie’s office to begin capturing a tourism tax on each night’s stay. Airbnb has been a sensation since its development went global in 2008, and while it’s been controversial around the world, there truly haven’t been too many complaints in Orlando, according to Haynie. “I think from the hotel perspective, what they’re most concerned with is an

unfair business advantage and this does the old ‘level the playing field’ thing,” she said. “I doubt that they seem them as any major competition, but they want everybody to follow the same rules and so do I.” While the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) has no problems denouncing the company (more on that in a moment), the regional Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association has been relatively low-key about commenting publicly about Airbnb’s impact in the area. Officials with the agency didn’t return INFLUENCE’s request for comment, but did direct us to their thoughts on the subject in their listing of 2016 legislative priorities. The CFHLA says they advocate for the distinction between Professional Vacation Rentals and Shared Lodging. “CFHLA opposes Shared Lodging (“Illegal Lodging”) services that allow individuals to rent out all of or parts of their homes or apartments without having to pay the same taxes/fees and follow the same regulations as Hotels and Professional Vacation Rental companies. CFHLA asks for a ‘level playing field,’” their website reads. Haynie says negotiations with the company went quickly last year, and were nothing like the decade-long battle she previously had with Expedia and other online travel companies. That ended last summer when the Florida Supreme Court ruled those online travel agencies didn’t have to charge the hotel tax on the fees they charge when customers use them to book rooms. Not every property tax collector in the state is so keen on the deal that Airbnb has made with Orange County and more than dozen other local governments. Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Doug Belden said the company’s refusal to share information about both renters and homeowners made him hesitate to work with them, telling the Tampa Bay Times, “If they’re going to write you a check, they can tell you where it’s coming from.” A spokesman for Airbnb opted not to respond to our emailed question to respond to Belden, but Orange County’s Haynie isn’t as concerned. “That’s the reason we do audits,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know what any hotel or dealer remits on a monthly basis is accurate, but we monitor for unusual changes and we audit. We don’t audit everybody all the time every year, but we do do audits and I’ve got those provisions in the agreement with Airbnb.” While the Central Florida office may be hesitant to weigh in on what effect the company has had on their industry, the national group isn’t so shy. In a damning report, the national Hotel and Lodging Association claims that more than three-quarters of Airbnb revenue in Miami came from operators who listed their

properties for more than 180 days of the year — which came out to $93 million for the period of October 2014 to September 2015. It also stated that Miami has the highest percentage, at 62 percent, of multiunit operators in the 14 cities the AHLA and Penn State University studied. Dr. John O’Neill, professor of hospitality management and director of the Center for Hospitality Real Estate Strategy in the School of Hospitality Management at Penn State University, wrote the report, called “From Air Mattresses to Unregulated Business: An Analysis of the Other Side of Airbnb.” The report’s bombshell was that “landlords” raked in some $76 million on grey or black market transactions last year in Miami alone. Christopher Nulty, a spokesman for Airbnb, called the report “factually inaccurate,” and said it was the latest attempt by the industry to mislead and manipulate to

Emory Mayfield Market President

stifle competition. “The AHLA is out of touch with the increasing number of consumers and cities embracing the tremendous benefits of home sharing,” said Nulty. “Vacation rentals have always been a driving force in Miami tourism and now home sharing is broadening that impact and bringing visitors’ dollars to new neighborhoods and small businesses. “ Whatever Airbnb’s success in Orange County, it simply doesn’t appear to be hurting the lodging industry that significantly. The average daily rate for a hotel room in Orlando at the end of 2015 was $112 a night — lower than the average Airbnb rate of $120 a night. And there is major hotel construction, with more than 5,000 hotel rooms expected to enter the market in the next few years, such as the 1,000-room Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando Resort, and Paramount’s Uniq with 357 rooms coming online in 2017. ][

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Seminole Solution

One Central Florida school system seeks a better way of testing student achievement than the statewide assessment BY JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER Teresa Calderone, chairwoman of the Seminole County School Board, envisions an accountability standard based on national norms and standards.

But she also thinks the Florida Standards Assessment just isn’t cutting it, and there has to be a better way to judge how Florida students stack up. “We agree with accountability 100 percent,” says Calderone, chairwoman of the Seminole County School Board. “We truly feel there’s a better way to have our students be held accountable for learning, and teachers for teaching.” The better way might just be the Seminole Solution. Rolled out last year, the proposal would allow Florida school districts to use national norm-referenced testing instead of the Florida Standards Assessments. Advocates for the change say it would limit the number of days students sit for tests, allow teachers to focus on instruction, and give districts a better understanding of how students compare to their peers across the state and nation. Additionally, many of these national norm-referenced tests have value in the real world: for example, an ACT score can be used to compare students in two different states as well as it can be used for college admission. But education officials have said 100 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

allowing that flexibility just isn’t possible because the national tests don’t measure student achievement the same as Florida Standards. “The Florida Standards are unique to our state, and other assessments would not be able to measure achievement of our state’s specific educational benchmarks and expectations appropriately,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a July 2015 letter to Seminole County Superintendent Walt Griffin. “We are statutorily required to assess our students based on the same academic content standards in which they are instructed.” The solution, some say, is to change the law. ** Testing has long been a part of the fabric of Florida’s education system. Assessments had been in place for years. But in 1999, then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation that would ultimately change how students and teachers were assessed. Students in grades 3 through 10 were required to take annual exams. Test scores were tied to school grades. And third graders were held back if they failed a third-grade reading test. “One thing we feel strongly about

in the Florida public school system is accountability,” says Meghan Collins, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

A lot has changed since that legislation went into effect. The high school graduation rate is now 78 percent, up from 52 percent in 1999. Fifty-eight percent of Florida students are reading at grade level, up from 47 percent more than a decade ago. The testing regime has also helped close the achievement gap. Among African Americans, the graduation rate is 68 percent, more than 20 points higher than it was in 2003-04. Assessments may be helping, but the shift to the Florida Standards was plagued with controversy from the start. The benchmarks are based in large part on the Common Core standards, and after months of debate, the state decided not to use tests developed by Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Instead, the state picked tests developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

PHOTO: Daniel Reinecke


The first year of those tests left educators, teachers and students frustrated. Technical difficulties marred the rollout, and Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature ordered an independent study to determine whether the test was valid. The study, released last fall, found the test was valid. However, the report said the rollout was riddled with problems and did not meet the normal rigor and standardization generally expected in highstakes tests. The rocky start is likely what pushed school districts to look for alternatives. But Collins says even if the state were to allow other tests, problems would still pop up. And she says those issues likely wouldn’t change if the state allowed districts to use national norm tests, like the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills or the SAT college entrance exams.

“There’s always going to be an expectation that there is some sort of kink in the chain, per se, and that was true with paper assessments, as well,” she said. “You’re always going to have some sort of problem.” Collins says a shift to national norm tests isn’t allowed. State law requires students be tested on the standards they’re being taught, and national norm tests, Collins and the Department of Education say, don’t do that. “Students are required to be assessed on what they’re taught, and the Florida Standards are what they’re supposed to be taught,” says Collins. ** The idea that national norm tests don’t measure Florida standards doesn’t make much sense to Amy Lockhart. They are the tests schools turn to if a child has a good cause exemption. They are the tests that have been used for decades to measure student achievement. And, Lockhart says, the Florida Standards aren’t that much different than other states’ education standards. The Florida Standards are predominately similar to Common Core standards. Among the differences, Florida Standards teach cursive writing and how to read an analog clock; Common Core does not. “We want very much to work together as a team to come up with the best solutions that really will ultimately provide accountability,” says Lockhart, the vice chairwoman of the Seminole County School Board. The district didn’t flinch when the Department of Education said they couldn’t opt out of state testing and use national

norm tests instead. Instead, they worked with lawmakers to see if anyone was willing to support legislative change. They found a champion in Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, who sponsored legislation (SB 1360) allowing districts to replace state exams with national alternatives, like the SAT. The bill received unanimous support in each of its three committee stops, but did not receive a vote in the Florida Senate. Seminole County officials were disappointed, but they didn’t drop their efforts. They administered the FSA and all the other statutorily required tests. But they also set aside one day where all 11th grade students took the SAT. Griffin, the district’s superintendent, says it took just a few hours to administer the test, instead of several days. It was also a paper-and-pencil test, which meant every student could take it at the same time. The district also got the results back quickly, meaning students can see where they need more help. Finally, the SAT is a trusted tool of assessment that has value for students — they can use their score for college admissions. Fewer days spent testing, means more days teaching. And that, Griffin says is key. “I feel like we have more to teach than ever,” he says. ** Testing isn’t going away. Neither are advocates for testing alternatives. While Gaetz can’t run for re-election again this year because of term limits, Seminole County officials said they’re hopeful other lawmakers will carry their banner in the coming years. They’re also trying to make headway in the House, where proponents of testing alternatives faced opposition. Griffin says the process of change is a slow one, but he’s hopeful more districts and school board will follow their lead.


