INFLUENCE Magazine – Summer 2019

Page 1

A Publication





Gravitas Embodied: Arthenia Joyner

Sunshine State’s Best New Chefs & Beers


All eyes on the bird for an announcement 20 years in the making.



A tip of the hat to rising stars in Florida’s political universe I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who said youth is wasted on the young. This issue of INFLUENCE Magazine aims to disprove that. Meet the Rising Stars of Florida politics. There are so many of them, we had to abandon the name – “30 Under 30” – we previously titled this feature. I guess that’s what happens when you have a new administration in the Capitol and so many fresh faces in the capital. We received more than 1,000 emails nominating up-and-comers throughout the state to this prestigious list. To be honest, it was a challenge determining who were the cream of the crop. Yet many of the same names kept popping up and were being sent to us from sources in The Process whose judgment we trust. The 2019 class of Rising Stars is involved in every aspect of Florida’s political world. They are fundraisers and lobbyists, PR executives and legislative staffers. Their resumes are extensive, and in 10 years, they’ll be running Florida – if not the world. It’s hard to believe they are only a couple of years removed from the classroom. In fact, a few still are on campus. This is the seventh year we’ve assembled this kind of list and it’s


kind of cool to see how some of our earliest honorees are now dominating #FlaPol. Bold names like Katie Betta, Kevin Cate, Ryan Duffy, Dane Eagle, Toby Philpot, Tom Piccolo, Chris Sprowls, Skylar Zander, and Christian Ziegler all were recognized – sometimes for the first time in the news media – on our pages. In fact, what’s really cool is seeing some of our past honorees now out on the 2020 presidential campaign trail. See if you recognize some of the names in Scott Powers’ rundown of the Floridians making an impact on the race. Keeping with the spirit of recognizing up-and-coming talent, we asked Rochelle Koff to tell us about who are the rising stars of Florida’s culinary world. And The Process’ craft beer master, Josh Aubuchon of Holland & Knight, shares some of the best new pours throughout the Sunshine State. To contrast all of this, I wanted our reporter Jim Rosica to interview someone in The Process who has, arguably, seen as much as anyone. Who but Arthenia Joyner can fit the bill? The civil rights advocate and former lawmaker shares with our readers some of the best insights we’ve been privileged to share with you. I’m writing this Publisher’s Note while flying home from my family’s

summer vacation. It was probably the best downtime I’ve ever enjoyed. I’m coming home refreshed and recharged – and hopeful for the future so beautifully represented on these pages.

Peter Schorsch Publisher




Peter Schorsch

Phil Ammann



CONTRIBUTORS Janelle Irwin Dan McAuliffe Scott Powers Rebecca Renner Drew Wilson

Rochelle Koff Ryan Nicol Noah Pransky Jim Rosica


Kristin Piccolo

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS Colin Hackley Benjamin Todd Mark Wallheiser


Rosanne Dunkelberger

Christy Jennings

Abby Hart Mary Beth Tyson

Daniel Dean



INFLUENCE Magazine is published quarterly by Florida Politics, LLC, a subsidiary of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC. 204 37th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33704. INFLUENCE Magazine and Extensive Enterprises Media are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contributions are welcomed and encouraged, but will not be returned. INFLUENCE Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright March 2019, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Tallahassee, Florida


Fresh Look. Same Impact.


Our reputation is our brand: Solid, smart and impactful. Now, with a new look to match. Coming soon: The new Capital City Consulting headquarters, 124 W. Jefferson St., downtown Tallahassee.

The conceptual inspiration for Capital City Consulting’s new building is in direct response to the owners’ vision of a sleek, transparent design allowing natural light deep into the long and narrrow floor plate. The high roof extension and second-floor balcony gracefully cantilever above the public walk while transparency at the ground level and a recessed entry allow a ‘community’ access into the building’s rich interiors. While reflecting back to a time of true modernism, the exterior symmetry and brick façades are rooted in Tallahassee’s deep traditions and respond to adjacent historic and contemporary buildings. — S.K. Coffin, EMI Architects 850.222.9075 @CapCityConsult SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 5



PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


68 COMING ATTRACTIONS Meet 49 talented and ambitious rising stars in Florida’s political firmament.

58 The Redshirts are Coming!

121 Zombie Campaigns

After sitting Representatives leave to join the Governor’s team, a new trio of members join the House.

The campaigns are over and done, but the candidates’ influence never dies when there’s leftover money in their accounts.

64 Under the Radar

128 What I’ve Learned with Arthenia Joyner

Pet projects are the “sprinkles” on top of Florida’s $91 million budget.

116 On the Campaign Trail Florida political operatives are populating presidential campaign staffs throughout the nation. 6 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

Integrity leads to R.E.S.P.E.C.T., says Florida’s Senate Democratic leader and advocate for civil rights.

Lobbying | Advocacy Outreach | Communications

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26 Chefs to Watch These five bright new stars are rising in Florida’s culinary scene.

35 A Quest for Florida’s Best Brews


Josh Aubuchon travels the state to find and share up-and-comers in the in the beer world.

38 The Governor’s Club Gets a Facelift

PHOTO: Abby Hart

It’s taking two summers and $2 million, but managers promise members changes that will update the club without foregoing it’s Southern style.


On the Move

Insider’s Advice

Political Aficionado’s Guide


Briefings from the Rotunda


52 Wilton Simpson’s Orbit

Fourth Floor Files


A look at the folks in new Senate President’s universe.




55 Take the very long view when passing legislation, RYAN COHN advises legislators. 56 Online polls can be useful, says STEVE VANCORE, but only if you pick the right one.

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■ General Counsel to Governor Rick Scott (2017-19), the Florida House of Representatives (2012-14), and Florida’s Secretary of State (2011-12)

General Counsel, Executive Office of the Governor (2008-09) ■

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Lead Counsel of Record in numerous cases involving constitutional and administrative challenges to government action before state and federal courts and the Division of Administrative Hearings ■

Twelve consecutive victories in appeals before the Florida Supreme Court and Florida’s District Courts of Appeal ■



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General Counsel, Republican Party of Florida (2017-Present) ■

Lead Counsel of Record in numerous appeals before the United States Supreme Court, Florida Supreme Court, and state and federal appellate courts ■

Deputy and Assistant General Counsel to Governor Rick Scott (2012-17) and Staff Attorney to Florida House of Representatives (2010-12) ■

AMBER STONER NUNNALLY ■ Judicial Law Clerk, Florida Supreme Court, First District Court of Appeal ■ Deputy Chief of Staff, Speaker Marco Rubio (2006-07)








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Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

the Political BEST









Never, ever check a bag A travel veteran shares products to make flights comfortable and hassle free BY TEYE REEVES


here are some things that everyone in The Process has in common … the check drop at Goodies, getting stuck on the 11th floor of the Capitol because of outof-service elevators, Conference Call Friday, and the morning read of Sunburn. However, the biggest thing we all have in common is the rigorous travel schedule during the off-season. You would be hard-pressed to find someone in Florida politics who hasn’t experienced being stuck in the Atlanta

airport overnight, sitting in traffic for hours on Interstate 75 or losing luggage in Miami. To add an additional hurdle, our beautiful state capital is one of the most difficult places in Florida to travel in and out of. If you’re lucky, work-related travel can be easy and, I daresay, pleasant at times. Thanks to conveniences like charging stations located throughout most airports, private airport lounges (Pro tip: Amex Centurion lounges offer free manicures and massages at their Exhale spa

locations.) and apps like Wayz to help you navigate traffic, travel can “sometimes” be a seamless experience. I am always on the lookout for travel hacks — items and products that simplify travel and make it more enjoyable. My travel goals are to stay organized, be prepared for whatever circumstances may come up and simplify what often can be a complicated experience. I hope you find some of my travel hacks helpful during the political off-season as well.


TUMI LUGGAGE Checking luggage is a big no-no. The Tumi Garment 4-Wheeled Carry-On has the convenience of a carry-on with the features of a suit bag. Tumi offers several different accent colors and you can personalize your bag for free. You have to buy hangers from Tumi to fit properly in the suit bag, which you can find here: https://www. It even fits in the overhead bin of the regional jets that are so often the only option flying out of Tallahassee.

BOSE NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES These wireless headphones are a must, especially for those long cross-country flights. We all enjoy the convenience of Apple AirPods, but sometimes you just need a bit more to cancel out background noise. Bose makes several models of these headphones that can be customized at an additional charge. The batteries last for 20 hours and some models allow you to adjust just how “noise-canceling” you want them to be. As an added bonus, should you happen to have a noisy hotel room near the elevator or above a bar, you can wear these and still get a good night’s sleep.


GONEX PACKING CUBES Have a weeklong trip but don’t want to check a bag? Enter Gonex Packing Cubes. Imagine vacuum-sealing your clothes into each of these various sized cubes. Once clothing is in the cube, a second zipper takes the cube down to about a third of its original size. They come in a variety of colors and different sets to accommodate your travel needs. Plus, they are a great way to stay organized if you have several different destinations throughout your travels.

CLEAN BEAUTY KIT I often struggle with what face products to bring and how many I can fit into my carry-on luggage. That’s why I love the Clean Beauty Kit. This travel kit contains 16 high-end facial products conveniently packaged in a perfectly sized cosmetics bag. I especially like Omorovicza’s Queen of Hungary Mist that is moisturizing and refreshing during long flights and Algenist’s Prebiotic Balancing Mask.

JACK BLACK SKIN SAVIORS TRAVEL SET This TSA-approved travel set contains a daily face wash, face moisturizer, body scrub and lip balm, all with the minty scent associated with Jack Black products. While the brand is geared toward men, the products are gentle enough for use by both men and women.


the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... GOOD READS

Three new books take on Florida clichés with a twist BY REBECCA RENNER


hen most people think of Florida, they envision beaches and theme parks, Miami Vice and tourist traps. The real Florida is more complex, making it ripe for stories. But they can often become stale, by falling prey to clichés. Some authors, however, have learned to capitalize on our expectations as readers and use them to their advantage. This year, three new Florida books, “The Gulf” by Belle Boggs, “Radio Dark” by Shane Hinton, and “Ordinary Girls” by Jaquira Diaz, take on the task of illuminating the state’s idiosyncrasies. Boggs, Hinton, and Diaz create surprising, lively stories by pinpointing an assumption readers might have about Florida – then twisting it into something unexpected.


BY BELLE BOGGS “The Gulf” takes us to familiar territory in Southwest Florida, a land of trailer parks and shuffleboard, where blue-haired retirees reign supreme. There, on the coast between Bradenton and Sarasota, Marianne Stuart, an atheist poet from Brooklyn who is desperate to make ends meet, finds herself running “a low-residency master of fine arts program for evangelical Christians.” The whole operation reeks of scam artistry, but the people who enroll in the program are genuinely seeking a creative outlet. Students range from a has-been R&B singer to a Panhandle home economics teacher who expects the rapture to come any day. Although “The Gulf” often handles religion with a heavy dose of irony or absurdity, Boggs also seems aware that many of us are wary of treatments of religion, especially how it may influence believers’ political behavior. This reality comes into play when Marianne discovers an organization with ties to the writing program also funds anti-abortion lobbyists and for-profit trade schools. After she makes this discovery, Marianne knows she can’t be complicit anymore. Adding another layer of complication to the story is that Marianne has discovered the humanity of her students as well, a revelation that makes her decisions toward the end of the book all the more difficult.



BY SHANE HINTON Hinton’s “Radio Dark” also plays on Florida’s bleak sense of humor, but it doesn’t seem that way from the start. At first, the short novel seems to be a standard apocalypse story, beginning when millions, possibly billions of people, stop where they are, freezing in place in whatever they were doing. While most of humanity continues in a catatonic state, Memphis, a radio station custodian, works with a Federal Communications Commission agent to broadcast a message to other survivors. In some ways, this story of societal collapse is utterly foreign, deep within the realm of science fiction, but if you look closely, you’ll see “Radio Dark” is much more. It’s a layered social commentary, one you’ll recognize if you’ve ever felt as if you were the only person paying attention. Much of the novel, with its spare prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, is deeply serious and thought-provoking. Other parts – like the preacher trying to spread the word about how human communication is sinful – are clearly tongue-in-cheek. Hinton’s sense of humor will be familiar to Floridians, who know the best way to deal with dark times is often with a joke.