He’s also hopeful other leaders in education will join in their calls for better assessments. Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, says although the group thought there were several good provisions in the legislation put forward this year, there would have been several unintended consequences had it passed. Still, Levesque said the organization, founded by Bush after he left the governor’s mansion, would be open to looking at using college admissions tests instead of another statewide test, “if they are aligned with Florida Standards sufficiently.” Levesque says the group also supports changes to when tests are given. She says students should be able to take the assessment when they’ve mastered the skill, not necessarily on a set testing calendar.

“I hope the shift (in conversations) is about how do we get better assessments to make sure students are more successful,” she says. That’s what Seminole County school officials are hoping to do. Calderone said as a constitutional officer, it is her duty to continue to administer “whatever test the state of Florida” requires. The district will also continue to administer national norm tests, and Lockhart says the district will continue to “do what’s best for our students, while being minimally compliant with the law.” “We haven’t given up,” she says. “We will continue to fight for the things that are in the best interest of students, not adults or testing companies. It’s going to be a long road.” ][




The new GrayRobinson Front row (left to right): Jason Unger, Robert F. Stuart Jr., Larry Cretul, David Griffin, Chris Carmody; Back row (left to right): John Harris, Joseph R. Salzverg, Dean Cannon, Chris Dawson, Cynthia Lorenzo, Todd Steibly, Richard Reeves, Kirk Pepper, D. Ty Jackson, Rheb Harbison, Jessica F. Love.


Building community by building the firm

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Charlie Gray didn’t realize what a statewide juggernaut his law firm would become back in 1970. That’s when he, Richard Adams, Gordon Harris and Richard Robinson joined their practices to become Gray, Adams, Harris & Robinson. >>



Now, GrayRobinson has 300 attorneys in 13 offices across Florida, representing “Fortune 500 companies, emerging businesses, lending institutions, local and state governments, developers, entrepreneurs and individuals across Florida, the nation and the world,” its website says. “We’re looking ahead 20, 25 years,” says Gray, now chairman emeritus. “We have plenty of time to bring in and bring along the next generation. We’ve already got a plethora of great, quality lawyers.” The culture has always been that of a small firm, but with a lot of lawyers. “We don’t need a lot of red tape bogging (our lawyers) down,” he adds. “A banker long ago said, ‘Build your community and you’ll build your bank.’ I adopted that,” Gray says. “You not only want a firm that is excellent in practicing law, but provides a place for lawyers to enjoy the practice of law. You want to leave something behind. Our destiny is to build our community.” Yet the firm’s heart remains in Orlando, where it began. “GrayRobinson is an Orlando law firm that grew to be a meaningful part of 13 communities in this state,” says Mayanne Downs, an Orlando native and the firm’s managing shareholder. “You see in each office the reflection of the community. “When you’re in the Miami office, it feels very much a reflection of the Miami community,” she says. “That comes from Charlie Gray’s focus on community involvement. But we will always be centered and focused on Orlando because that’s where our founder developed our philosophy.” And 2016 has shaped up to be a big year in the firm’s continuing evolution: > Downs, currently Orlando city attorney and past Florida Bar president (2010-11), is the firm’s first woman president and only the second managing shareholder in the last 20 years, succeeding Byrd F. “Biff” Marshall Jr. The changeover took place Sept. 1. Downs was statewide chair of the firm’s Litigation Department before stepping up. She’s been dubbed “Fifth Most Powerful Person in Orlando” by Orlando Magazine. > Tim Cerio, a GrayRobinson alum, was Gov. Rick Scott’s general counsel before returning to the fold. He now focuses on administrative, health care and regulatory law with the firm. Cerio, who first joined GrayRobinson in 2001, also was chief of staff and general counsel at the Florida Department of Health from 2005-07. > Former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon (2010-12), another GrayRobinson alum, brought his growing lobbying 104 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

practice with the firm, making it a homecoming of sorts. The combination “makes GrayRobinson’s government relations and lobbying practice the largest such practice in any law firm in Florida and one of the three largest groups of legislative lobbyists in the state overall,” the firm said in a news release. > Jason Unger, managing partner of the Tallahassee office, was a college classmate and fellow Florida Blue Key member with both Cerio and Cannon and helped recruit them back to the firm. Unger is chair of the state’s Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, a body that will help decide the makeup of the court for years to come. (Justice James E.C. Perry will retire this Dec. 30. And Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy A. Quince, who make up the court’s long-standing liberal triumvirate, must leave the bench in early 2019.) “We’re doing in 2016 what we’ve been doing for 20 years, capturing the very best talent we can find,” Downs says. “Our ability to recruit comes from our entrepreneurial spirit and our statewide platform. “So a professional like Tim Cerio, for instance, is at the very top of our list of people who are extraordinarily good at what they do,” she says. “We have a history of sending people into the public sector and then having them come home.” Cerio, a longtime motorcycle enthusiast, recently took some much needed time off to hit the road for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. He spoke from the road on his way there on his Harley-Davidson Softail Springer.

committee, certain to play a role in whatever Scott does next politically. “I loved public service,” he says. “You may take a hit financially, but it’s worth it and one of the things the firm believes in … I have a lot of great colleagues at the firm, so there’s a lot of deep relationships. “And Dean coming back to the firm was certainly something that mattered a lot to me,” Cerio adds. “He’s one of my very best friends — we went to college together, we were fraternity brothers, I was in his wedding — and he’s one of the people that, frankly, recruited me to the firm back in 2001. There were just a lot of good reasons to go back. It was very much a coming home.” Cannon’s return to GrayRobinson was a homecoming for him as well; he was with the firm from 1995 until 2007. He also followed the call of public service, serving in the House from 2004-12, serving the last two years as head of the chamber. Cannon’s Capitol Insight lobbying firm joined with GrayRobinson in May, creating the third-largest influence shop in Florida, according to the state’s directory of registered lobbyists. With that combination, GrayRobinson likely will be even more of a competitor with lobbying heavyweights for well-heeled, A-list clients needing representation before the Legislature and state agencies. And Cannon, a lawyer since 1993, becomes GrayRobinson’s executive vice president and its statewide chairman of Government Affairs. It’s been a long way since his days as a fledgling associate.

“You not only want a firm that is excellent in practicing law, but provides a place for lawyers to enjoy the practice of law. You want to leave something behind. Our destiny is to build our community.” — CHARLIE GRAY

“My wife cuts me a lot of slack: I don’t play golf, I don’t have a lot of other hobbies, so this one of the things I love doing,” he says. On his return to the firm, Cerio says he was a shareholder in the Tallahassee office before leaving to work for Gov. Scott the first time. He went back to the firm before getting another call from the governor to be his chief lawyer. He replaced Pete Antonacci, another GrayRobinson veteran, who became executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. Cerio remains legal counsel to Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work”

“When I started at GrayRobinson, the firm had 33 lawyers, and I was inspired by Charlie Gray, who had been active in law and state politics before Disney, the University of Central Florida, or I-4 existed in Florida,” he says. “Charlie was an example of a great lawyer, active in politics, who also believed in building his community,” he says. “He’s probably said it 100 times, ‘if you build your community, you build your law firm.’ And he built a truly great law firm.” Cannon’s friend, then-state Rep. Jim Kallinger of Winter Park, decided not to seek re-election to the House in 2003, and

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson

Cannon thought about running for his seat. “But I would not have been able to run if Charlie Gray and Biff Marshall had not said, ‘OK, we’re willing to give you the flexibility and support to run,’” he says. “Very few law firms would have been willing to do that, and their support literally made it possible for me to run for public office.” By 2012, Cannon was term-limited and left the House, but knew he wanted to stay in Tallahassee in the influence business, and started Capitol Insight. “Mayanne Downs and I had worked together when she was president of The Florida Bar and I was speaker, and Biff and Mayanne and I talked off-and-on about collaborating on legal stuff and looking for ways to work together,” he says. “I kept in touch with people at the firm, Charlie and all the folks I’d previously worked with,” Cannon adds. “But I had some friends there I had known for decades, like Tim Cerio and Jason Unger, that I’d known since college.” Unger says the two go back to the late 1980s at the University of Florida. “He was certainly part of the reason that I joined GrayRobinson,” he says of Cannon. “When he was done with the speakership, we wanted him to come back. And we always left that door open. We always maintained a very close relationship through the years. It was always unsaid that we were interested in having Dean back.” Cannon’s and Cerio’s return, with Downs’ ascension, make 2016 “a monumental year for us,” Unger says. “It’s change, but change in the good sense. Dean and his group coming in is a significant add-on to our depth, both in the lawyering and lobbying realm.” What came into focus was Capitol Insight having, among other things, two former House speakers, a former campaign manager for Bill Nelson, a former agency secretary, and a former political consultant to the Republican National Committee and a national campaign, among others. Capitol Insight’s bench is estimable in the influence biz: > Larry Cretul, a former real estate broker, was speaker in 2009-10 and Marion County commissioner from 1994 to 2002. > Rheb Harbison, former senior lobbyist with a national law firm before joining Capitol Insight, was director of legislative and communication policy and research for the Florida Supreme Court. > Cynthia Lorenzo, former director of Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation and Department of Economic Opportunity, also was former secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice. > Richard Reeves, former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is a veteran lobbyist who founded his own lobbying firm before joining Capitol Insight. > Kirk Pepper, an expert political strategist,

Former Speaker Dean Cannon (left) with his mentor, Charlie Gray, in the Orlando office of GrayRobinson.

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worked to elect officials ranging from local governments, to members of Congress, to president of the United States. > Joseph Salzverg, a former campaign manager and political consultant, had been a legislative analyst for the Florida House of Representatives. “That was a great concentration of leadership experience and talent, but limited to one location,” Cannon explains. “GrayRobinson had a very successful lobbying practice already, but also had 13 offices around the state and a powerhouse of a law firm, too, which was a lot of infrastructure. That would have been impossible to build on my own.” “Now here it is, overnight, by combining forces,” he adds. “The more we talked about it, the more the advantages of combining teams became apparent. Neither one of us needed to do the deal, but we saw great potential benefits if we did. Now, we can see for sure it was the right thing to do.” Unger says the merger is a means of “bringing back people that were part of the family, getting that talent back in.” He’s quick to add: “I don’t look at things as us ‘being at the top.’ I look at it from the standpoint of having the best group of lawyers and lobbyists to represent our clients, whether they’re Florida clients, national clients or international clients.” As of this year, for example, Cannon was registered to lobby on behalf of the City of Orlando, The Villages, PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay and Gatorade subsidiaries, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and Monroe County, among others. “As long we stick with our core mission of bringing in the best talent — whether it’s on the lawyering side, lobbying side — we’re moving the right direction,” Unger says. The GrayRobinson team suffered a big loss last year, however. The firm’s top influencer, Fred Leonhardt, died suddenly last October at the age of 65. The lobbying legend was personally registered to represent 46 clients last year, including the Orlando Magic and five Florida cities. GrayRobinson lobbyist Chris Carmody says Leonhardt’s absence spurred him to work harder this past session. He was part of a team of lobbyists that helped score $15 million in the state budget for the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, an obscure but significant economic development initiative in Osceola County. The funds will help it continue to target international businesses and investment to potentially establish a presence in east Central Florida. 106 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

Overall, “I can’t recall a session where we had so much success,” Carmody says. He and fellow lobbyist Robert Stuart “were the boots on the ground. Session was probably the easiest part of a strange year where your boss and mentor passes away. We know what we need to do in Session. You need to deliver results. You don’t have time to think, ‘poor me, I don’t have a friend and mentor,’ you just get to work.” Carmody realized he and Stuart had to make their own tough calls and “maybe we were more ready than we thought.” “I’ll give Fred credit: He trained us well,” Carmody says. “He gave us a lot of good habits. He gave us a lot of good guidance.” And Leonhardt’s management style echoed the GrayRobinson culture: “Fred had a large personality. He could never go into a room without someone saying, ‘oh, that’s Fred Leonhardt,’ but he made it a point to include Robert, myself and Chris Dawson (a young associate) in just about everything he did — with clients, with legislators. In high-level meetings, we were in the room; in low-level meetings, we were in the room. “It’s still a strange year trying to come up with a new normal, but that new

normal is getting to work,” Carmody says. “We’re already making preparations for next session.” The relationships built inside the firm — among people who have different skill sets — thrust it forward, Downs says, as opposed to other large firms that embrace “uniformity.” “That’s not who we are,” she says. “We embrace who each lawyer is and we embrace the communities they reflect … this firm, I remember when I first interviewed in 1986, always had a remarkable commitment to its employees. “On Sunday night, when you’re preparing for your week ahead, we want you to look forward to work, rather than dreading it,” Downs says. Charlie Gray wouldn’t have it any other way. “We did everything we could to build a great firm,” he says. “But I didn’t have any idea it would be as successful as it’s been.” ][

Portions of this article originally appeared on the website.

“I don’t look at things as us ‘being at the top’ ... [we] have the best group of lawyers and lobbyists to represent our clients, whether they’re Florida, national or international clients. ” — JASON UNGER

Tim Cerio

Mike Huey

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson



“His strength is, he has a really clear vision of what he wants this place to be.” —OSCAR ANDERSON


Big City Dreams No matter your politics, when it comes to creating his ambitious vision for Orlando, Mayor Buddy Dyer invites all to the table BY SCOTT POWERS

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


omeday, in Buddy Dyer’s dreams, in his vision, deep within the core of his very soul, he wants to be mayor of a Big City. Not just any Big City. Not a New York or Chicago. Too cold. Not a Los Angeles or Houston. Too messy. Not even necessarily big, if you’re into counting heads or skyscrapers. His Big City, his dream, his vision, is a place with a vibrant urban feel: hip, colorful, active, creative, bustling with youth and diversity, booming with 21st century businesses, plugged into the digital industries of his children’s world, powered by entrepreneurial energy, alive with sports, theater, the arts and what’s-next, packed with safe and tidy little neighborhoods full of trendy stores, coffee shops, cafes and bars within walking distance, and yet with planes and trains and bicycles going everywhere. Of course, all of it never more than a short drive from some primo hunting and fishing spots. And maybe even prosperous for all, if it works out that way. Enter Buddy Dyer’s current city, Orlando, and you must do so knowing he sees it as the base, the starting point for the Big City of his vision. Buy into his vision, bring something to offer, and you, too, may be a player. It’s why Dyer focuses so much of his energy on Orlando’s downtown and central city. “From the day I took office until today, I’ve pitched how important the downtown is to the region,” Dyer said. “I’m a believer in the (urban studies theorist) Richard Florida’s ‘creative class.’ How do you attract the creative class? You’re going to be successful if you have the young, bright entrepreneurs. And they want to live in cities that have SunRail, professional basketball, professional soccer, a world-class performing

arts center.” Tragically, in June, Orlando became the home to world-class horror when a madman entered its popular gay nightclub Pulse and fired his guns until 49 people lay dead, 53 others lay bleeding, and a city lay traumatized. Yet the massacre quickly led Orlando to transform itself into a worldclass symbol of unity and recovery. Almost instantly, it pulled together like a family. Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, his sometimes-partner and sometimes-rival, were the unquestioned leaders of that family. Jacobs played the traditional mother providing emotional salve, day after day bringing together people of all faiths, all backgrounds and all sexual orientations in one community-wide hug after another. Dyer played the traditional father, making sure, in what should have been a state of shock for the city, all the hard work got done, with all the quick planning and decision-making, and all the outreach to all the big players in town. In half a week, the city’s huge institutions and small partners all stepped up. Millions of dollars poured into relief funds. A relief center was established at the city’s Camping World Stadium, with 35 agencies and businesses offering help to the grieving and hurting people affected by the massacre. He arranged President Barack Obama’s visit. None of it may have been possible so swiftly and effectively had Dyer not spent the past 13 years working closely with institutions throughout the Central Florida region, getting them to buy into his vision a long time ago of what became the city’s post-Pulse slogan, Orlando United, said Jacob Stuart, president of the Central Florida Partnership, a coalition of Orlando-area chambers of commerce. “I think he’s been a remarkable leader over his many years; but I think those many

years of leadership have positioned him for this single moment, where everything he’s got is being tested,” Stuart said. “And for me he has passed with flying colors when it comes to this moment of great pressure and great sympathy for those affected.” Everyone hears about this vision. They know, up front, what Dyer’s agenda is, and where ideas might fit in. If it doesn’t fit, Dyer has been known to dismiss or ignore them. If it does fit, he’s all in, reaching out to form collaborations, create task forces and push them forward. He built a stable, inner-circle staff of like-thinkers, and lets them and everyone else know that he’s got their backs. You deal with them, you’re dealing with him; no second-guessing. And though he has, through the decades, taught himself to be more and more outgoing as any politician must be to survive, on the Myers-Briggs personality scale Dyer’s true nature probably falls between shy and introverted, many of his longtime associates say. That makes it easier for him to defer or share credit. Someone else wants the limelight for an accomplishment? Fine. You can have it. Just so long as you push the vision forward. “His strength is, he has a really clear vision of what he wants this place to be,” said Oscar Anderson, an Orlando-based lobbyist with Southern Strategy Group. Dyer’s admirers, and there are many in both parties, say he governs in a nonpartisan way. “The thing about Buddy is, he doesn’t care what party you’re in or what part of town you’re in, he’s only interested in what’s best for the city,” said Republican strategist Tre’ Evers of Orlando-based Consensus Communications. Many of his detractors, particularly on the left of his own Democratic Party, also say he governs in a nonpartisan way. Darn it. They say he’s more interested in helping SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 109


big business than focusing on Democratic economic concerns such as bringing up Orlando’s very low wage base, promoting unions, or openly advocating for the poor, issues the business leaders would rather he not bring up very often. They call him a “Chambercrat.” “I’m very frustrated,” said Doug Head, a longtime chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, once one of Dyer’s champions and now is one of his sternest critics. “He seems to be geared toward helping the powerful.” No one denies Dyer has Orlando booming with Big City projects, or that he involves anyone, from any party or business background, who might help. One of his first, working with Tavistock Development, began the transformation of the Lake Nona community on the city’s far southeast side into a city of its own, complete with a medical treatment and research campus known as Medical City. SunRail, a Central Florida commuter train system that’s been, in various versions, a dream of mayors for more than 20 years, finally commenced service in 2014. Dyer figured out how to get a major per-