BY JAQUIRA DIAZ “Ordinary Girls,” Diaz’s memoir about identity, addiction and poverty, takes a different tack. Instead of combating bleakness with humor, Diaz faces struggles with an awareness of the world’s beauty. The memoir begins with her childhood in the projects in Puerto Rico, where Diaz’s early years were shaped by her mother’s drug addiction and schizophrenia. Later, as a teenager living in Miami, Diaz begins using drugs herself. Her world is dangerous and chaotic, but as her love of the written word grows, she begins to grasp for a life of greater stability. The girls of “Ordinary Girls” aren’t so ordinary. Diaz herself comes of age as a queer woman within the memoir’s pages. But she also highlights how her tragedies were common ones. Poverty has often left them wanting. They long for drugs and sexual partners at times, but most of the time, they long for escape. “We started talking about dying long before the first woman jumped,” Diaz wrote in the Kenyon Review essay that would become her memoir. The passage, which goes on to detail the girls’ teenage fantasies of dying, is both literally and figuratively the center of the memoir. It shows how Diaz longed to be free of poverty and society’s expectations of her as a woman. Only through creativity did she learn how to break free.

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18 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019 | (850) 577-0398

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... MOVIES

Florida counties step up with film incentives while statewide program remains on hold BY RYAN NICOL


n 2010 a statewide program began that offered $296 million in tax credits to attract filmmakers to Florida. Even advocates declared the program ill-conceived, and it was decried by opponents as “corporate welfare.” Since it sunset in 2016, proposed legislation to rework and revive incentives has failed. Now, local entities are picking up the slack with incentive programs of their own. “This is looked at here as economic development and job creation,” said Sandy Lighterman, commissioner of the Miami-Dade Office of Film and Entertainment, or FilMiami. Miami-Dade County’s film incentive program is one of several throughout the state aimed at courting filmmakers to move their projects away from Hollywood, New York and elsewhere and relocate to the Sunshine State. As to how effective that program has been? “It’s working because it’s attracting production here that wouldn’t have come here,” Lighterman said. SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 19

Projects that spend between $500,000 and $1 million in the county are eligible for a $50,000 grant. But that’s only if at least 20 residents of the county are hired as “principal cast and crew” and at least 70 percent of hired vendors and contractors are from the county. For projects that spend more than $1 million, the same vendor requirement remains. But the cast and crew mandate becomes even more restrictive, with 40 hires required to earn a grant of $100,000. While she’s happy with the status of the Miami-Dade program, Lighterman also is pushing for the statewide incentive program to return. In addition to her role with the county, Lighterman serves as vice president for Film Florida, a trade organization for the state’s entertainment industry. John Lux, Film Florida’s executive director, argued the goal of these incentive programs isn’t to simply subsidize film projects. “Those projects are not what we’re looking out for,” Lux said, arguing the content will be created somewhere, if not Florida. “We’re looking out for the 50,000 Floridians that work in the industry. That’s who this helps.” Lux outlined how the benefits of attracting different productions go beyond just the film industry. “We’re in Florida. Tourism is the No. 1 economic driver. So we always have a focus


on how we can help the state’s No. 1 part of the economy. That’s through hotel rooms. Tangentially from that, when cast and crew are out, they’re eating in restaurants.” In addition, Lux listed off other industries aided by an increase in film and TV production. Hardware stores and carpenters can cash out from the need to build sets. Sometimes those sets can require electrical and plumbing work. And when the crew needs to eat on-site, food trucks and catering companies are often hired. Film Florida backed a bill presented in the 2019 Legislative Session that would have brought back a reworked version of the statewide incentive program. The measure had some support on the Senate side, but sputtered in the House and never made significant progress. “There are certain legislators in leadership that don’t believe in any incentives, regardless of the industry,” Lighterman said. “The Florida House is a little tougher to get through,” Lux added. “We believe that we have very good support. It’s just a matter of lining things up at the right time with the right people.” Lux said the new legislation would address some of the concerns lawmakers had with the old program. For one, the new incentive program would be more selective as to who could receive state dollars. “Obviously, there’s a finite amount of money available. So if a great project

came in at the end, it was denied because there weren’t funds available,” Lux said of the old system. “Instead of just being an open cattle-call, we’re looking at a merit-based program where the projects that would hire the most people, spend the most money, portray Florida in a positive light in terms of tourism, those are the types of projects that we want.” Lux also said the state wants a return on investment in the form of collecting state taxes for every dollar invested. “The old program wasn’t designed for that because that wasn’t the grading scale when it was put into play,” Lux said. He argued the new bill would help address that by lowering the cap on money available for each project. The lower the amount of money given to a production, the higher the return on investment per project. So what happens to the local incentive programs should the state Legislature decide to revive its legislation? Lighterman isn’t so sure, noting that local regions may keep their individual programs to try to look for a leg up when it comes to courting productions. Or, those local governments could decide the cost isn’t worth it anymore. Either way, she said she supports the return of those statewide incentives. “It would be beneficial for Florida to have a program,” Lighterman said. “We’re missing a big opportunity to grow the workforce here.”

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the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... TELEVISION

When Florida Man gets screen time, it’s a boon for Florida’s economy BY JANELLE IRWIN


ilm incentives are a constant source of fierce debate in Florida. On one hand, critics claim they are a slush fund of sorts for the film industry – unnecessary giveaways of state or local funds that pad the pockets of wealthy film companies. But conversely, supporters celebrate them as a tool to boost economic development, stimulate the economy, create jobs – and perhaps most importantly – draw tourism. But there’s an issue not often discussed in the debate. What happens when a film, television show or documentary serves only to further Florida’s known status as the nation’s weirdest state, marked by Florida Man headlines that conjure opinions that if anything bad or embarrassing happens, there must be a Florida connection? And that’s often the case. Take the most recent example in St. Pete Beach. Crews began filming “Floribama Shore” in St. Pete Beach and downtown St. Petersburg this summer. It’s an MTV reality television series that follows the raucous partying habits of eight young adults. There’s drinking, sex and drama. When MTV announced it would be filming in sunny St. Pete, members of the cast tweeted that it was time to “puke and rally,” drawing groans from locals less than enthused that their home was about to be used as a backdrop for debauchery. Less than two weeks after the announcement, one of the cast members, Nilsa Prowant, was arrested for flashing her breasts and breaking a car window after over-imbibing in downtown St. Pete. SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 23

There are others, too. The 2017 film “Florida Project” was filmed in Orlando. It’s a touching story of youthful innocence centering around a budget motel and a fictitious Disney-like theme park. But it paints a story of a drug-addicted mom and the overall unflattering way of life for low-income people struggling to survive. It seems to send the message that central Florida, outside of the tourism appeal of the Big Mouse, is a hotbed of poverty and crime. “Spring Breakers” annoyed locals when it was filmed in the Tampa Bay area in 2012. Like “Floribama Shore,” it was a raunchy movie about young people partying and debauchery. It wasn’t the image residents wanted of their beloved neighborhoods. The obvious question is: Why should filmmakers get financial incentives for making Florida look like a dump? Film Tampa Bay Commissioner Tyler Martinolich argues because it’s still good for the economy. “They’re probably despicable people on and off screen,” Martinolich said, referring to the cast of “Floribama Shore.” “But it’s still showing the beauty of St. Pete Beach. I think people have enough cognitive dis24 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

sonance to parse the two.” So, it matters less that a young partier is hurling tequila behind a bush, for example, than it does that that person just spent an afternoon on a gorgeous beach with soft white sand, crystal blue waters and a stunning sunset. “You’re still exposing people to a location they might not have known about otherwise,” Martinolich said. It works, too. Before “Spring Breakers” hit American box offices in 2013, local officials worried it was sending a message that the prime locations highlighted in the film were good for nothing more than crime and shenanigans. The Visit St. Pete/Clearwater tourism bureau in the area shrugged off concerns, instead saying they didn’t think the film would have much effect at all on tourism, good or bad. But after the movie came out, tourism officials admitted there actually had been a spike in visits to the area. The 1980s hit series “Miami Vice,” filmed mostly in Miami, is another example. Locals at the time worried the show’s

depiction of crime was going to send the wrong message about the community. “The city was completely against its depiction of drugs and corrupt cops,” Martinolich said. “But the show gave Miami an attitude. They had that sense of style and pizzazz that came about because of that show.” Thus, people like Martinolich carry on. They lobby the state for film incentive funding and woo filmmakers to use Florida as a big screen backdrop. Crews are filming a web series called “Black Veil” in Ybor City this year. The series is from the minds behind the hit film “The Blair Witch Project” and documents myths and ghost stories behind Ybor City’s historic buildings and the town’s crime history. Martinolich expects the show to shine a spotlight on Ybor City’s historic buildings and iconic brick facades while also promoting what he describes as an all-new tourism draw for ghost tours. “I’m willing to bet that after this show premiers, you’re going to have another half-dozen of these tours pop up overnight,” Martinolich said. He’s also expecting an uptick in attendance at ZooTampa after a documentary series “Secrets of the Zoo” filmed there is released. The Cleveland Zoo, one of the nation’s most popular, saw an increase in ticket sales after a previous season filmed there. “The bottom line is, good or bad, these types of film projects draw attention. I don’t see a downside,” Martinolich said.


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lorida is gaining respect in the culinary world, but it’s long overdue. Across the state, in small towns and big cities, chefs are making a difference and creating buzzworthy menus. They are some of our brightest stars, reflecting a promising outlook for dining out in Florida. Age is not a factor because chefs can land at this stage at different points in their lives. Beneath the toques, their backgrounds vary but they are gaining recognition and sharing their vision for stellar cuisine. Here’s a look at five of the rising stars in Florida’s restaurant industry:

RACHEL BENNETT Executive Chef The Library in St. Petersburg 600 Fifth Street S.

Rachel Bennett isn’t likely to call herself a rising star — though there are plenty of other people who would, including the judges for the James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant and Chef Awards. They named Bennett one of 23 semifinalists for Rising Star Chef for 2019. “I’m very humble about everything,” said Bennett, but when pressed she acknowledges, “I do feel I have been making waves in the culinary industry, especially for young women chefs, young women gay chefs. I feel good about that.” Bennett also feels good about her latest role as the executive chef at The Library, which opened on the first floor of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in September 2018. The Library is a chic sibling of the hipster Oxford Exchange, where Bennett was the executive sous chef before she moved to The Library. The restaurant is open for Sunday brunch, lunch, dinner and happy hour, with a menu of American comfort food with flair, including spaghetti Bolognese, lime-crusted halibut, cauliflower steak and cheese and charcuterie. You don’t have to be quiet at The Library because it isn’t actually a library, though it is decorated with rows of blue books. It’s dog friendly with a warm atmosphere.



Bennett is from a “big, Greek family” but she didn’t grow up spending hours in the kitchen. She jokes that “my dad would buy Publix fried chicken and my mom was a vegan.” Yet she did watch her grandmother and aunts in the kitchen, so when she was studying business at Hillsborough Community College, she decided on cooking for her elective. “I really enjoyed it,” said Bennett, 32. She has the philosophy “Go big or go home,” which led her to apply for a job at the famed Bern’s Steak House in Tampa when she graduated college. She started out shucking oysters but she worked her way up to the sauté line and then the grill. “I’m fivefeet tall and I was working with all these giant men who were over six feet. We had to lift huge grates.” With women outnumbered in the restaurant business, it can be intimidating to work in kitchens, she said. “For me, I love a challenge.” Bennett expanded her culinary experience working for the Home Shopping Network where she handled food styling with chefs like Emeril Lagassee and Wolfgang Puck. She later worked at the Puff ‘n Stuff Catering business and was part of the starting crew at Edison with renowned chef Jeannie Pierola. Bennett was then hired as a sous chef at Oxford Exchange, where she was promoted to executive sous chef before going to The Library (initially called the Peabody). “I can’t wait to see where we go and what we do,” said Bennett. “I do love working for this company.” Her goals for other aspiring chefs: “Work harder than the person next to you. And don’t quit.”

BENJAMIN GOLDMAN Chef de Cuisine Planta South Beach 850 Commerce STreet

When Benjamin Goldman was growing up, he would enjoy helping his mom make all the traditional foods for the Jewish holidays. But today, Goldman’s cooking is anything but traditional. While his mom was his “initial inspiration,” there’s no brisket in the oven in his restaurant, Planta South Beach — unless it’s made without meat. Goldman is the chef de cuisine at this hot space, which serves plant-based food. “We’re serving food that’s fun yet recognizable,” he said, calling the experience “a new journey in dining.” Planta’s lineup, which changes often, includes crab cakes made with hearts of palm, cauliflower tots, coconut ceviche, nachos made with sweet potatoes instead of cheese, cold sesame noodles and burgers made with black beans and cremini mushrooms. The dining guide Eater Miami named Goldman, 29, their 2018 chef of the year. He is not only the chef of a trendy plantbased restaurant -- he’s a vegan himself, grateful he can drop any pretences in the kitchen.” “I no longer have to check my feelings at the door,” said Goldman, who’s originally from Boca Raton and Parkland. “I’m doing what I believe in. There’s no greater blessing in the world than to wake up and do what you love doing each day.” Goldman wasn’t a vegan when he first became interested in cooking. He was majoring in molecular biology at the University of Central Florida in Orlando but left school to do some soul searching. That search led him to pursue cooking,”which was



always a pleasure for me. It was a creative outlet.” Goldman later attended Johnson and Wales University in Miami and then worked with chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo at her acclaimed Talula restaurant. When he came across provocative chef Ken Oringer on the television show Iron Chef, Goldman was entranced by Oringer’s avante garde cuisine and use of Japanese and French techniques. After much persistence, Goldman persuaded Oringer to hire him. He became an assistant chef at the adventurous Uni, in Boston but he would hang out at Oringer’s original famed flagship, Clio, on his days off “just to learn from anybody and everybody.” Returning to South Florida, Goldman’s culinary career took him to prominent venues including the sophisticated Seaspice on the Miami River and Wynwood’s Shikany. In 2017, Goldman joined David Grutman’s team at Komodo and became the executive chef. About a year after he started at Komodo, Goldman discovered stunning vegan food in Costa Rica, and he began learning more about plant-based foods from all perspectives. Eventually, he took the leap to a vegan lifestyle. Goldman said he began worrying about where he would eventually work as a chef. “The scary part is that there aren’t a lot of places where you can work as a vegan or plant-based chef. I wondered what I was going to do about my career. I knew I had to make some big decisions.” Fortuitously, Grutman asked Goldman to be the chef de cuisine of his new restaurant Planta South Beach. Launched in Canada, Planta is a partnership between Toronto’s Chase Hospitality Group and Grutman’s Groot Hospitality. “I couldn’t have planned it better,” said Goldman. As for vegan cuisine? “In the future, we’ll see more vegan chefs and restaurants popping up, It’s where the food world is going.”




JAMES AND JULIE PETRAKIS Chefs/Owners, The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park 565 W. Fairbanks Ave.

The husband-and-wife team, James and Julie Petrakis, may not be household names but they have been climbing the culinary ladder for more than a dozen years, gaining recognition as restaurant royalty in the Orlando area. The duo opened their first restaurant, a gastropub called The Ravenous Pig, in Winter Park in 2007. They’ve since launched Cask & Larder at Orlando International Airport; Swine & Sons Provisions in Winter Park; and The Polite Pig, a barbecue spot and bourbon bar in Disney Springs, all part of their Swine Family Restaurant Group. From the outset, they have aimed to “break away from the chains,” said Julie, noting that customers were “looking for something different” and were eager to embrace local establishments when they launched The Ravenous Pig. The couple’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed. They’ve been James Beard nominees for “Best Chef in the South” five times and in 2019, they were nominated in the category of outstanding restaurateur. In 2014, Esquire named their restaurant, Cask & Larder, one of the best new restaurants in the country, and they’ve been praised by several national publications including Saveur, Food & Wine, Southern Living and the New York Times. They’ve also written “The Ravenous Pig Cookbook: Seasons of Florida.” The duo’s restaurants are known for using local, seasonal ingredients, artisanal charcuterie and their own craft

beer. Some of their signature dishes include Gruyere biscuits, shrimp and grits and all types of dishes from the pig, from pulled pork to pork belly A favorite dessert is Pig Tails, described as “warm cinnamon-sugar tossed fritters, chocolate espresso sauce.” Julie and James are both from Winter Park area, but they never met until they were each pursuing culinary careers at the Culinary Institute of America. “We met at a bar in New York City but we grew up two miles from each other in Winter Park,” said James. After graduating, the duo worked in high-powered restaurants in New York City and Atlanta. James was at Atelier in the Ritz-Carlton New York-Central Park, and Julie honed her skills as saucier at The Waldorf-Astoria and she also worked for the city’s Union Square Café. They cooked together at Atlanta’s acclaimed Bacchanalia, which they have called a big influence in their career. James later worked for chef Melissa Kelly as she opened Primo Orlando at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes and later at Winter Park’s Luma on Park before opening The Ravenous Pig in 2007. “We knew we’d come back to Winter Park eventually,” said James. Before opening their own place, the pair took a vacation in London where they were intrigued by the gastropubs. In fact, the pubs inspired the whimsical name for The Ravenous Pig. “They were serving great food in a comfortable setting” generally a tavern atmosphere which appealed to them, said Julie. “We continue to change and adapt and add new concepts,” she said “That’s what we’ve gone by, our gut. We see what’s out there, and what’s missing.”





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NICK RICKMAN Executive Chef/Owner, The Salt Block in Marianna 4434 Lafayette STREET


Nick Rickman is the executive chef/owner of a restaurant called The Salt Block in the small town of Marianna in Northwest Florida. He also owns a food truck and catering business called FuzionCraze. But Rickman has another notch to his culinary belt. He happens to be the 2018 World Chef Champion. He earned the title in a contest touted as the “largest food sporting event in the world.” Rickman’s win in November 2018 enabled him to compete in the international World Food Championship Final Table Challenge held in May 2019 in New Orleans. Rickman clinched one of three top spots in the challenge, competing against more than 1,500 contestants from 42 American states and 12 countries. We’ll have to wait to find out if Rickman wins the $100,000 grand prize at the Creole-themed competition in a special one-hour television program, “The Final Table: New Orleans,” airing Aug. 24th on CNBC. “Making the top three just substantiated everything I’ve worked for,” said Rickman, 46. “It shows I’m not a fluke” because he has now been a top competitor in three world events. In 2016, Rickman was among the top three contenders in the steak category; in 2018, he was the champion chef; and in 2019, he’s among the top three contenders for the Final Challenge. Friends, neighbors and customers would say that Rickman has been a winner without the contests. The Salt Block, which opened in June 2018, has been well-received, bringing diners from the region and beyond. Rickman is known for his steak and seafood and his use of local ingredients, working with area farmers. The chef was born in Rome, Georgia, and grew up in Central Florida, working in the hospitality industry in Kissimmee and Orlando. As a kid, he was a fan of the TV show “At Home with the Roux Brothers” on the BBC channel, but it was his grandfather, Tony Sidaris, a Greek immigrant who went into the restaurant business in Georgia, who was his “biggest inspiration.” “Cooking is in my blood,” said Rickman, noting that his grandfather “was one of the pioneers of the family-style steakhouse. He had a great restaurant.” Also in his blood: not giving up. In October 2018, less than six months after opening the 75-seat Salt Block, Hurricane Michael pummeled Northwest Florida. “Four big trees fell on our house,” said Rickman. “We still have tarps on the roof.” Rickman’s restaurant was closed for six weeks, but he worked with Operation BBQ Relief to prepare meals for workers, first responders and residents. When a crisis like this hits a community, “It can feel like the end of the world,” he said. Rickman and representatives of churches and the barbecue relief operation cooked “thousands of pounds of meat.” Michael hit just weeks before Rickman and his team were headed to the World Food Championship in Alabama. “I was working on refining recipes when the storm hit. Normally you tweak them but we went with our initial draft.” All chefs were asked to cook one particular dish and a second dish that was a signature dish for that event. Rickman’s signature dish was rack of lamb with fingerling potatoes and blistered, heirloom tomatoes. Rickman’s recipes and his skills proved to be just fine. Unlike most food competitions, the World Food Championship uses double blind judging so that contestants and the judges don’t know each other’s identity, at least leading up to The Final Table. “No one knows who you are,” said Rickman. “No one knows your story.” For now, Rickman’s story is being “grateful” and “humbled” by winning these awards, and gaining recognition for his skills. “So many emotions are running through your head,” he said. “I think about my grandfather and how he helped guide me through this journey. I know he was proud looking down on me. “


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“Rising Stars”

in the Craft Beer Scene by josh aubuchon


or the past 10 years, I have been fortunate enough to represent members of the craft beer industry – both as their attorney and as their lobbyist. In that time, I have occasionally brewed my own beer but, more importantly, gained a wealth of experience about the alcoholic beverage industry as a whole. And so,

I consider myself uniquely qualified to pass along some insight about the craft beer scene around the state. Because this issue of INFLUENCE focuses on Rising Stars, I thought I would do the same for this column. Here are some of the upand-comers in Florida beer that have been around for fewer than three years:

Webb’s City Cellar, 1133 Baum Ave. N., St. Petersburg OK, this first one is a bit of a cheat. Webb’s City Cellar is really an expansion of the already renowned Green Bench Brewing Company that focuses on mixed culture, sour, and wild ales.While Green Bench already is an amazing brewery, the projects the team have developed at Webb’s City Cellar are nothing short of world-class. The beers are crazy, funky, aromatic — in a word, beautiful. After being brewed at the brewery, the beers designated for Webb’s will be placed into custom-built foeders (pronounced food-ers), essentially large oak barrels designed for aging. Once fermentation is complete, the beers are then transferred for further aging into another set of barrels, which may have previously been used to age wine or spirits. Finally, the finished beer is blended together and fruit or additional hops may be added, depending on the plan for the finished product. Alongside Webb’s incredible offerings on tap, you’ll also find a curated selection of beers from breweries all over the world that are some of the best beers the styles have to offer. There is no bad beer to be found, but you shouldn’t miss their Peach Alice, a barrel-aged golden sour with peaches, or their Bier De Garde, a malt-forward farmhouse-style ale.

Enjoying a cold one. Photo: BW Todd Photography


REVE Brewing, 1237 Mayport Road, Atlantic Beach Owner and brewer Eric Luman opened REVE with the idea that he wanted to make only beers that he wanted to drink. And while REVE does a great job of brewing up IPAs, fruited sours, and pastry stouts, the thing they might be best known for right now is the beer slushy. That’s right, a beer slushy – which is exactly what it sounds like – a wonderfully frozen concoction perfect for beating the Florida heat. The styles available rotate constantly and might range from a sinfully delicious dessert stout with a chocolate and vanilla to a sour Berliner Weisse packed with cherries, blueberries and guava. Be sure to grab some cans of Discombobulated (a guava and passionfruit sour with marshmallow) or Blackberry Bam-Ba-Lam (a blackberry sour) from their Down the Rabbit Hole series. You won’t be disappointed.

Perfect Plain Brewing Co., 50 E. Garden St., Pensacola Located in downtown Pensacola, this brewery is quickly helping put the tip of Florida’s western edge on the beer map. Perfect Plain opened in November 2017 and quickly attracted a number of regulars, including a member or two from their own legislative delegation!Each of their handcrafted beers demonstrates a commitment to quality regardless of whether it is a classic pale ale or a newfangled sour with “tan limes, salted coconut and key lime.” Check out their Oranges in Abundance IPA (a double IPA with oranges), the Coco Gnar Coconut Stout (a liquid hymn to Samoa Girl Scout cookies), or, if you can find it, their tribute to Middle Earth: Hairy Con Man, a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout.

Leaven Brewing, 11238 Boyette Road, Riverview Headed up by a husband-and-wife team with plenty of pedigree in the brewing industry, Leaven Brewing is hyper-focused on local, small-batch beers. They currently have no plans to enter distribution, so you’ll have to go to the source to sample their latest offerings. With five flagship beers and five rotational taps, you’ll always find something topical. While plenty of other breweries want to add crazy exotic ingredients or make dessert stouts more appropriate over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the beers eschew such flash-in-the-pan and tempt you with beers that are simple, clean, and refreshing. Both their Cheeky Blonde (a blonde ale) and Is Good Kölsch (a German-style kölsch) are perfect to enjoy during the Florida summer.

Honor Roll Ivanhoe Park,

Blackadder Brewing,

Tidal Brewing,

1300 Alden Road, Orlando

618-A N.W. 60th St., Gainesville

14311 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill

Named after one of Florida’s first water parks, this rustic-themed brewery is located a block off of Lake Ivanhoe. Try their Joyland American IPA or if you can find it, their Cotton Candy Sour.

Inspired by beers from the Old Country, this little gem packs in 40 taps of inhouse beers and guest taps. Their Belgian beers stand out, including Date Night, a Belgian quadrupel, and Giggling Imbecile, a Belgian tripel.

Intimate space with plenty of variety. Standouts include Melusine, a blonde ale with coconut; Grown N Sexy, a double IPA, and Maxinator, a traditional German bock.

Amelia Island Brewing,

Odd Breed Wild Ales,

318 Centre St., Fernandina Beach

50 N.W. 1st St., Pompano Beach

West Palm Brewery & Wine Vault,

This brewpub is a must-stop for those trips over to Amelia Island. Great food and beer, especially their Madison Cherry Sour and Annie, a brut IPA.

This brewery focuses solely on creating unique wild ales and farmhouse ales. Definitely try Past & Future, a delicate saison, and Fresh Off the Farm with Peaches, a wild ale with peaches aged in French oak.