happen, Dyer made several trips to Tallahassee to meet with Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and helped negotiate the terms the reluctant governor would support. Buddy Dyer’s Big-City dream has a small-town problem though. Orlando’s metropolitan area has a population the size of a Portland or a Pittsburgh. Orange County is the size of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga or Minneapolis’s Hennepin. But the City of Orlando? The truth is, Dyer is mayor of a place that’s actually only the size of a Toledo, Ohio, or a Stockton, California. The big employers of a Big City are around. The resident population is around. The education centers are around. The money is around. All the anchors and resources are around. But they’re mostly outside the city limits. How might he tap them? How might he invite them in and convince them to buy into and invest in his vision? The 2006 “venues” deal, which built Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center and the Orlando Magic’s new Amway Centre arena and rebuilt the Citrus Bowl, may have been Dyer’s defining moment to answer those questions. The proposed Big City performing arts center and the desperately needed Citrus Bowl renovation had been in talks for decades. A new basketball arena was a fresher and more immediate concern, as the Orlando Magic’s owners were making no promises about staying unless they got a

Resorts President Tom Williams. His pitch to them: Never mind their customers. For the sake of their employees, for the sake of themselves, Central Florida needs a world-class urban center. They signed on. With Disney and Universal aboard, it was hard for other big players to say no. Crotty signed. The Magic signed. Florida Citrus Sports signed. The arts people signed. The tourism industry, except for International Drive leader Harris Rosen, signed. The region’s chambers of commerce signed. “They came to appreciate how important having a great downtown and venues were,” Dyer explained. “It was a calculated deal that if you put the arts, and the sports and arena all together you had something for most people. So there was talk about splitting the package up and I would not let them do it.” All of it might have seemed improbable in 2002, when Dyer, fresh from losing a bitter statewide race to then-Republican Charlie Crist for state attorney general, pivoted to run for a job he’d never really thought about before. Gov. Jeb Bush tapped then-Mayor Glenda Hood to be his secretary of state. A special election was called. The campaign season was to be just a couple months long. There were plenty of takers, including some big Orlando names — Pete Barr, Bill Sublette and Tico Perez. People urged Dyer to run — Head did so

The only other thing Buddy Dyer ever talks about as a dream ambition beyond being mayor of a Big City called Orlando, would be the presidency of the University of Central Florida. forming arts center built downtown, another dream of Orlando mayors for 20 years. He figured out how to get the Florida Citrus Bowl stadium (now renamed the Camping World Stadium) transformed from an eyesore to a showcase. He figured out how to get the Orlando Magic what they wanted, a glitzy new arena. Smaller projects also have emerged, including a third- or fourth-generation revitalization of the downtown entertainment district centered on Church Street and a boom in downtown housing. Major League Soccer came to town, and Dyer helped clear a spot for the team’s self-financed stadium. But the project that perhaps most illustrates Dyer’s vision, Creative Village, is only now getting started. That is to be an urban community for all those hip, young, 21st century digital industry entrepreneurs to learn, work, live, and play, right in downtown. The cornerstone was laid this year after state officials signed off on money and plans for the University of Central Florida to build a campus there. To get that to 110 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

better home. None had enough money, and certainly Orlando’s city coffers didn’t either. But Orange County had money, with the state’s most robust tourist tax. It had been tapped before for a previous generation’s Citrus Bowl renovations, and for the Magic’s original arena. To do so again, however, would be tricky. Central Florida’s tourism industry and its leaders were very protective about how that tax is spent — to promote tourism, only. And to add in the performing arts center would require all kinds of maneuvering, including the need for a voter-backed increase in the tourist tax to six cents. Each had its own supporters and strong community opponents. None could appeal to everyone. But together, they might. Dyer convinced then-Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty to just consider the prospect, and set up a working team of top city and county officials to work out possibilities. He then went to Walt Disney World President Al Weiss and Universal Parks &

while he was with Dyer the night he lost to Crist. But Dyer was content, at first, staying busy coaching his sons Trey’s and Drew’s flag football team. He also was sitting on an offer to join U.S. Sen. Bob Graham’s ultimately-doomed 2004 Democratic presidential campaign. Then Pastor Sam Green of Orlando’s African Methodist Episcopal Church made an impassioned appeal to Dyer, imploring him to run, as the best hope to unite the city. Dyer said he had never set foot inside City Hall in his life before he announced his candidacy. “To be truthful about it, I didn’t know very much about local government,” Dyer said. But he knew Orlando. And he knew a lot about consensus building, and campaigning. John Hugh Dyer was born August 7, 1958, in Orlando but grew up in Kissimmee, the son of an agricultural truck driver and a western-wear store proprietress. The man destined to be Orlando’s Big City mayor



Darkest Days Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer addresses his constituents at Camping World Stadium after the Pulse night club massacre in June, 2016.

started out as a country boy, raised in what he described as a “lower-lower-lower-middle-class family,” not unfamiliar with hard work, low wages and getting hands dirty. Hunting and fishing and being outdoors in the country became his lifelong passions. An Old-Florida drawl was scratched forever into his voice. But Dyer was smart. Really smart. And ambitious. After graduating from Osceola High School he got into Brown University on scholarships. He earned a civil engineering degree and became an engineer. After a few years he went to law school at the University of Florida where he rose to editor-in-chief of the law review. In 1987 he placed first in the state in the Florida Bar Exam scores. He became a litigator, representing engineering companies, with Orlando’s Smith, McKinnon and Matthews. He married well, the former Karen Caudill, another smart attorney who is now a nationally renowned trial partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner. She also is a Fort Lauderdale Pepsi bottling company heiress, with financial resources that were handy when

Dyer first entered politics. In 1990 the political bug bit and he started a run for the Florida House of Representatives. Timing was terrible. His father became terminally ill. Karen became pregnant with Trey. Dyer pulled out. In 1992 he tried again, only this time the political landscape had shifted, opening up an even better opportunity, a new state Senate seat in Orlando drawn to elect a Democrat. With the help of some veteran Democrats who taught him how to reach out to Orlando’s African-American leaders, the unknown 33-year-old lawyer pulled off a primary upset and went to Tallahassee for what was a very safe seat for Democrats. A few years later, he became minority leader for three years. And that’s where he learned what might be his most telling skill as Orlando mayor, building across-the-aisle consensuses that weren’t bipartisan, but nonpartisan. “The Senate experience was very beneficial to this job for a number of reasons. One being that I knew everybody in Tallahassee, so it was very easy for me to get

things done, such as SunRail and the downtown UCF campus,” Dyer said. “But secondly, when you’ve been managing 20 senators and having to work with the House and work with the governor, you learn how to compromise and learn how to put deals together … working with other people, compromising, knowing when to compromise.” Of course, to create a Big City, you’ve got to break a few things. It began shortly after Dyer took office and approved the razing of a city block of old buildings and stores that old-timers had considered historic, a strip that had helped define Orlando’s downtown retail district for generations. A big office building, The Plaza, went up there. But that’s because it included part of Dyer’s vision, a big, downtown cinema multiplex. There was an old church that went down near Lake Eola. And then another in the historically black neighborhood of Parramore on downtown’s west side. And then there was 100-year-old Tinker Field, revered home to Orlando’s minor league baseball teams and Major League Baseball SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 111

spring training camps, and site of a 1964 speech by Martin Luther King Jr., all in the way of the vision. As they fell, so did some of Dyer’s longtime Democratic supporters. On the other hand, Dyer hasn’t shied away from progressives’ social agenda, officiating Orlando’s first gay weddings, pushing solar and green initiatives, and decriminalizing marijuana. When it came to standing arm-and-arm with Orlando’s LGBT community after the Pulse massacre, Dyer was there naturally. “The grumbling from the left is real, but his legacy is very good on progressive issues,” said Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph, a former Orange County Democratic chair, former state representative and a leader in the party’s progressive wing. “He’s quietly pushed a lot of that.” The only other thing Buddy Dyer ever talks about as a dream ambition beyond being mayor of a Big City called Orlando, would be the presidency of the University of Central Florida, if longtime University of Central Florida President John Hitt ever retires. “The reason UCF would interest me is I think it is the biggest asset we have in our community,” Dyer said. “And Dr. Hitt has done an unbelievable job of making it a true metro research university that influences everything we’re doing… If we’re going to be great, the university has to be great. And I think it’s certainly on that trajectory. It would be an interesting challenge to me.” Otherwise, Dyer could be Orlando’s Mayor for Life. The vast majority of Democrats still like him. Republicans think they could do worse in a city that’s heavily Democratic. “I think he really bloomed where he was planted,” said longtime City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who openly talks about running for mayor herself if Dyer leaves office, but says she’s content to play supporting actress. “He loves his job.” And Dyer’s and Jacobs’ nationally visible leadership in the days and weeks following the Pulse crisis made them the faces of Orlando, like few mayors anywhere ever become. Already, with 13 years, Dyer is by far the longest-tenured bigcity mayor in Florida. Before this year is out he also will become the longest-serving mayor in Orlando’s history. He still has three years left in this term. Sure, there are other temptations. There is always talk that some American president wants him in D.C. And every time Florida holds a race for governor or the U.S. Senate, someone gives Dyer a call: Please run. He turns them all down. “I love this job,” Dyer said. “I don’t think I really want to spend two years of my job pursuing that. I feel I’ve made a huge difference being mayor. And I get good affirmations when I’m in public.” It is not, he insists, out of fear of The Mug Shot. In the spring of 2005 the man whom Dyer had just defeated in that year’s election, Ken Mulvaney, filed criminal charges against him and his campaign manager, alleging they had illegally paid people to gather absentee ballots in poor, black neighborhoods. Dyer was indicted, arrested and booked. Gov. Jeb Bush suspended him from office pending the case outcome. His nightmare lasted 40 days before a judge ruled that it was, in fact, legal for campaigns to hire people to collect absentee ballots. Charges were dropped. Dyer and his campaign were exonerated. He returned to office. He went on to win three mayoral re-election landslides, crushing opponents. Yet mug shots live forever. Imagine his appearing in campaign TV commercials in Florida cities where people do not know Dyer, or what happened in 2005. “In a governor’s race where everybody knows everything about you by the end of it, or same thing in a Senate race, that wouldn’t be a fatal bullet,” he said. For now, the Big City Beautiful is still very much a work in progress. It had been the City Sad. It came out of crisis as the City Strong, and the City United. And for the foreseeable future, Orlando is Buddy Dyer’s city, big yet or not. ][ 112 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

d e l l o r t n o C e t a Clim

The Lion in^Fall

At 60, Attorney and Showman John Morgan Seeks to Cement His Legacy

PHOTO: Benjamin Todd




“Hold on one second,” John Morgan interrupted, seconds into our

interview. “I’ve got a big deal goin’ right now. Biggest deal of my life. Hold on.”

Meet the new boss, same as the old

boss. That is John B. Morgan, Esquire, perhaps most recognized as the baby-faced visage and voice of the longest running and most ubiquitous advertising campaign throughout Florida, “I’m John Morgan. For the people.” Although inching toward retirement age, he’s still keeping a pace that few ever achieve in their younger, most productive years. John once told me the self-actualized caveat he gave to Ultima Morgan, his wife of 34 years — and the other Morgan in Morgan & Morgan — before they were wed: “My life is a rollercoaster. It is always spinning. People get on for a ride, then they get back off. But I am always moving. You can get on and off as you please, but this is who I am and I’m not going to be someone different.” Three decades and four kids later, they are still together and John is still on the ride, still entirely on his own terms. But he’s not the same man as he was when he got married in 1982, or even a couple of years ago. He’s turned 60, become a grandfather and his youngest son, Dan, became the last of his three boys to become a lawyer and join the family firm. (“I’m a senior! I was at Chick-fil-A and the cashier pulled me to the front of the line and gave me a free small iced tea because of my advanced age!”) His priorities have shifted. “It’s a transition,” he says with a clarity of purpose, “moving from success to significance.” That’s not to say that Morgan — the cherubic-looking chairman of the eponymous Morgan & Morgan law firm (which recently opened offices in Philadelphia, the ninth state in which the nearly 350-lawyer firm has offices), owner of the Wonderworks chain of amusement parks (featuring John’s favorite attraction, the


Upside Down House), Marriott franchisee, perpetual thorn in the side of just-ousted Democratic Party Chairman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, general of a self-proclaimed medical marijuana “Army of Angels,” and serial entrepreneur and investor — is contemplating anything resembling retirement. He’s just taking an evaluative step back. “I’m much closer to death than … not. And I just gotta make sure I got all my shit straight. I spend a lot more time thinking about the life after than I did before.”

The intimate audience in the suite listened, rapt, hanging on his every word. I walked in on this scene as it was already underway, expecting John to be regaling the crowd with war stories from the medical marijuana campaign, or answering questions about the business side of the marijuana reform issue. He was doing neither. “I am on a constant mission,” he told them, “to stay between 60 and 80 degrees. Can’t be too hot; can’t be too cold. I’m just chasing that perfect temperature.”

“IT’S A TRANSITION, MOVING FROM success TO significance.” — JOHN MORGAN But while age has brought out Morgan’s reflective side, he’s also at the point where he knows what he wants from this life, and has the means to live each day almost exactly as he chooses. For Morgan, that means, primarily, his three C’s — climate, clan and comfort. The trio go handin-hand and, on any given day, he has them all in spades. On a hot, Central Florida day in May of this year, John Morgan stood in the center of a circle of people, holding court inside a hospitality suite at Orlando’s Gaylord Palms Hotel and Convention Center. He had just delivered a nearly hour-long speech to more than 1,000 attendees of the Marijuana Business Daily Conference and Expo, finishing to a standing ovation. (“Getting 1,000 potheads on their feet is a major accomplishment,” remarked one of the conventioneers.)

This hunt for thermometric perfection — the “climate” part of “climate, clan and comfort” — begins with his home base of Lake Mary, just east of Orlando off Interstate 4. Further east, in the sleepy beach town of Ponce Inlet, is “San Clemente,” the waterfront property John named after Richard Nixon’s Western White House. When the sweltering Central Florida summers knock him out of that 60 to 80 degree comfort zone, John heads to his lake house in New Hampshire, just outside of laconic Laconia. (“New Hampshire is beautiful for, like, six weeks between July and September. After Labor Day, it’s over. Winter. Get the fuck out.”) The most recent addition is his condo in Maui, Hawaii where, for the last two years, Morgan and his family are spending more and more time each winter. And just in the last few months, Morgan has signed

PHOTO: Banjamin Todd



a contract on a condo in Laguna Beach, California, but is vacillating on the decision and may instead buy a single-family home in nearby Dana Point. Despite Morgan’s Ahab-like hunt for the elusive 20-degree, mild-weather sweet spot, the Morgans tried renting a house in Aspen this winter. But, according to John, “we’re not cold weather people. Five days, goodbye. And I don’t ski.” “My idea of cold weather was to be dropped off at the bar and the restaurants and then be brought back the house. I was not on the gondola.” Wherever he goes, no matter the climate, John is surrounded by his clan at all times. “John is the ultimate family man,” was how former Florida First Lady Carole Crist, summed up Morgan. Son Matt Morgan owns a condo next to his parents’ home in Ponce Inlet; John Morgan also bought the lot next door and is in the process of building a second home for family and friends. Mike Morgan, the oldest Morgan progeny, owns a home directly across the street from his dad in Lake Mary. John is holding out hope that

with a jet, and four, going-on-five, homes, John is not what you’d call flashy. He drives a nice, relatively new Mercedes sedan, but he drove the same Mercedes sedan for a decade prior to that, and hated giving it up for the newer model (which he still hasn’t figured out all the buttons on). He’s dined at the White House with President Barack Obama and at Napa’s The French Laundry, but most days he eats a home-cooked meal prepared by Ultima. Much more common dining-out spots for John include: Carrabba’s, where he knows the menu so well I’ve witnessed him negotiate with waiters to order off the dinner menu at lunch; Outback Steakhouse, where he (and I can attest to this personally) got “fucked up” before giving a now-infamous speech at Lakeland’s Boots and Buckle country western bar; or Jimmy John’s subs, where I’ve bumped into him getting lunch before a scheduled meeting in his office across the street. Anyone questioning if “For the People” is just a cynical marketing tactic should witness his knowledge and command of the menu at virtually any mid-range American chain restaurant. Perhaps it’s that same sense of comfort that draws him to familiar menus wherever he goes. The notion of comfort in John’s life is paramount. He gave and raised over a million dollars for Obama’s re-election and could have been considered for an

“I FIGURE THE LIKELIHOOD there’s a God IS BETTER THAN THAT THERE ISN’T. AND I’M GONNA LIVE MY LIFE LIKE THERE IS A GOD AND A PEARLY GATES AND I’M GONNA HAVE TO sit in judgement ONE DAY.” — JOHN MORGAN his daughter, Kate, will do the same. In the meantime, the offices of her structured settlement company, Monarch, are on the 15th floor of the building that houses the Morgan & Morgan law firm on the 16th, where both her parents and all three of her brothers work as attorneys. In addition to his kids, John’s four younger siblings and their spouses and kids are usually represented, in whole or in part, wherever he goes. Oh, and so are his two German Shepherds, Emma and Molly, though not on the Hawaii trips. “My jet doesn’t fly that far,” he explained, and he doesn’t like to crate them. The jet, a Citation XLS that seats eight, is emblematic of the last side of John Morgan’s axis of leisure, “comfort.” “My plane and my houses are the two biggest luxuries I give myself,” he declares. Indeed, to the extent possible for a guy


ambassadorship like other big donors. But soon after the 2012 elections, John called his friend, and the campaign manager of Obama’s re-election effort, Jim Messina, to tell him he didn’t even want to be put on any lists for consideration or preliminary vetting. Charlie Crist said Morgan’s reason for doing so was that he didn’t want to be separated from his family. That’s certainly true, but he’s surrounded by family as he travels all over the world now, as he would be at an embassy. John has told me on numerous occasions that one of the major factors was comfort. “You go to Europe and the beds are so small and uncomfortable. Every bed in every one of my houses are the same pillow-top beds they put in the rooms at the Ritz. Every bed has tons of pillows and they’re all goose down.”