332 Evernia St., West Palm Beach Beautifully simple, clean beers. While their B4 Blonde and Five Six One Hefeweizen are probably best known, they have plenty of other lesser-known offerings. Be sure to try the Dunkel Dave, a dunkelweizen, which is a dark German-style wheat beer.



A NEW LOOK FOR THE GOVERNORS CLUB This second home for The Process will sport a new, refreshed look after a $2 million renovation spanning two years by rosanne dunkelberger


hen it opened in 1982, The Governor’s Club was the grand dame of downtown, located on South Adams Street just a block away from Florida’s Capitol, offering a level of elegance and service never before seen in Tallahassee. Alas, after 37 years of events, weddings, meetings and soirees, her finery was looking a bit dowdy and down-atthe-heels. Today, after months of planning, member leadership and management are now in the midst of a $2 million renovation spread over two years to provide a facelift that will again make the private club the belle of the ball. The overall goal, said General Manager and COO Barry Shields, is to modernize the facility’s look and functionality to reflect the changing tastes and needs of its membership while continuing to “represent our Southern roots.” “It is still very much a business club and it needs to appear like a business club,” he said. “I always look at what Ritz Carltons do when they renovate. “At the end of the day it still has the same look, same feel, but there’s new furniture, there’s new light fixtures, there’s new window treatments. They do a good job of maintaining a certain look and that’s our goal as well.” The first phase of the renovation, which began this summer, focuses on the second and third floors of the club, replacing deteriorating tin ceiling tiles, renovating the bathrooms with a new style and for ADA compliance, as well as repainting walls and replacing furniture. The massive wood bar in the second floor Parlour will be removed and the wall behind it torn down and replaced by moveable panels, to make the space more flexible and better suited to larger groups. The massive glass panel etched with flora and fauna currently behind the bar will be moved elsewhere in the club. The third-floor meeting rooms will be completely renovated. The Private Dining


Room will expand by stealing a few feet from The Governors Board Room. Per the request of “very vocal” founding members, the wood-paneled sanctum sanctorum that is The Library will remain virtually the same. “The panels are basically going to be restored and that room’s going to be brought back to its original state,” Shields said. The murals that line the grand staircase, however, are going away. “We get a lot of comments about the dark, dreary murals that are there,” he said. “This area will actually just be painted and more millwork will be added to the walls themselves. It will be lightened up (to become a) brighter, more cheery space.” As Tallahassee’s downtown economy largely lives and dies by the legislative calendar, so does the timeline for completion of the renovations. “We have our first committee week in mid-September that we need to keep in mind,” Shields said. “We’ll be able to work around any lingering construction going on to accommodate that first committee week, but we hope to be completely finished with phase one by the first of October.” Phase two will commence after the 2020 Legislative Session ends in March and will include a complete renovation of The Grille and its mezzanine. The first-floor Lounge also will be freshened up during this phase. For the first time in the club’s history, renovations are being funded by a special assessment paid by its approximately 1,000 members. In order to fund future projects, initiation fees for new members were increased and that money will be placed in a newly established capital fund, along with a $35 monthly fee. Shields has a unique perspective on his place of employment. His stint as manager at The Governors Club began in 2014, but he worked there in the early ’80s as a college student very soon after it opened. In the early days, there were shops on the first floor and the sec-

ond-floor dining room hosted both lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast during the Legislative Session. “As a server here in the early days we had a specific coat and tie and white shirt and gray slacks that we wore for lunch service and then after lunch service we changed into a tuxedo and provided evening service,” he recalled. Dinners were formal and, in addition to the tuxedoed waiters, there was tableside service such as fresh-made Caesar salad and dessert and wine carts. Patrons, he said, would often adjourn upstairs to The Library for after-dinner drinks and smoking. “In those days, the Clean Indoor Air Act didn’t exist,” Shields said. Times changed, and the opening of The Grille “killed the dining up here,” he reported. “Nobody wanted to get dressed up. The days of two- and three-hour dinners were long gone.” While 80 percent of their banquet business occurs during the legislative months, the club membership is mostly Tallahassee based. To encourage off-season utilization of the facilities, the management has programmed more family-friendly events. “Our average membership is actually getting younger,” Shields said. “We have plenty of older members who have been members since the doors opened … but we also have plenty of 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds that are joining the club as well. Members just getting started in their careers and young families and very much becoming part of the club life.” That said, Shields is very aware Governors Club members are used to food, service and atmosphere that are a cut above the rest. “They’re certainly no stranger to the finer things in life,” he said. “I’m Facebook friends with a lot of our members here. You see the places they go and the dinners that they have and the vacations that they take. They want a slice of that in Tallahassee and we try to provide that to them.”

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Briefings from the Rotunda


Kathy Mears to work for Wilton Simpson

Nick Hansen is now working with MedMen as its regional Director of Government Affairs. Nikki Fried (left) was a medical marijuana lobbyist before her election as Agriculture Commissioner. She appointed Holly Bell as Florida’s first cannabis “czar.”

Nick Hansen joins MedMen


ongtime Jeff Brandes adviser Nick Hansen quietly left his work in the public sector and on the campaign trail late last year to enter the medical cannabis private sector. Hansen joined MedMen, a Los Angeles-based cannabis chain with several locations in Florida, to serve as its Director of Government Affairs in the Southeast. Hansen said his transition from government work and campaign strategy to private sector government affairs was a natural transition. “The pace is very similar,” Hansen said. “It’s like managing a presidential campaign. There are a lot of moving parts. You’re growing a product; you’re interfacing with elected officials.” Hansen wasn’t looking for a new job, but a friend reached out with the opportunity: “The more I learned about MedMen and the emerging market, I was really impressed with the professionalism, the scale at which the company wanted to grow. I realized it fit my skill set really well.” Brandes even nudged him to take the job, Hansen said. “When do you have the opportunity to get on the ground floor of an emerging market, and in Florida, a market that’s helping sick people?” he mused.


athy Mears has left Florida State University to help state Sen. Wilton Simpson prepare for taking the helm of the state Senate in 2020, assuming the GOP holds onto its majority in the chamber. “Kathy will do a great job putting a transition plan together,” the Trilby Republican told INFLUENCE in July. “I am a businessman, not a career politician, and having someone with her experience will help prepare me for what is ahead.” When asked if Mears will eventually serve as his Chief of Staff, Simpson replied, “Look, there is one President at a time. I have tremendous respect for President (Bill) Galvano and will wait until after Session to talk about those decisions. “Stay tuned,” he added. Simpson is slated to be Senate President for 2020-22. Mears served as chief of staff to two consecutive Florida House speakers before becoming the top in-house lobbyist for FSU in late 2016. She worked for Republican House Speakers Will Weatherford (2012-14) and Steve Crisafulli (2014-16). She then left state government to become FSU’s chief legislative affairs officer in 2016, reporting to President John Thrasher, another former state lawmaker. She also has been a top adviser to former Senate Presidents Ken Pruitt and Tom Lee, and was deputy chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Also, Mears was campaign communications director to Congressman Daniel Webster and was a vice president at On 3 Public Relations in Tallahassee.



Briefings from the Rotunda

Melanie Brown moves to Advent Health


elanie Brown, who previously served as Director of Government Relations for the Johnson & Blanton lobbying firm, has taken the same-titled job for the West Florida Division of AdventHealth, in the

Tampa Bay region. “It’s a great move for her,” firm principal Jon Johnson said. “We will miss her; she’s been a valuable part of our team and my family for many years. But working for one of our clients means we will have many opportunities to stay in touch and work with her in this new role.” AdventHealth is the still relatively new name of the former Adventist Health System, sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and an “expression of the church’s health care ministry,” its website says. It’s one of the nation’s largest faithbased health systems, with 47 hospital campuses in nine states


and more than 1,200 care sites. Brown, a Pensacola native, has been with Johnson & Blanton since February 2011 as government relations director, and was there previously in 2004-06 managing projects and special assignments, researching client issues, and developing marketing strategies for the company and clients. “I’m excited to join AdventHealth West Florida Division and make an impact on the health of our communities,” Brown said. “I worked alongside the organization for many years while in my previous role, and always admired AdventHealth’s commitment to their mission, their communities and their team members.” During the 2008 election cycle, she was Finance Director for House Campaigns at the Republican Party of Florida, where she raised $13 million to successfully elect Republican candidates to the Florida House, according to her bio. Brown also served as Director of Appointments and Special Projects for House Speaker Larry Cretul, and helped create the House’s Office of Public Information that incorporated several communication functions, such as public record requests, correspondence and website functions.


The lobbying team at TECO Peoples Gas includes (left to right) Eddie Metzger, Laura Crouch and Holly Miller Moore. Photo: Jerome Maples.

New energy with revamped TECO team


ith the retirement of Donna Simmons – Director of State Government Relations – after 20-plus years, things are changing in the lobbying/external affairs world at TECO and Peoples Gas. An “organizational realignment” was announced recently for the State and Community Relations team: — Edward “Eddie” Metzger was named the new Director of State Government Relations, effective Sept. 1. Metzger will serve as the primary advocate and liaison to the Florida Legislature and executive branch. He joined TECO Peoples Gas in 2017 as the Southwest Florida Regional Manager for the Community Relations team, with an extensive background in Florida business and politics. He previously served as the Governmental Director at Pittman Law Group, chief legislative aide to Rep. Rachel Burgin, Chief of Staff to Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, and campaign strategist to several local, House

and Senate campaigns across Florida. — Laura Crouch was promoted to Vice President of State & Local Affairs and Economic Development for Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas last December. The chemical engineering graduate from the University of South Florida joined Tampa Electric, and has been in various departments in her 18-year career with the company, including Environmental Planning, Regulatory Affairs, Resource Planning and Business Strategy department as energy policy manager. She was responsible for coordinating the development of legislative and regulatory policy to address evolving energy and environmental initiatives. She also was responsible for corporate sustainability reporting. — Holly Miller Moore has been named Director of State Partnerships & Strategy, a new position, leading the development of TECO’s investment strategy. She will develop and implement policy and legislative initiatives. Moore joined TECO in October 2017, after a decade of legal and governmental-affairs experience. She has been corporate counsel for Infinite Energy Inc. focusing on that company’s business litigation and dispute resolution. After returning to her hometown of Tallahassee, she was assistant general counsel and then governmental affairs counsel for the Florida Medical Association. In 2015, she was recruited by Xerox to lead their Medicaid IT contract procurement in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi as the Vice President of Government Healthcare.



Briefings from the Rotunda

Kasey Lewis joins Lewis, Longman & Walker


ewis, Longman & Walker this summer announced Kasey Lewis has joined the firm’s Tallahassee office as a Legislative Coordinator. Lewis previously was a legislative assistant to state Sen. Lori Berman and state Rep. Matt Willhite, both Democrats. She also was a field organizer for the 2016 Hillary for America campaign. In 2018, Lewis served as the Fundraising and Finance Chair for the New Leaders Council Palm Beach Board of Directors. The University of Florida grad is now pursuing a graduate degree in Public Administration and Policy from American University. Lewis, Longman & Walker is a statewide law firm with 34 attorneys practicing in the areas of environmental, land use, local government, real estate, litigation, and legislative and governmental affairs.

Gunster alum Keith Sonderling nominated to EEOC


resident Donald Trump earlier this year nominated former Gunster law firm shareholder Keith Sonderling to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). “Keith achieved many career milestones while at Gunster and only left our firm to pursue his passion for public service,” Managing Shareholder Bill Perry said. “Keith served with great distinction in many roles at the Department of Labor, culminating with this presidential nomination,” he added. “We are very proud to have one of our former lawyers serve such an important role in our country.” If confirmed, Sonderling would serve the remainder of a five-year term that ends July 1, 2024. The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee. He currently serves as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. He previously was the Acting Administrator. The Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces federal labor laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family Medical Leave Act. Before joining the Department of Labor in 2017, Sonderling practiced labor and employment law at the Gunster office in West Palm Beach.


Good advocates make good neighbors


t’s not often you find two former Senate Presidents in the same office building. But that’s the synergy geared up by the downtown Tallahassee building co-owned by Jennifer Green of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee and Tampa-based lobbyist Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting. Former Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ MJH Consulting is in the College Avenue edifice, as is past President Ken Pruitt’s The P5 Group. They’re not the only former lawmakers: House alumni Doug Holder and Rob Schenck claim the building as home for their Legis Group lobbying concern. Of course, other notable tenants include Rob Wilson’s Wilson and Associates, Alan Suskey’s Suskey Consulting, Carol Bowen of Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida-Northeast Chapter, and Ron Greenstein, among others. The 17,000-square-foot, four-story structure was built in 1930, according to the Leon County Property Appraiser’s Office. The building, at 113 E. College Avenue, “boasts a fully furnished basement, offices, kitchen, a balcony with a wrought iron railing and views of the Capitol from all floors,” says a 2017 story in Florida Politics. From 1977, the building was owned by Annette’s, Inc., which sold it to the Florida Medical Association in 1995. In 2005, the Florida Association of Community Colleges purchased the building, making several significant upgrades and renovations. “Tallahassee has been my home for over 25 years, and since I don’t see the Capitol building moving anytime soon, this was an easy long-term business decision,” Green said in 2017, when she and Pierce bought the building.






The Intersection of Business and Government in Florida Florida Roots, Global Reach. 101 E A ST CO LL E GE AV E N U E TA LL A HA SSE E , FL 32 301 850. 222 . 6 89 1 W W W. G T L A W. C O M Greenberg Traurig is a service mark and trade name of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Greenberg Traurig, P.A. ©2019 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Attorneys at Law. Attorney Advertising. Contact David C. Ashburn in Tallahassee at 850.222.6891. All rights reserved. °These numbers are subject to fluctuation. 32708


FOURTH FLOOR>FILES ADVOCATE, MENTOR AND ‘EQUAL OPPORTUNITY PIG-OUTTER’ Significant other? Children? Grandkids? One child, Jacob. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I work with individuals and companies in their interactions with government at the state and local level – whether regulatory, legal or administrative – to help them achieve their business goals. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I am an American first and foremost. If there is a philosophy or policy that advances our national interest, it is a safe bet I will support it. Within our societal dialogue, I generally support policies that embrace freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of expression and economic freedom. If you have one, what is your motto? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? The work I do that I find most rewarding is mentoring young men of color. I have been very fortunate to have had numerous mentors who believed in and invested in me. I am trying to pay that forward by spending time with young professionals and students, offering professional guidance and encouragement.

PHOTO: Jessica Friend

Derek Bruce

Three favorite charities? I dedicate a significant amount of my time and resources to the Randy Roberts Foundation, an organization created after the passing of my friend, which has provided college scholarships to dozens of deserving Central Florida youth since 2009. Also, the Victim Service Center, an NGO which serves victims of sexual assault and violent crime; and McCormick Research Institute, a research organization that operates Heavenly Hooves and Horses and Heroes, with programs designed to expand access to effective equine-assisted therapies for veterans and individuals with special needs. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Driving home to Orlando.

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Still a while away. I will keep you posted. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … Larry Williams. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Becoming the first black Equity Shareholder in my law firm’s 94year history. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No! I remember a colleague once telling me, “When you buy your first pair of Gucci dress shoes, you’ll never go back,” to which I responded “Then remind me to never buy my first pair of Gucci dress shoes!” Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Is there more than one? Other than, your reading list includes … Sayfie Review, Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times. What swear word do you use most often? I try to avoid it. A mentor of mine once told me, “Swearing represents a weak mind trying to express itself forcefully.” Since then, I have tried to find more articulate ways to express my frustrations. That doesn’t mean I don’t let the occasional four-letter word slip, though, but it is usually pretty mild. What is your most treasured possession? I would probably cry the hardest if my golf clubs were stolen. My convertible sports car would be a close second. The best hotel in Florida is … The Breakers. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Attorney General Ashley Moody, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, State Rep. Anna Eskamani, and Sen. Audrey Gibson. Favorite movie? I’ll name two: “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “Thank You for Smoking.” When you pig out, what do you eat? Barbecue, pizza and desserts. I am an equal opportunity “pig-outter.” If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Jesus of Nazareth


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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES A ‘HIPPIE’ AT HOME IN A WAFFLE HOUSE AND THE BREAKERS Significant other? Children? Grand kids?Lizbeth and I have two kids in elementary school, Martha and John. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Solve problems. Usually, those problems involve complex and contentious environmental policies. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Federalist. If you have one, what is your motto? Hold on, wait a minute, gotta put some Dawg in it. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Leadership Florida. Participating in Class 35 and now serving as the organization’s general counsel has allowed me to get to know and work alongside some of Florida’s most impressive business and community leaders. Three favorite charities. Grace Mission in Tallahassee. It is at least three charities in one: an outreach ministry of the Episcopal Church, a soup kitchen, and an afterschool tutoring program for underprivileged children. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? I get mildly depressed. It’s hard to ratchet down.

PHOTO: Jerome Mapels Photography

David Childs

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Winning. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be… Josh Aubuchon. His list includes the best breweries in Florida, and I like beer. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Navigating out of the numeric nutrient criteria water quality issue that the State found itself in with U.S. EPA a few years ago. The stakes were high, the state and federal politics complicated, the policy issues technical and prone to mischaracterization, and the interests incredibly diverse. There is a sports expression that teams have to

sometimes “grind out a win.” That was absolutely the case with the NNC issue. It proved to me that I can out-grind really talented opponents. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I’m a bit of a hippie. I wear Clarks. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Bruce Ritchie. He works to get the facts right. And he realizes he is a reporter and not an op-ed writer, which some reporters who cover environmental issues forgot long ago. Other than, your reading list includes … Every morning, I read Florida Politics, Politico, Sayfie, and Inside EPA. What swear word do you use most often? Probably “dadgummit.” What is your most treasured possession? My 1975 George Brett rookie baseball card. Even though it’s not really worth that much anymore, I always know where it is in case my house catches on fire. My wife can handle grabbing the family photos. I’m getting that card. The best hotel in Florida is … The Breakers. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? I’d invite [Democratic presidential candidate] Marianne Williamson four times. I’m not sure if she knows anything about Florida politics, but my talk show would have killer ratings. Favorite movie. “The Big Lebowski.” When you pig out, what do you eat? Hash browns. Scattered, smothered, covered and chunked. Speaking of, who represents Waffle House? Maybe I’d rather add that lobbyist’s book… If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Davy Crockett.



In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I lobby on behalf of a range of clients, from tech startups, to Fortune 500 companies, to local governments. It is never boring. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I’m a capitalist who is passionate about progressive social causes. If you have one, what is your motto? Do hard things. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? While not exactly pro bono because it was a legislative priority of a local government we represent, I spent a lot of time last session advocating for Sen. Wilton Simpson’s and Rep. Jackie Toledo’s bill that strengthened Florida’s texting while driving ban. I have no doubt we’re going to see a reduction of deaths caused by distracted driving because of it. Three favorite charities. Girls Who Code, Human Rights Campaign and the Innocence Project. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Champagne. More than one glass. What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session. Learning. I joined Converge Government Affairs because I wanted to expand my knowledge into a wide range of policy areas. We take on really tough fights and I look forward to ending the 60-day sprint every year knowing more than I did before it started. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be… Jeff Sharkey has a pretty great book. I mean who wouldn’t want to lobby for Jimmy Buffett, electric cars, medical cannabis, and self-landing rockets?

Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Being a part of a team that successfully advocated for the best statewide ridesharing legislation in the country. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I don’t. More of an oxford guy. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Nope - not taking the bait :) Other than FloridaPolitics. com, your reading list includes… Bloomberg, Tech Crunch, Business Insider, The New York Times. What swear word do you use most often? The one that has four letters. What is your most treasured possession? My wine fridge and the bottles that live in it. The best hotel in Florida is… The Don CeSar. I’ve never had a bad time at The Don CeSar. 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? The tech caucus in the Legislature right now: Jeff Brandes, Jamie Grant, Jason Fischer and Danny Perez. Favorite movie. “Pulp Fiction” When you pig out, what do you eat? A very large steak. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Benjamin Franklin innovator, statesman, and diplomat with a hell of a wine collection. Sounds like a great guy to break bread with.



Cesar Fernandez PHOTO: Abby Hart

Significant other? Children? Grandkids? I live in Miami with my wife, Ailyn. She’s a remarkable woman, a future dentist, and the best person I know.

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{ insiders’ ADVICE

All lawmakers should be futurists ryan cohn says fast-changing technology needs to be considered when passing new legislation

When Mark Zuckerberg testified before a joint congressional hearing last year, the biggest takeaways weren’t about the company’s data vulnerabilities or growing technological impact. Rather, what the public discovered from those nearly 10 hours of questions was ... Congress doesn’t understand technology. This exhibition of ignorance was capped off by a question from then-84year-old Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah: “So, how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” To which, Zuckerberg responded (with a slight smirk), “Senator, we run ads.” We live in arguably the most innovative age of human history. Rapid technological change is reshaping our world, with its impact felt by every Floridian. The decisions we make now will dictate whether we’re positioned to benefit from this advancement or if we’ll be left behind. Futurist Ray Kurzweil has stated our overall rate of progress doubles each decade: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” So what could possibly hold back world-changing innovation? Archaic policy. I’ll offer an example: In just a few years, fully autonomous cars will constantly be in transit, dropping off passengers and either picking up others or waiting in a less-busy area until needed again. They won’t have to park in a busy, downtown setting. So that begs many questions: What do we do with our parking garages when they’re no longer needed? How could we better design our roads and cities? How

do municipal governments replace lost revenue from fewer parking tickets? Construction and zoning are longterm processes, with the expectation that structures will last 40 to 100 years. But the world will be vastly different in 40 to 100 years. If our lawmakers dive into that planning process without at least a basic vision of what the future might be like, then we may end up limited by infrastructure that, while still standing, doesn’t provide the utility it did only a few years before. Obviously, I don’t expect lawmakers to know exactly what the world will look like in 40 to 100 years. To be honest, I have only a passing guess as to what the world will look like then. But it’s important that our lawmakers realize the world will be vastly different then, and the decisions they make now have the potential to empower or handcuff innovation for future generations. Thankfully, some of our state lawmakers have embraced this future-proofing approach to the sausage-making process. When the Legislature passed its texting-while-driving ban earlier this year, the bill’s sponsors took great strides to offer a definition of “wireless communications device” that could include anything from a smartphone to an Apple Watch. They also included language in the bill to prevent future restrictions on technological innovation by excluding autonomous vehicles while in self-driving mode. But could that bill inadvertently create challenges for the adoption of new technologies we haven’t thought of yet? The “wireless communications device” definition includes any hand-held de-

vice that connects to the internet. In upcoming years, 5G connectivity will lead to widespread integration of “Internet of Things” solutions into anything from your toaster to your car. Of course, the definitions within our laws can always be modified as technology evolves, and we will certainly have to do that more and more in the years ahead. But the process to purge or update old laws requires time and political capital, which many lawmakers would rather invest into the passage of new legislation. So it’s high time our local, state, and federal lawmakers learned about the technologies that are rapidly changing our world – and to think through how those technologies will intersect with public policy. Many of the greatest technological innovations will be developed here in the Sunshine State over the next decade, creating millions of new jobs and transforming how we live, work, and play. The future will arrive faster than we can imagine. We have to think critically about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. Ryan Cohn, Partner and Executive Vice President at Sachs Media Group, is a strategic adviser to many of the firm’s largest clients, forecasting and navigating the changing communications and marketing landscape, and leading digital media initiatives. He has taught at Florida State University and contributed to prominent media outlets including Mashable and AdWeek. Ryan has created hundreds of well-known marketing and issue advocacy campaigns, with several featured on The Today Show, ABC World News, Buzzfeed, Daily Mail, Fox News, and Business Insider.


{ insiders’ ADVICE

Online polls: Not all are created equal


as the time come where we can (finally) begin to trust online poll results and the companies that promote them? __Definitely Yes __Lean Yes __Lean No __Definitely No __Unsure

Sadly, I too often find myself answering questions in Likert scales – and then wondering why I never get invited back to the party. When it comes to online polls however, “All of the Above” might be the correct answer. Online polls – if they are done correctly – can be very useful and yield valid, reliable results. But not all online polls are created equal. Some are downright horrible and can provide misleading findings. It’s important to know what to look out for in an online poll – and what should send you running for the hills. • As with any poll, use a reliable vendor. The genius in the basement with a super-secret method is likely selling snake oil. Get good references (from known and trusted sources), ask to see prior work product, and be sure to ask a lot of questions. If the answers don’t make sense, save your money. • Be skeptical of anyone who is not willing to explain how they reach people, the technology they use and how their system works. This is a new and improving technology and you have every right to ask about how the sausage is made. • Very low-cost products are inexpensive for a reason. There is no magical list that can be tapped into for a very low price. Well-done online polls require infrastructure, list maintenance and professionals at the helm. They often can be less expensive than a live caller poll (especially for large samples) but not by that much. 56 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

steven j. vancore offers tips for picking the proper pollster

• Be very wary of any vendor or platform that directly incentivizes people to take your poll. This is the easiest way to get a skewed or biased sample and a sure sign of a vendor taking really dangerous shortcuts. • Understand the limits of your specific online poll vehicle. ° Text-to-web: While this is the closest thing to live-caller polls, you can only reach cell phones, and unless you are doing a poll that is 15 minutes or longer, it won’t be any cheaper. ° Email-to-web: If you are content getting opinions from people with really loose spam filters – and this isn’t snark, there are many times when this is OK – then this type of online poll would do the trick. ° Online panels: While these polls check the boxes for higher contact rates and lower costs, even companies with access to more than two million people who have signed up will have a hard time completing a balanced poll for anything smaller than a statewide. Also of note, there is no formula to fix the enthusiasm gap of the people taking your poll from a panel. So your Trump versus “insert one of the million Democrat candidates here” ballot test may be further than you think from the real thing. ° Web push polls: Don’t trust polling results that come from an online platform with a login, especially if that platform is a social one. Not only are you limiting your results to people who have a computer or smartphone, internet access, and an account, your respondents are all self-selecting and skewing your data. The bottom line is not all online and digital polls are the same. Some are better than others and, as we always encourage in these columns, it is vital that you be an active, informed consumer of what you are buying. Steven J. Vancore is the President of Clearview Polling and Research and has been polling and conducting focus groups in Florida for over 30 years.