He also offered up a second beef. “Outside of the U.S., no one has ice! I need a big glass of water with crushed ice by my bed stand every night.” In August 2014, John and I were invited to a cocktail party at the home of holocaust survivor and No. 16 on Forbes’ list of the wealthiest people in the world, George Soros. Likewise, John was invited to a dinner afterwards with Soros, Napster founder Sean Parker, and the actor Michael Douglas, among others (I had dinner alone at Mr. Chow). Afterward, John told me that while the oriental rug covering the living room of Soros’ Upper East Side apartment was likely worth more than John’s Lake Mary mansion, he would never want to live there. The reason? Comfort, generally, but specifically the lack of ottomans on which to rest one’s feet.

About the Author Ben Pollara is the Marijuana Kid to John Morgan’s Butch Cassidy. He’s also a Democratic political consultant, and campaign manager for United for Care, the medical marijuana campaign chaired by John Morgan supporting Amendment 2 in the Nov. 8 election. He has known John since 2004, and worked closely with him on United for Care since early 2013. Much of the material for this feature comes from the time he has spent with John over the years, hours of profane phone calls, and thousands of emails exchanged between them. John has commissioned Ben to edit a posthumous collection of his more quotable lines, to be titled, “Shit John Morgan Says...” Pollara is a founding partner of LSN Partners, a Miami Beach-based government and public affairs firm and is a self-described “hyper-partisan” Democrat.

PHOTOS: By Benjamin Todd; AP Photo/Alex Menendez

Morgan holds a photo is his late father Ramon, who passed away from cancer. Morgan has said marijuana helped ease his father’s suffering as he was dying of cancer.


“I have ottomans everywhere in my homes,” he says. “You look in every corner of the house and you’ll find little pockets of comfort.” At the outset of his seventh decade, John has accomplished more — personally, professionally, politically, philanthropically — in his 60 years than most men could if given 600 years. He’s spending his remaining time on earth and the money he’s earned, being surrounded by people he loves, and cloistered in down and ottomans. But in his last act, he’s also borderline obsessed with that transition from “success to significance.”


basic human dignity. THAT’S WHERE I TRY AND MAKE

my marks.” — JOHN MORGAN John is a very religious guy, and a very spiritual one, even if he isn’t always what one would call “devout.” His faith is central to how he views his golden years. “I figure the likelihood there’s a God is better than that there isn’t,” he philosophizes. “And I’m gonna live my life like there is a God and a pearly gates and I’m gonna have to sit in judgement one day.” On those lines, the “significance” John Morgan seeks is through acts of good will and charity, not business. Even though he doesn’t believe it’s going to count with the Guy Upstairs, John talks about his law business and his charitable acts of significance in much the same terms. “Dignity” is what he offers by representing clients on contingency, who otherwise couldn’t afford a lawyer and therefore access to the civil justice system. And “dignity,” is his primary parameter for charitable investment. “Food. Water. Shelter. Medicine. Those are the pillars of being able to live a life with basic human dignity,” he declares. “That’s where I try and make my marks.” He considers the over $7 million he’s put into the medical marijuana campaign an act of compassion and dignity. Ditto for the millions he’s invested in the Orlando food bank bearing his and his wife’s name, or leading an effort to open a shelter for battered women, children — and their dogs. “When these women try and leave abusive relationships, one of the things that always happens is the abuser uses the dog to keep them from leaving. ‘I’ll kill the dog if you don’t come home.’” Every night, because it calms him before bed, and to keep racking up those points prior to meeting St. Peter, John prays. And he’s been doing it more lately. After taking his daughter, Kate, to see Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school, she gave him some advice. “She goes, ‘you need to start thinking more about what’s right than what’s wrong, and spend more time with prayers of gratitude.’ And I’ve done that. And it’s been very helpful.” And like the Irish Catholic boy he is at heart, John Morgan has a strong sense of fatalism, that what he has was given to him, not earned. “I’m blessed and I’m lucky. Certain things worked out the right way and I won the genetic lottery being born the way I was,” he concludes. “People are born either lions or sloths. I was born a lion. I just had to fucking work. You don’t pat a lion on the back and say, ‘hey, you’re a badass lion.’” ][ 118 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016





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“We’re an emerging population, even if there are 1 million of us in Florida,” says Maria Padilla, a journalist who blogs on topics relating to Latinos.

Hispanic voters tend to vote in presidential elections, but not in off-year, primary and local races, says political and business consultant Angel de la Portilla


Politics and Puerto Rico Central Florida’s Hispanic community is almost — but not quite — ready for the political prime time BY JEANNETTE RIVERA-LYLES

E “... The [Hispanic] people who will be future campaign managers and consultants are already pounding the ground as volunteers and accumulating experience ... they are poised to be a force to be reckoned with.”

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson


very election cycle, a small army of political consultants and campaign workers tasked with capturing the Hispanic vote descend upon Central Florida. Some call them “the parachutists” — a reference to how they simply seem to materialize and the little connection they have with the community. To rely so heavily on outsiders isn’t an ideal situation for any campaign, however, it is a necessary evil in a community that is strong in numbers — but lacking in political infrastructure. As Election Day draws near, parties and candidates strategize, canvass and organize the Hispanic vote in Central Florida with lots of imported talent, in part because there aren’t enough people here with the necessary experience and acumen to do those jobs. “It is a challenge,” said Javier Cuebas, a Washington D.C.-based government and political consultant who works with Latinos in Central Florida on behalf of Democratic national campaigns. “Sometimes the people on the ground don’t know the Puerto Rican community very well at all. But because there isn’t a strong Hispanic political infrastructure in the area it becomes an unavoidable risk.” Puerto Ricans are key for campaigns wanting to capitalize on the area’s Hispanic population for a couple reasons. For one, their numbers are stronger than those of any other Latino group and keep surging across Florida. There are more than 1 million Puerto Ricans in this battleground state and the I-4 corridor is their preferred destination, with more than 400,000 Boricuas residing here. The heaviest concentrations can be found in Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties. Yet it is still a relatively young community that isn’t fully politically acculturated. Their mass exodus from the island began in 2006 as its economy began to crumble.

More than half of all Puerto Ricans have been in Florida 10 years or less, according to U.S. Census data and a study recently published by the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group. “We are an emerging population, even if there are 1 million of us in Florida,” said María Padilla, an independent journalist covering the community in her Orlando Latino blog. “We are still in the midst of a migration of historic proportions which doesn’t appear to be slowing down, and the community isn’t fully acclimated yet. So if you came here last year, or two years ago, you still probably haven’t gotten your bearings.” Unlike other groups of Hispanics, Puerto Ricans are in a singular position for potential political power because they can become registered voters the minute they disembark at Orlando International Airport. Puerto Ricans were conferred American citizenship in 1917, almost two decades after the U.S. annexed the island as booty after the Spanish-American war. Yet they are not consistently showing up at the voting booth. “They turn out for presidential elections in decent numbers, above 50 percent,” said Angel de la Portilla, a business and political consultant who has run local campaigns for Republican candidates. “But then we don’t see them for another four years. They don’t come out for mayoral races, they don’t come out for legislative races, and they don’t show up for primaries. There’s not going to be a high demand for people like me if candidates know that the population I target isn’t going to be a decisive factor.” Hispanic voters’ participation in non-presidential election years is usually between 25 percent and 28 percent of registered voters in Central Florida. By contrast, more than half of white registered SUMMER/FALL 2016 INFLUENCE | 121