MJH ad_influence mag.indd 1

8/5/2019 6:02:54 PM





Despite 2019 being an off-year in the election cycle, there will still be some changeover in the Legislature once lawmakers gather for the 2020 Legislative Session. That’s thanks to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who plucked out a trio of House members to serve in his administration following his victory over Andrew Gillum. Former Reps. Halsey


Beshears, Danny Burgess and Jared Moskowitz joined the executive branch after DeSantis took office in early 2019. But their seats weren’t filled until after the 2019 Session ended. We spoke with Reps. Jason Shoaf, Dan Daley and Randy Maggard, who won those respective seats, to find out what makes them tick before they prepare to cast their first vote.

Jason Shoaf House District 7

“I’ve never really been into politics,” Shoaf said of his time growing up in the small Panhandle town of Port St. Joe. “It was a paper mill town, really small,” he said. “There were no career days at St. Joe High School. Everyone wanted to work at the paper mill. That was their future plan, and it was comfortable. It was a good living.” But when that paper mill shut down, Shoaf witnessed the impact an economic upheaval can have on families. “It put something in me, it affected me personally,” Shoaf recalled. “It left hundreds and hundreds of families really spinning in place, not knowing what to do. I got to see firsthand what happens to young people when they have the rug pulled out from under them.” Shoaf, who ran as a Republican, said the incident shaped his political outlook, motivating him to ensure people can find a job or utilize career training. But it took a while before Shoaf thought of putting that worldview into practice as a state legislator. Prior to running for the HD 7 seat, Shoaf spent time working as a real estate agent and eventually started his own natural gas and propane business. He cited his time serving on the Triumph Gulf Coast Board in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as his “first political experience.” That body worked to dispense recovery funds recouped in the aftermath of the disaster. “That was really when I started to have a better understanding of what you can accomplish as a member of the Legislature,” Shoaf said. While his town didn’t get hit with any oil, Shoaf said news of the spill still affected the local economy. Without the experience of helping those businesses recover, Shoaf argued, he very well may have continued sitting on the political sidelines. “My time on the Triumph Gulf Coast Board is what led to me running for this House seat,” Shoaf said.



DAN DALEY House District 97

Randy Maggard Maggard said he and his brother, Dale, have been working for the family business for almost as long as he can remember. “Dad’s rule was: if you weren’t at school, you were working,” Maggard said. “Then it got to where we got old enough, he says, ‘Go to school and play sports. If you’re not doing that, you’ll come back [to work].’ So we tried to play every sport we could.” Sonny’s Discount Appliances was started by Maggard’s father, who is nicknamed “Sonny.” Maggard said he and his brother were told they could forge their own career path, but that the family business would always be there for them. “We kept coming back to work,” Maggard recounted, noting his dad eventually began expanding his and Dale’s responsibilities. “As we got old enough, and what he thought was smart enough, he would give


House District 38

us different tasks in the business to run it so we would understand the whole business.” Maggard has some political experience, serving as chair of the Pasco County Republican Party and heading the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board. Like many Republicans of his generation, Maggard said he was attracted to the GOP by the ideals of former President Ronald Reagan. “I graduated high school in 1981 and I’ll tell you what, he got me excited about politics,” Maggard said. As Maggard worked his way up to vice president of his dad’s company, his desire to stay involved in politics only grew. “I came to realize that somewhere at some point, somebody’s making a decision that affects your business and your lives,” Maggard said. “I always thought it was smart to at least get yourself in a position to be at the table.”

Daley spent six years on the Coral Springs City Commission — after first being elected at just 22 years old — before running for the HD 97 seat. But an early start in politics wasn’t always the plan. Born in New York, Daley moved to Coral Springs when he was young. He attended Stoneman Douglas High School and had dreams of a career in the Air Force. “I was very active with a program called Civil Air Patrol, which is the Air Force auxiliary,” Daley said. “And that’s where I got a lot of my public speaking and leadership skills.” Eventually, he accepted a full ride to

Florida State as part of an agreement with the Air Force. “The plan was to be a JAG, so to get them to pay for law school as well … and then get out and potentially be an assistant state attorney,” Daley recalled. But then he started working with thenstate Rep. Ari Porth. “I started with him as an intern and I guess I made good coffee,” Daley joked, noting he was eventually hired as an aide. That’s when the political career track “took off,” according to Daley. He exercised the Air Force’s opt-out provision, offered up to the one-year mark. Daley did eventually get his law degree and took a position at Shutts & Bowen LLP. But he hasn’t fully stepped away from politics since that 2012 run for Coral Springs Commission. Daley argued that experience will serve him well when he begins analyzing legislation as part of his inaugural Session. “It’s nothing against anybody who hasn’t served at the local level, but I do think it gives you a wider understanding of how it all works and the impact that the decisions made in Tallahassee have on those local governments,” Daley said.



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The quiet winners of the 2019 state bud by peter schorsch




he biggest winners of the 2019 Legislative Session might not be as easy to pick out as the boldface names and hot-button issues that dominated the annual 60-day event. Instead, these winners are hidden in plain sight: One million dollars here. Another $750,000 there. They’re the sprinkles on top of a $90.9 billion budget, projects that promise to breathe new life into some Florida communities and the survivors of the Governor’s veto pen. Each year, legislative leaders hold back some cash until the end of the budgeting process. Doled out during the final stage of negotiations, the money is sprinkled throughout the proposed spending plan for pet projects. But as the saying goes: Last ones in, first ones out. This year, Gov. Ron DeSantis slashed funding – in some cases both the sprinkle and additional appropriations found elsewhere in the budget – for 35 projects. Still, that left dozens upon dozens of projects receiving millions of state dollars in the budget. And while lawmakers will be quick to point out the projects are intended to benefit their communities, in some cases the real winners are the donors, developers and lobbyists who pushed for the sprinkle. Take, for example, a Manatee County road project that survived the veto pen. The budget includes $10 million to put toward extending 44th Avenue East. The project, according to the appropriations request submitted by GOP state Sen. Travis Hutson, would include about five miles of roadway improvements from 45th Street East to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. The total cost of the project is $125 million, and Manatee County plans to borrow $88 million to complete the road. Wonder why this project survived when others didn’t? It helps that the project is located in Senate President Bill Galvano’s district. And it probably doesn’t hurt that it was a priority for Neal Communities, one of the region’s biggest homebuilders and a top campaign contributor. Pat Neal, a former state Senator and founder of Neal Communities, has contributed at least $474,700 to campaigns over the last four years. That includes $60,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in 2018, including a total of $50,000 in the final two months of the year.

Manatee County isn’t the only place where developers are celebrating. At least three other appropriations could benefit Florida developers. DeSantis spared a $2 million appropriation to widen Williamson Boulevard in Daytona Beach. The project, according to the appropriations request submitted by Rep. Tom Leek, aims to “support and enhance economic development along this corridor.” The request goes on to say it will enhance office, commercial and retail development opportunities. The request was supported by major developers of the corridor, including homebuilder Mori Hosseini, a major Republican donor. Nassau County will get a $1 million boost from the state to extend William Burgess Boulevard. That project, according to the appropriation request filed by GOP state Rep. Cord Byrd, will provide an alternative route to State Road 200 and an alternative access to Yulee Middle and High Schools. Not mentioned in the funding request? The benefit the road could provide to Greg Matovina, the developer of Nassau Crossing. The vintage Florida railroad-themed development is expected to include 800 residential units, a community park, and retail and office space. Roads aren’t the only way developers benefited in the budget. The city of Freeport will receive $850,000 to build a bridge along Bay Loop Road. The project, according to an appropriation request filed by GOP state Rep. Brad Drake, will replace existing undersized culverts with a pre-fabricated concrete bridge at Bear Creek crossing. Jay Odom, a Panhandle developer and Republican fundraiser, supported the project. Odom is the developer behind nearby Hammock Bay, a 3,000acre residential community. The Bear Creek bridge wasn’t the only big win for the Panhandle. Over in Panama City, a major employer could be declared one of the budget’s biggest winners. The Panama City Watson Bayou project received a total of $2.5 million in the fiscal 2019-20 budget: $500,000 for a basin bulkhead and $2 million to dredge. The projects, according to the House appropriations request submitted by GOP state Rep. Jayer Williamson, have the potential to improve transportation, increase economic activity and create immediate job opportunities.



But the people of Bay County aren’t the big winners. That title goes to Eastern Shipbuilding, a family-held shipbuilding company. In 2016, the company landed a $10.5 billion contract to build 25 new U.S. Coast Guard cutters. Eastern Shipbuilding has emerged as a big player in Florida politics in recent years. Brian D’Isernia, the company’s founder and CEO, has given at least $124,000 to campaigns and committees since 2017. That includes $15,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in August 2018 and $25,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis in September 2018. Major employers scored big when the ink dried on the budget. Need an example? Look no further than Columbia County, which received $750,000 to extend the North Florida Mega Industrial Park rail line. The project, according to the appropriations request filed by GOP state Rep. Chuck Brannan, is imperative to “facilitate economic development to include an intermodal facility with a 15-county service area.” Located in Lake City, the North Florida Mega Industrial Park, developed by timber giant Weyerhaeuser, is a 2,622acre industrial park. It has been approved for 8 million square feet of industrial development and 100,000 square feet of commercial and retail development. Hendry County also got a bit of cash that could boost economic opportunity in its community. The county received $1 million for wastewater infrastructure improvements. The project, according to an appropriations request filed by GOP state Rep. Byron Donalds, includes constructing a force main from Airglades Airport to Clewiston’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. In addition to environmental benefits, one of the pros of the project is expected to be increased development along the route. Any project to increase development – and economic opportunity – would come as welcome news to Hendry Coun-


ty, where the median family income is about $45,000. And these improvements would surely come as good news to U.S. Sugar, one of the county’s largest land owners and employers. U.S. Sugar isn’t just a major employer. It’s a huge player in Florida politics, pumping millions of dollars into candidates and committees. But their investments don’t stop on Election Day: The company has a legion of lobbyists – including Brian Ballard, Charlie Dudley, Tracy and Frank Mayernick and Mac Stipanovich – battling for their interests at the Capitol. Hiring a good team could be the difference between passing a bill or having it die in committee. A great team is key to seeing your appropriation safe when the veto pen comes out. The good folks at Learjet could have their top-notch team to thank for a new, state-of-the-art facility. The company is looking to expand its Bombardier service center, and Miami-Dade County received $1 million for the planning, design and construction of a new center at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport. You can bet Corcoran & Johnston pushed hard for appropriation, both in the Legislature and in the Governor’s Office. And it probably didn’t hurt that the project, according to an appropriations request filed by Democratic state Sen. Oscar Braynon, will lead to 300 new jobs, at an average salary of $75,000, at the new facility. Lake County is also probably sending a big thanks to the GrayRobinson firm. The county will receive $450,000 to complete the final phase of CR 466A. The road is being constructed from U.S. 27 to The Villages. But then again, there might be another reason that cash for a road to The Villages got the OK. DeSantis dominated in Sumter County, where the massive retirement community and Republican stronghold is located, beating Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum 70 percent to 30 percent.

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great success

and the

future looks





even years ago, Peter Schorsch searched Florida for up-and-coming young people involved in The Process for a listing in called “30 Under 30.” INFLUENCE Magazine now curates the annual compendium, but we find that while the “30” number sounds good, it’s just not enough to contain all the talented 30-and-unders Florida has to offer. In the 2019 catalog of talent, 49 people have made the cut to be considered worthy of the title “Rising Star.” Reading their biographies, you’ll find the honorees are the tech-savvy, multifaceted job hoppers one expects of the millennial generation. (Actually, six on the list are 21 and 22 years old and officially members of the post-millennial Gen Z.) A few have spouses and babies and a lot have dogs. And CrossFit seems a popular pastime. They’ve been involved in all facets of The Process at all levels, from campaign door knocking to leading campaign efforts for statewide candidates and high-stakes lobbying. But there’s a lot of old school attributes that propel these youngsters to the top. Almost to a person, the honorees advise their peers to be ready to start at the bottom and put in long hours. And universally, they credit Boomer-aged mentors with showing them the ropes and smoothing their pathways to success. We invite you to read their stories – and remember their names. You’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.



Davis Bean

As Davis Bean waved campaign signs for his uncle’s first legislative race in 2000, he recalled “not knowing or understanding the gravity of what he was doing.” But as Bean, now 26, grew up in Fernandina Beach in the shadow of current state Sen. Aaron Bean’s illustrious political career, it certainly helped him get to where he is today. “It was a catalyst for my interest in politics and The Process in general,” Bean said. Bean is currently the development and political coordinator at The Fiorentino Group (TFG) in Jacksonville, where he coordinates fundraising efforts and juggles a handful of clients come Session. A graduate of the University of Florida, Bean had been brought into the institution’s prestigious Florida Blue Key society and inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame after a decorated stint in student government. His first break into professional politics began with Sen. Kelli Stargel’s successful 2016 election. After that, he joined Rep. Cord Byrd’s office as a legislative aide, serving the community in which he grew up and still calls home. “It was my first year as a legislative aide, it was [Byrd’s] first year as a legislator,” Bean recalled. “We went through that process together and leaned on each other.” Transitioning to the private side of politics hasn’t altered the fast-paced work atmosphere he experienced in Tallahassee. “It’s something new every day and it keeps you on your toes,” Bean said. “Nothing’s redundant in this world on either side, but especially on the private side.” For those looking to break into politics, Bean said he imparts the same wisdom his uncle did for him. “You have to do a campaign,” Bean said. “You have to experience it on the ground, knocking on doors, going to the different hobnobs and handing out pamphlets to fully understand what it takes.” As well, Bean joked, it’s good practice to “make the bed” every morning. With a rich appreciation for Northeast Florida, Bean could be out on the water in his spare time or seen around the area with his golden retriever, Remington.

Anita Berry

It’s difficult for some to pinpoint the moment they decided to pursue their profession. But for Anita Berry, memory serves well. Berry, now 30, recalled how key federal health care reforms took center stage while she pursued an undergraduate degree at Susquehanna University, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. The debate fascinated her and an ensuing internship is when her passion for public policy “clicked.” Now a lobbyist at Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations, Berry has come from curious student to adept policy wonk, with a decorated track record in the intersection of government and health care. She also has a master’s degree in public administration from Rutgers University. “I love the political process here,” Berry, a Maryland native, said. “It’s so multifaceted, it’s so dynamic; there’s so much going on that’s challenging but also really exciting.” Berry landed in the Sunshine State after working with Johns Hopkins Medicine. 70 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

There, she played a key role in merging the entity with the St. Petersburg-based All Children’s Hospital in 2011. She then took her talents to the newly integrated Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida, a place that “already felt like home.” A collegiate swimmer, Berry credits much of her work ethic to her upbringing in the pool. Attending swim camps during summer as a child, she still lives by the camp’s motto: It’s a beautiful day and it’s great to be alive. “I’ve been saying that motto to myself since I was little,” Berry said. When she’s not working, Berry could be hiking somewhere with her husband, Ben. On personal and professional growth, Berry pointed to the nonfiction book “10% Happier” in which author Dan Harris details how he learned to manage his mental health after a panic attack he suffered on national television while delivering news. “I think a lot of us in this industry probably have anxiety and it’s something that I’ve struggled with,” Berry said. “But being able to find a way to be present in the moment and calm yourself down and put things into place has really been a big guidance for me.”

Alex Bickley

One way Alex Bickley approaches government communications is by asking, “If we weren’t already doing it this way, how would we do it?” The answer to that question could lead to minor improvements in efficiency or results, explained Bickley, the 27-year-old deputy communications director for the Department of Revenue. “Especially with the changing technologies and leadership philosophies that we face in state government, you really need to push yourself to be adaptable and willing to change,” she added. Bickley started at the Department of Revenue after working with state Sen. Dennis Baxley from his last House term through 2018. Communications, she said, is her specialty. “I’ve been really interested in trying to help bridge the gap between policy and people,” Bickley said, “taking complex policy and packaging it so that everyday people can understand it without having to have advanced degrees or knowl-

edge because it’s important for everyone to be able to understand what their government is doing.” A graduate of the University of Florida’s political science program, Bickley has been interested in government and politics from an early age. In elementary school during the 2000 Presidential election, she recalled classmates misinterpreting one of George W. Bush’s policy points. “I don’t think that’s how that works,” she remembered saying in school. At Revenue and with Baxley, Bickley said she has been able to “see the whole-picture strategy and break it down into actionable items” – a useful skill in the world of communications. She credited Baxley and his office for mentoring her along the way, as well as the lead communications director at Revenue, Valerie Wickboldt. “I’ve been very lucky with a lot of the leadership who I have worked with,” Bickley said. “I haven’t had to earn my place at the table over and over again. Once I’ve earned it, I’ve earned it.” A traveler and a foodie who’s big on information sharing, Bickley might tell you the best restaurant in Tallahassee if you ask.



“With rapidly changing technology, I feel like it’s super helpful to be young and willing to learn,” she said. In the workplace, Blair subscribes to the “2-Minute Rule,” which she attributed to the book, “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. “If you can get it done in less than two minutes, just do it now and get it off your to-do list,” Blair said. “That is something that has really, really helped me in fundraising, work and in life.” Blair said she met her husband, James Blair, in college when the two bonded over their “mutual love for conservative politics.” James Blair is the deputy chief of staff to Gov. Ron DeSantis and worked on DeSantis’ statewide campaign while Sam Blair was with Moody. Blair also is a former cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When she isn’t working in politics, she could be helping the football team’s community relations efforts or volunteering with the Junior League.

Sam Blair

When a statewide candidate faces a tough primary and contested general election, the importance of financial resources cannot be overstated. “We had a really hard fight for every single meeting we got, every single dollar we raised,” said Sam Blair, 28, as she recalled her role as finance director for Attorney General Ashley Moody’s 2018 win – something Blair considers a high-water mark from her career in politics. Blair came to the Moody campaign from a steady career in Republican politics. Involved in student government at Florida State University, Blair got an early start on St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes’ 2012 campaign. She also has worked as a district aide to Tampa Rep. James Grant, followed by time at The James Madison Institute, a free-market think tank in Tallahassee. The Moody campaign, Blair said, “gave me confidence in my own ability to develop and implement a plan and stick to the goal.” She’s since founded Capital Campaign Group, which helps candidates and nonprofits with their fundraising, direct mail, social media and graphic design efforts. Graphic design and other sought-out digital techniques, Blair said, is something she pursued in her spare time to help make sure that her work wasn’t just good, but it looked good, too. 72 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

Matt Brockelman

The first chapter of Matt Brockelman’s political story began at the University of North Florida during his junior year, when he decided to get involved in student government. The next year, he was elected student body President, where he became closely involved in the issue of student affordability — namely rising tuition costs. “That got me engaged with conversations that were happening in Tallahassee and elsewhere,” Brockelman said. “I realized, ‘Wow, I actually really like the political process.’” Today, that affinity remains for Brockelman, 30. A lobbyist at Southern Strategy Group’s (SSG) Jacksonville office, he

explained that he “floats back and forth between Northeast Florida and Tallahassee.” Before landing at SSG, Brockelman continued advocating for UNF as a lobbyist for the institution. Success in the field of advocacy, Brockelman said, hinges on relationships and results. “Whatever I’m doing, I try to provide more value than I take,” he explained. “And I think it’s especially relevant in the political world.” The transition from UNF lobbyist to a private firm, he said, was aided by SSG’s size and established presence in Tallahassee. “I never felt like I was ever out on the island by myself working on an issue,” he said. “It’s awesome to be able to call one of your colleagues who’s had a couple of decades of experience doing the kind of thing that you’re trying to do.” Among the emerging generation in the lobbying corps, Brockelman entertained the idea that there’s room for improvement in the influence industry — without diminishing the importance of personal relationships. He nodded to new strategies already employed by political consulting and public relations firms. “I refer to this emerging space as the ‘digital fourth floor,’ and it can include the thoughtful engagement of elected officials on social media platforms, the targeted distribution of specific digital messaging and content to various stakeholders in the Legislative Process — including the general public — and things of that nature,” he said. Using the analytical side of his brain for politics and policy, Brockelman ensures the “left and right sides of the brain are really active” through guitar playing, music production and even a bit of cinematography on the side.

Giovanni Castro

Giovanni Castro has a passion for policy making. At 29, he’s uniquely positioned to do just that as the deputy chief of staff to Francis Suarez, Mayor of Miami – one of the most densely populated cities in the country. “I always kind of wanted to be a policy reformer and work in the behind-the-scenes advising for elected officials and crafting the policies that they would eventually implement,” Castro said. A first-generation Floridian whose family immigrated from Cuba, Castro began his political career while attending Florida International University, where he served as the student Senate president. After graduation, he was split between continuing his education or jumping headfirst into the political process. He chose the latter, opting to pursue an aide position with then-Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. It was through that gig that Castro perceived a genuine issue facing the state: affordable housing. When he traveled around Florida with Lopez-Cantera, low-income and workforce housing was a concern voiced commonly by local leaders, he said. Years later, it’s still a focus for Castro in Miami. While he’s comfortable operating in government, Castro also has robust experience in the field. He has worked

on campaigns like Lopez-Cantera’s bid for the U.S. Senate and Suarez’s successful stab at the helm of Miami. Though he acknowledged a different pace, he said he’s able to thrive in both the campaign and office atmospheres. For Suarez, Castro said, deadlines can fall weekly. But on campaigns, there’s a different timeline. On campaigning in South Florida, Castro said there’s an expectation from some voters that a candidate show what they’ve done with the sacrifices their families may have made, particularly if they’re first-generation Americans. If you’re knocking on doors in that area, Castro suggested you know the answer to, “What did your candidate do with what their family gave up?” SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 73

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James Chan

James Chan is a young progressive to watch. At 29, he’s the Florida director for the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) organization, where he supports “our state legislators who are pushing progressive policies, whether that’s fighting for fair wages, fighting for paid family leave, along with better climate policies and better environmental policies.” Attending the University of Florida as a standout student in the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, Chan connected with former Florida Chief Financial Officer and former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink after she founded the Florida Next Foundation, a nonprofit focused on economic development. Chan, also a graduate of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, credited Sink for his steady involvement in Florida politics. “She had said to me, ‘We need more young people to stay in Florida,’” Chan said. And while he left the state for grad school, Chan “made it a point to come back.” When Chan isn’t helping progressive state legislators back up their policy arguments in Tallahassee, he could be aiding in developing a “deep bench” of emerging progressives to shift the partisan makeup of Florida to the left. A chapter director at New Leaders Council Tampa Bay, Chan said he’s involved in training like-minded youths to start their own businesses, nonprofits and even run for office. “I think that people are starting to see the potential in Florida and how we can make a difference in the third-largest state,” Chan said. “I think opportunities are coming if they aren’t already here.” Earlier in 2019, Chan was deemed the 2019 Young Floridian of the Year by former Florida Governor and former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and the Graham Center for his dedication to public service. In the future, Chan can’t rule out a potential bid for office himself – but there is a caveat. “I would hope to see my name on a ballot one day but it has to be for the right reasons and it has to be for the right community and district,” he said. “I won’t say no, but it has to also be the right time in my life.”