“For Hispanics to be able to make it to the next level as a political force, it needs a business sector that is willing to invest in them. Strong Latino political leadership will translate into benefits for the community as a whole.” — JAVIER CUEBAS voters cast ballots during the same period. “We still don’t have the type of voter participation needed to launch a platform for Hispanic consultants to be able to withstand the off-season in politics,” de la Portilla said. This is only part of the puzzle. Although Puerto Ricans are in the majority, there are large numbers of other Hispanic nationalities in the area, such as Dominicans, Venezuelans, and Colombians. They, too, are relatively new to the area. “This is a business very hard to break in that requires experience and strong community knowledge,” said Bertica Cabrera-Morris, who has been in the consulting business in Orlando for 25 years and is a well-known Republican fundraiser. “There are not many Berticas around, because it takes a long time to turn a Rolodex into paid dues and to know the ins and outs of a community as diverse as this one.” Another aspect hampering the development of a stronger Hispanic political infrastructure is the timid financial support from Latino entrepreneurs and businesses. “For Hispanics to be able to make it to the next level as a political force, it needs a business sector that is willing to invest in them,” Cuebas said. “Strong Latino 122 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

political leadership will translate into benefits for the community as a whole.” Like the rest of the population, most local Hispanic businesses also are young and don’t see political engagement as a priority as they strive to make it. But a transformation is already taking place as the number of Latino-owned businesses soar. At 1,700 members, the Metro Orlando Hispanic Chamber is the largest business interest group in the area. “In addition to the locally founded businesses, we’ve seen a surge in Puerto Rican businesses migrating or expanding here from the island,” Cabrera-Morris said. “Engineering firms, CPA firms and other mature businesses are bringing their talent here.” Padilla estimated the turning point is about 10 years away. State Sen. Darren Soto’s bid for Florida’s 9th Congressional District appears to be the beginning, she said. He won the Democratic primary and likely will become the first Puerto Rican congressman from Central Florida. “Darren’s campaign has had broad support from Latino businesses and mainstream businesses as well,” Padilla said. “Overall, in my 20 years here I had never seen so many Hispanic candidates running

and so much political activity in the community. This election season can be a catalyst for Hispanic politics and the political industry, when all the pieces start to come together.” Padilla recently reported on her blog that there are 42 Hispanics running for office in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties — half of them in Osceola County. This is nearly twice the number of Latino candidates (24) that ran in the same counties in 2010. There were 33 Hispanics on the ballot in 2012. Puerto Ricans and Orlando Hispanics in general are on the right track, Cuebas and others agreed. Political power and infrastructure take time to develop and strengthen, but they are well on their way. “It took a couple of generations for Cubans in Miami to be the political force they are today,” Cuebas said. “The same can be said of Puerto Ricans in New York and Arab-Americans in Michigan. The structure isn’t fully there, but the people who will be the future campaign managers and consultants are already pounding the ground as volunteers and accumulating experience. Businesses are maturing. They are poised to be a force not to be reckoned with.” ][

Public Affairs For Florida’s Best Companies


What I’ve Learned ...

Andy Gardiner 47, Orlando Outgoing Florida Senate President, Fan of Empowerment, Family Man INTERVIEWED BY JIM ROSICA IN TALLAHASSEE

… ABOUT BEING PRESIDENT OF THE FLORIDA SENATE: When you’re designated, which is a year before you’re actually president, it’s hard to really focus too much on being “the President” because you’re still running Senate campaigns, you’re still dealing with that whole (political) segment. Every once in a while I would joke around with Don Gaetz (the Senate president before Gardiner) and say, “Oh, you didn’t tell me about this part of being president!” I think that’s the piece that was quite a change for me. You go from really spending every waking moment hanging out with members, spending time with them, to a whole other way of running a pretty large organization, with the number of employees, not just the state budget but the Senate budget. Certainly, we had an extra amount of time with lawyers. I would joke with (Senate general counsel) George Levesque that sometimes I feel like I should have a Florida Bar admission. Not just for redistricting but, you know, the education adequacy laws too. Really just across the board, there was a lot more of that legal side than really you anticipate when you decide you want to be president. It’s not what you think


about: “Boy, I want to spend a bunch of time with lawyers all day.” And you do. It’s just part of it. That was a little bit of a surprise, but it’s part of the business.

… ABOUT CRAFTING A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR BUDGET EACH YEAR: You spend a lot more time on budget than you ever anticipate. I had a great staff director (Cindy Kynoch) and Tom Lee, my chairman of appropriations, is a dear friend. We would spend hours and hours going over the budget. That started before the presidency because you’re trying to anticipate where the revenues are, what’s going to potentially change, and so that catches you off guard a little bit. I had chaired TED (the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development) for two years so I had a little bit of the understanding of how a budget works. But you really get deep in the weeds, especially when you’re looking at a three-year outlook, trying to anticipate health care funding, what you’re going to do on tax cuts. Those tend to be the big drivers, at least for the last two years. I think there’s a perception of, “Well, we’ll have a billion extra dollars this year over last year.” But

expenses go up, in health care and things like that. A billion-dollar increase in revenue can be eaten away quickly. Even if you’re a CPA, or a financial guru, the way the budget is done can be so complicated, so convoluted, with so many variables … the federal draws, the Medicaid piece. … I was very blessed to have so many good staff (members) around us, with 20 or 30 years of experience in understanding these budgets that makes all the difference in the world. You can be the smartest member of the House or the smartest member of the Senate but if you don’t have that good, core competency in staff around you, it’s all for naught. I think everybody who has been in this position, even appropriations chairs, will probably tell you that they understood enough to get the job done but it’s still a very complicated issue to try to understand. Something will pop up and you’ll think, “This is a really good idea, but what silo does it fit in? Does it fit into education? Does it fit into health care? Can you have federal dollars to draw down? What’s the proviso language?” Proviso language is the piece that is most complicated and possibly the most dangerous. It could be something

PHOTO: Mark Wallheiser

“You can be the smartest member of the House or the smartest member of the Senate but if you don’t have that good, core competency in staff around you, it’s all for naught.”


that sounds so completely innocuous and really it’s designed for one vendor to stick it to another vendor. That’s why you have staff to say, “Listen, we know what’s going on here,” someone who’s been around and understands what’s up. Tom Lee too, he had a very good understanding of where things were. He’s probably the most methodical researcher. You’ll always have in an $80-billion-plus budget something tucked away somewhere. It could be $25,000 for something. If we didn’t flag it, the governor usually does. And he usually vetoes it. It tends to work itself out. We did our best to empower our (budget) subcommittee chairs, which was key to my presidency. I was good about saying to Tom Lee, “You build a budget. I’ll have a few things I’m interested in, but you build it.” Working with those chairs to do the allocations is a key piece to whoever is going to preside. Everybody has earned the right to be here, so why not empower them? One thing we tried to do and ultimately weren’t able to get done was, we looked at all these after-school programs, and we had this

going to have to work out with staff. That’s just the reality. You can be held accountable and have the information available to everybody as to what decisions were made … but to get back to that block grant idea, if you do that, then you can set up a timeframe and all that information is available to everybody. Then it’s not who has the best lobbyists, but who has the best program. If you’re looking at return on investment, you’re getting into numbers and not the fancy flier. You’re looking at measurable goals, and whether they were met and made sense.

… ABOUT GETTING THINGS DONE: I’m very happy about the additional funding (that went to the Agency for People with Disabilities), the bike trails, the Officer Pine legislation (to expand benefits to survivors of first responders) this year. I think all the way across the board it was very special. There aren’t a lot of high-powered lobbyists or vendors pushing to do things for kids with unique abilities. To be able to say we moved the bar, to have parents

“When I try to look at what I’ve done ... I don’t look at just the last two years, I look at the last 16 years. Being proud about it is not a thing I am comfortable with.” —Andy Gardiner idea of having a larger pot of money and have these organizations compete for it. Come in, show your return on investment ... if you do a good job, you could even get more money. It was $30 million. And you would have thought the world was going to end. We gave them the opportunity for more money, and in our negotiations with the House, I think the House would have gone and done that for everybody. And I think, long term, instead of having earmarks, you get to a point where you say, “Here (are) the after-school program block grants.” Like the federal government, let them compete. Maybe that’s the thing that I would say the Legislature ought to consider. If anything, you have the opportunity to promote yourself and get more money. You do as much in the public as you possibly can, but there is always going to be, just based on timing, (things) you’re


come up to you literally crying, that’s pretty special … When I try to look at what I’ve done, which is good or bad, I don’t look at just the last two years, I look at the last 16 years. Being proud about it is not a thing I am comfortable with. I do think there are a lot of families that will be very happy with what we were able to accomplish. It’s funny, there was one thing that was left in the last day of session, one of the last bills. It provided insurance for children with Down syndrome, specifically for behavioral therapies. There was a huge fight when Marco Rubio was speaker of the House regarding autism (regarding) behavioral coverage. Autism got coverage. Down syndrome did not. I thought that I would leave here with that not being resolved. But that was one of the last bills that passed this year. It was a pretty special thing to get that done. It gets to the heart of a family being

able to understand what is the issue with their kid.

… ABOUT REGRETS (OR LACK THEREOF): As a presiding officer, you have to have the things that you care about and then surround yourself with people that will know how to implement them. It’s probably not as vendor-driven as others, but we laid out some things we wanted to get done the last two years and we got them all done. It was pretty special to me. Now certainly as people try to rewrite history on the (2015) health care discussion, they’ll say, “Oh, why did he get involved in that?” I’m very comfortable with all that. I know the facts and what we were facing. The reality was, we had a Low Income Pool (the state-federal pool of money that reimbursed hospitals for health care given to the poor.) that was going away. We could not build a budget without knowing what that number was going to be. But the federal government said, “We’re not doing $2 billion again.” They were very clear. The Senate tried to fix it. We were just saying that we had to look at all the options. Ultimately, we were able to get a budget done and we put close to $600 million into health care. I don’t look at that as a regret. There’s very little in this process that I lose sleep over. And again, let’s stick with the facts here: I didn’t send anybody home. They left (referring to the House quitting the 2015 Legislative Session three days early). And the reality is — I want to make sure everybody’s clear on this — we had no allocations. We had all agreed, three or four weeks before they left, that we were not going to get a budget done. We were going to come back to do the budget. What I had hoped was that we would have looked at the 70 or 80 bills that were still available and finished strong. We didn’t have all the answers, but I feel pretty darn comfortable with it. I wasn’t played by anybody. We offered ideas and solutions. We asked them to offer ideas and solutions. That’s how the process works. They didn’t. That’s their prerogative. But I didn’t run them off. We were willing and ready to talk.

… ABOUT THE BATTLE OVER THE NEXT SENATE PRESIDENCY: I’ll say this about Sen. (Jack) Latvala and the President-designate (Joe Negron): Regardless of what happened outside the Capitol, with fundraising and all that, they both did a very good job of keeping it clean on the inside. I firmly believe that. I’ve been around both of them a lot, we’ve all traveled together. I didn’t see the bleed-over into any policy I wanted to get done or issues that were important. Ultimately, the members felt like it needed to get resolved. You could sense it was just starting to wear on them.

LEVELS OF INFLUENCE (clockwise from left): Rep. Frank Attkisson and Gardiner applaud the passing of a resolution (circa 2008); Gardiner and then-Speaker-Designate Marco Rubio, left, confer on the House floor during the 2006 Legislature; Gardiner, left, speaking with David Beckham and Mark Abbott about professional soccer in Florida (2014).

PHOTOS: Courtesy Florida Memory Project/Meredith Hill Geddings; Florida House Photographic Collection; Florida Memory Project/Bill Cotterell

… ABOUT FORGING A PERSONAL LEADERSHIP STYLE: I was blessed to have so many years under my belt. My philosophical beliefs have not changed since I was a freshman in the Florida House but my views and outlook on governing have changed. There was not a better time for me to do this. I was ready. I had a pretty good sense of what I wanted the presidency to look like. When Dan Webster was on the path to become speaker, he talked about crushing the pyramid of power and really empowering people. When I would go and talk to members about being president, that’s what I talked about. I talked about empowering them to make decisions, to set their agenda, not me. Sometimes, you’re criticized for that. You’ll have people that will come in here and say, “I want you to tell such-and-such to hear that bill.” And I wouldn’t do that. Other times, people would say, “We want you to tell such-andsuch to take a bill off the agenda.” And I would say, “I’m not doing that.” I wanted to be Senate president to empower that chair to make that decision. I’ll give you a good example: There was a group of parents that were pushing for mandatory recess in schools. I actually support that. My (Pre-K-12 Education Committee) chair John Legg didn’t. He did not believe in the policy and he did not hear the bill. He felt, and it’s legitimate, that that’s a local issue and we should allow local school districts to make that decision. Some said I should have forced him to hear

that (bill). I talked to him about but ultimately it was his decision. He’s the chair. That was just my style.

… ABOUT DEALING WITH GAMBLING LOBBYISTS: I enjoyed all the lobbyists, for the most part. I think the gaming boys are probably the ones that just get greedy. I think it’s funny; I (hear) all these people talk about how the gaming bill was teed up to pass … I don’t support expansion of gaming. That world, that part of it I won’t miss. I won’t miss the gaming side. Not a world I’m drawn to. I don’t have anything personal against them. It’ll be fun to watch on the sidelines. But I would meet with anybody. And there are a lot of people I’d say, “No, I’m not doing that.” Now, if you talk to these gaming guys, there was a view that I blocked the gaming bill, that it was otherwise a done deal. That’s just a complete fabrication. I don’t think the House had the votes to pass it. Maybe they did. Now, what I had indicated to the gaming boys was, “If you get a bill to my desk, I won’t block it and it will go to the floor.” The reality is, they never got a bill to my desk. They didn’t have the votes. But rarely will you find a lobbyist who will say that something is their fault. They’re not going to tell their client they dropped the ball.

… ABOUT BALANCING THE POLITICAL AND THE PERSONAL: … Camille and I have been married for 18 years. Sixteen of it was as an elected official. Our life together has known this. We went from college to

married to here. We just grew up in it. I was blessed in that my wife and children were able to be up here the entire session for the last two years. Leading up to be president, you’re gone a lot. You’re traveling the state, you’re raising money. I wanted my last two years for my children to be able to enjoy it. I wanted them up here. We have a ton of pictures of them being up here and being a part of it. I know there will come a point in their lives where they will wonder, “How come Daddy did this?” It puts a lot of perspective when you’re having a very important policy meeting here in the president’s office and a 6-yearold runs in. It sort of lightens it up. But it can be tough. And being from Orlando, it’s only three and a half hours. It was easy for me go home. I always feel bad for the members out of Miami. There’s no easy way to get here. But I had the flexibility where if I was free, I just said I was going home and get in my car. … But it can be tough. Our six-year-old will say, “Daddy, why do you have to go to Tallahassee?” She did that to me yesterday. (Camille) is not running for anything right now. She’s still talking about it. We’ll have to wait and see. She hasn’t committed. I still have things to do. I’m president till November, but it’s slowed down a little bit. I think I’m going to transition well. I have been very blessed to do this. And we had a great session. I’m ready to go home. The beauty of being home every day at a reasonable time will be huge. ][


The Big Question



Best vacation spot? Watercolor in Santa Rosa Beach. Great family spot! — Former House Speaker Will Weatherford The best vacation spot in Florida is the Bascom’s (Sarah & Mike) new pool. Good food, good drinks, good company, and the kids always have a ball. It is also close by home! — Katie Webb, Colodny Fass

Hands down, the worst spot is Boca Grande. Don’t ever go there. It is a terribly quaint town. The kind of place where people smile and say ‘Hello’ every time you pass them. It annoyingly has everything your silly kids might want to do, like fishing or playing on the beach. Only crowded places are the restaurants where you have to wait minutes — minutes! – for a table. Whatever you do, don’t go to Boca Grande. — Oscar Anderson, Southern Strategy Group It was hot and the lines were long, but without a doubt, our favorite summer vacation memories were made at Walt Disney World. Our daughter’s 128 | INFLUENCE SUMMER/FALL 2016

face lit up when Elsa walked out on the castle stage and she danced her way through countless rides on “It’s a Small World” (sorry, Schoonie). From fabulous hotels and food, to the parades and fireworks — it is the most magical place on earth. — Allison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husband Daughton If you or your significant other is running for president in any year where it might be a razor thin race, or are pregnant — or thinking about getting pregnant in the next six months — then Miami-Dade County is your worst vacation spot both for its propensity to screw up elections and its ongoing Zika outbreak. — Ben Pollara, LSN Partners

Just recently coming off a weeklong excursion to Pensacola, I have to sing its praises. With the boys in tow, we enjoyed the short drive, baseball, the Blue Angels, the Naval Air Museum, boating, the gorgeous beach, the serene sound and playing in the Portifino Resort pool for hours. Hubby loved seeing LSU fans everywhere and the cajun influence on the food. I loved it because it had the look of the tropics and the comfort of my roots in the Redneck Riviera. Boys loved it because they could catch live hermit crabs all day and persuade the bar staff to give them endless cups of maraschino cherries. It was as low key as we wanted it to be and still a great vacation. — Valerie Wickboldt, James Madison Institute Living in Florida is a vacation. But when you need time away from your daily grind, Ocean Reef Club is an easy drive from Miami, and it feels like another world. — Jonathan Kilman, Foley & Lardner

An Urgent Plea to the State NAACP and Florida Teachers Union from More Than 100 African American Ministers:

Drop The Suit!

In August 2014, the state chapter of the NAACP joined the Florida teachers union in a lawsuit asking the courts to shut down the Tax Credit Scholarship program. This program empowers low-income parents to choose a school that best fits their children’s individual learning needs. Here’s what we know about the program: • The average household income of scholarship families is $25,000 for a family of four. • Roughly 30% of scholarship children are Black. More than 75% are minorities. • The scholarship children are the worst performers in their public schools when they leave them. • Once in a new school, they make progress equal to children of all family incomes. • The program helps the academic performance of the public schools. We believe the goals and outcomes of this program are consistent with the mission of the NAACP. For decades, the NAACP has worked to empower Black citizens to improve their lives – especially the lives of their children. That is exactly what this scholarship does. We created the Florida African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice as a formal coalition calling for the end to this misguided lawsuit. We now have more than one hundred members – ministers from every corner of the state. We are simply following the lead of our own congregations. In January, more than 10,000 people travelled to Tallahassee to urge the NAACP and the teachers union to drop the suit. Just this month, we delivered a petition to the NAACP signed by more than 5,000 people imploring the NAACP to drop out of the suit. For over 100 years, the NAACP has fought for educational freedom for Black parents. It should not abandon that honorable legacy now. Signed,

The Florida African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice A Coalition of More Than 100 Ministers From Around Florida Paid for by the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

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Influence Florida Political Magazine - Summer 2016  

Insider's guide to Florida politics and its players.

Influence Florida Political Magazine - Summer 2016  

Insider's guide to Florida politics and its players.