Clayton Clemens

A landmark bill and the stories behind it are what define the 2019 Legislative Session to Clayton Clemens. A legislative aide to state Rep. Jackie Toledo, Clemens, 25, had the privilege of working closely on a new law that strengthens penalties on texting while driving. “I’m really proud of work on that just because it’s so impactful across the state,” he said. Complemented by testimony from families who lost loved ones to distracted-driving accidents, the measure successfully crossed the finish line this year. It’s that type of work that Clemens cherishes most in the policy-making arena. “You can work on issues that are near to you and you don’t realize how many other people they probably affect,” he added. Clemens is a Pennsylvania native who came to Florida to attend the University of Tampa. A member of the college swim team, Clemens pointed to the sport as fundamental to his work ethic. It’s a team effort; “But ultimately if you failed, it’s on you. It’s not really on your teammates.” For Clemens, adjusting to Florida and its political landscape also has gone swimmingly. “Going into it, I had a lot of people telling me that Session is crazy and they had a bad taste about it,” he said. “But as it got busier, I started to enjoy it more just because it’s constantly evolving; no day is the same.” In his spare time, Clemens is a CrossFit coach at a Tampa gym. He’s also constantly on the lookout for charity efforts that benefit disadvantaged communities, which he says often overlaps with his work for Toledo. Recently, Clemens sped through Patrick D. Smith’s historical Florida-fiction masterpiece “A Land Remembered,” which has fostered his “appreciation” for the Sunshine State. SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 75


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Courtney Coppola

Courtney Coppola is a bureaucratic pioneer. The 28-year-old director of the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) has since 2015 played a role navigating the frontier of the state’s medical pot network through the full expansion of the medicine established after voters backed Amendment 2 in 2016. “I consider being an implementer of the will of the people, for something that they’ve voted onto our Constitution, as extremely important,” Coppola said, “and one that of course is also very difficult but very meaningful.” Coppola took the reins at OMMU after former director Christian Bax in 2018 left the entity overseeing the state’s medical marijuana industry. She had served as deputy director of OMMU before that and as a statewide coordinator of the now-rebranded Office of Compassionate Use. As medical marijuana patients proliferate, Coppola said OMMU is focused on providing “reliable information” and correcting any misinformation about the medicine. That’s in addition to the continued adjustments and rulemaking required for the still-emerging industry, such as implementing a bill signed into law this year permitting smokable medical marijuana. “What makes this job really interesting is almost every year there has been a pretty significant statutory change,” Coppola said. “We have to be ready to be nimble and adapt.” Working alongside the nuanced health treatment as its scope has widened, Coppola said she has witnessed a palpable change in the public perception of medical marijuana. “They’re not only interested now but they’re actively participating in

our program,” Coppola said. “And I think that speaks volumes to the accessibility of it.” While she confessed to having little free time, Coppola is a religious CrossFit participant and enjoys winding down with friends or indulging in a good book.

Brittany Corfman Parks Politics is a “labor of love” for Brittany Corfman Parks, who has spent the better part of the last decade either working for electeds or helping them get into office. The 30-year-old fundraising expert recently founded Artillery Consulting to work with Republican candidates in the I-4 Corridor. “I’m building the artillery for a war chest,” she explained. She also recently became the Deputy State Director for the Republican Party of Florida. Parks, born and raised in California, came to the Sunshine State after attending school in Arizona, where she got involved in the late John McCain’s presidential bid and his subsequent 2010 re-election to the Senate. In Florida, she has worked for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office as a grants coordinator and also on his campaign for President in 2015. “I was fortunate to go to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina,” Parks said. “It was an adventure of a lifetime.” She has since found her way in Central Florida, where Parks has worked as a district aide to state Rep. Scott Plakon and on campaigns for former state Rep. Mike Miller, including his bid for the U.S. House in 2016. “At the end of the day, only in America

can you fight for the fight of ideas,” Parks said of her passion for campaigns. While she has been involved in politics from an early age, Parks recalled specifically a bipartisan moment that continues to fuel her engagement: when former President Barack Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA. The federal focus on the opioid epidemic followed Parks losing her brother less than a year before to an overdose. The issue of opioids, Parks said, isn’t a partisan one. And when she coordinates with Republican candidates, that legislation is a reminder of why she’s in The Process. “If I want to be part of the solution, I need to be a part of the conversation,” Parks said. “And this is the way I’m able to be a part of the conversation – by being a part of the political process. I’m able to help those that I love and care about.” Looking ahead, Parks is gearing up for 2020. She’s also a big believer in “helping the next generation out” and envisions herself catching up with some of the younger political operators she’s worked with along the way. Her advice to anyone in the game? “Always be the youngest person in the room.” SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 77


Kevin Craig

When lawmakers in 2018 backed a law that expanded how local governments could use revenues from a tourist development tax, Central Florida was spared — at least in part thanks to Kevin Craig, who was then a public policy director with the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association (CFHLA). Craig, 27, said the Central Florida stipulation, a good thing from CFHLA’s perspective, came during the “dying hours” of Session. “A lot of people kind of joke that most of the action in Tallahassee is done in a couple of days. On that issue, that was certainly something that happened,” he added. That legislation is just one of the stories that stand out to Craig, who is now a regional director for external and legislative affairs at AT&T. Craig’s first dip into politics happened during an internship with former Orlando-area U.S. Rep. John Mica. Later while attending the University of Central Florida, Craig enrolled in the school’s Legislative Scholars Program, which got him connected with then-Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli. Craig began working with CFHLA after college and described his role in the association’s public policy shop as a “baptism by fire.” With Crisafulli, Craig said, he had the perspective of a “gatekeeper.” But once on the other side of the game, “you’re the one kind of banging on the door trying to get in.” While challenging, Craig credited the association with helping him along the way. A young influencer, Craig suggested that apprehension or anxiety about building relationships in Tallahassee isn’t merited. “People will be a lot nicer and gracious with their time than you expect,” he said. “So my advice is don’t be hesitant to go up, shake their hand, introduce yourself and hand them a card.”


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Alexia Dawes

Like many top government affairs professionals, Alexia Dawes got her start in Tallahassee. “The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is really where I cut my teeth to do state legislative work,” said Dawes, now the 26-year-old state and local government affairs manager at Northrop Grumman, a leading global security company. Dawes was brought on at Northrop Grumman after working her way from intern to deputy legislative affairs director at DEO under former Executive Director Cissy Proctor, who she credited as a mentor. Toward the end of the 2018 summer, Dawes moved over to the Department of Management Services to handle the agency’s matters as it prepared for a new executive administration. An agency lobbyist who has since moved to the private side, Dawes said the two jobs are similar. The biggest difference, she added, is that government officials are typically more familiar with other state entities than they are with companies, and it might be “a little bit harder to get a meeting” in the private sector. To get to where she is today, Dawes said it’s paid

off to have a willing spirit to travel and not be shy when it comes to tackling new opportunities. “I think that’s the biggest thing young people can do to make sure that they can move forward in their political career or their career in general,” Dawes said. A two-time graduate from Florida State University and among the many success stories from the school’s Masters of Applied American Politics and Policy program, Dawes said her interest in all-things political started when she returned from Munich, Germany, where she spent fourth through seventh grade in history classes that focused more on the global element of the study. “I think ever since then I’ve been really interested in social sciences, American history and our political system, which is just so different from almost every other country in the world,” Dawes said. The youngest of three children who she said are equally as “extroverted,” Dawes spends time with her family whenever able. Working out of Northrop Grumman’s St. Augustine office, she also noted that she missed Tallahassee, which she described as a haven for young professionals.



Kimberly Diaz Scott Kimberly Diaz Scott’s work mantra? “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” That wisdom is something Scott, 29, said she can frequently apply to her profession as the public policy director for the Florida Planned Parenthood Alliance. “I think a lot of the work that I do is about building power and giving a platform for the most underrepresented communities,” Scott said. “Every Session we have brought up voices and stories from people who have experienced abortion procedures and or reproductive health care procedures to Tallahassee.” Scott got her start at Planned Parenthood nearly five years ago after working as the Central Florida po-


litical director for former Gov. and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Before that, she had worked alongside Joseph Abruzzo during his tenure in the House and the Senate. At Florida Gulf Coast University, Scott was elected student body President. Originally planning to pursue journalism, elected office at FGCU resulted in her switching career tracks. “It kind of opened my eyes to a whole new level of work,” Scott said. “That’s where it all started.” At Planned Parenthood, Scott’s focused on educating the public and maintaining a strong presence in Tallahassee. While parts of the country have scaled back abortion access, Scott said her approach centers on “stopping

any attempts to politicize this health care procedure and the constant shaming that people who are accessing abortion care have every single day.” In politics, Scott has continued to seek mentors. “I try to use my age to seek more advice, more guidance and more experience,” she said. “I’m grateful to have incredible mentors who are always there to help guide me through the process.” At home, Scott is a proud parent of two dogs, Rocky and Preston. She also enjoys spending time with her husband, Cyrus, when there are breaks in the bustle of Tallahassee. “I’m often pulled in a million different directions, so when there is time and opportunity, a date night is perfect,” she said.

Andrew Dolberg Not many 26-year-olds can say they’ve founded a successful company and competitively run for the state Legislature. But Andrew Dolberg can. Dolberg in 2018 finished second in a four-way Democratic primary for House District 98, which ultimately went to Democratic Rep. Michael Gottlieb. But with thousands of doors knocked and voter interactions to match, Dolberg considered the race fulfilling. “At the beginning of the race I did not have confidence that I was going to win,” Dolberg said. “What I said to myself was at the end of this thing, win or lose, I don’t want to say that I could have done more.” With the race behind him in 2018, Dolberg went on to manage Democrat Emma Collum’s unsuccessful bid for a Broward-area House seat and in January joined South Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office as an outreach coordinator. Before his break into politics, Dolberg had success – and still does – with his company, Champion Briefs. The business is both a popular summer camp and widely accessed education resource for schools

across the U.S. looking to better their students’ public speaking and debate skills. Dolberg credited rhetoric practice with giving him confidence in high school. “I got to college and I wanted to bring that same speech and debate experience to as many students as possible,” he added. The canvassing Dolberg did personally for his campaign has only fueled his interest in politics. Talking to voters at the door, he said, “gave me more insight into everyday problems that people face.” That’s something he has been able to continue doing for Wasserman Schultz, whether it’s going to community events or “doing casework, hearing from constituents and being able to bring those complaints to a federal agency and find real resolutions.” Dolberg acknowledged he could run again for office but won’t do it “just for the sake of it.” In the meantime, he seemed content to continue working with constituents and helping his company invest in the generation behind him, building “core skills that ultimately will help people succeed in a political world, whether that’s explicitly electoral politics or anywhere else.”

Alex Dominguez It takes a special personality to enjoy the work demands of nonstop campaigns. But Alex Dominguez, 23, rises to the occasion. “I always liked that style where you’re always doing something,” he said. “I’ve never been a person that can be in the office for eight hours a day and go home.” Dominguez is currently a consultant at Marin and Sons Public Affairs, where his work covers the entire campaign spectrum, from ground game to social media to media strategy. He’s also a community outreach go-to for big-name private clients in South Florida. When it comes to politicking, Dominguez said he fuels his drive by constantly asking: “How do we get to that winning finish? How do we get to that win in November?” The answers, he added, might not be clear six or seven months from the day voters head to the polls but come into focus as the campaign progresses. Dominguez credited former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz as a mentor in the political process. Diaz, with whom Dominguez worked in office, had plugged Dominguez into one of former Rep. Car-

los Trujillo’s re-election campaigns before Trujillo left the Legislature to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States. While Dominguez can boast a number of successful campaigns, he said he has absorbed more insight from a key loss: Diaz’s hard-fought attempt at a Miami-Dade state Senate seat in 2017. “That loss and the emotion I saw in the room, the love I saw in the room for him, for the team — I think it was something extraordinary and I think it really opened my eyes,” Dominguez said. “It was hard for me to imagine for people not to vote for him.” Dominguez acknowledged his youth and doesn’t take for granted that clients who are much older than him can trust him for strategic advice. As well, he noted that his mentors like Diaz and Steve Marin (Domniguez’s boss and mentor) “can look past my age” and see what he “can bring to the table.” Looking ahead, Dominguez said he intends to stay involved in the world of campaign strategy. This fall, he’ll begin law school at Florida International University.



Ben Durgan

The anatomy of a local economy is complex, and it’s Ben Durgan’s job to keep it running well. Durgan, 29, is the director for government affairs and communications at the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. There, he lobbies local and state governments to help better business in the South Florida area. “It’s been a great opportunity so far for me, speaking with our businesses and leaders to delve into their issues on a deeper level,” said Durgan, who returned to his hometown in Palm Beach County after a few years working in Tallahassee. A graduate of Florida State University, which he in part chose to attend because of its proximity to the Capitol, Durgan got his start in the Legislature as an aide to former state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo. After redistricting, Durgan stayed on with Sen. Bobby Powell — both from the Palm Beach area. Throughout his career, Durgan said he has remained focused on compassion, humility and something he called “emotional intelligence.” He explained: “Being able to understand people at a higher level helped me build those relationships, get good work done and move myself up my career ladder.” At the Economic Council, Durgan said he’s focused on the issue of affordable and workforce housing. When he’s working with business development organizations or other companies, Durgan said one of the first questions asked is, “‘Do you have workforce housing?’” That issue, he said, extends beyond the local level and requires him to work with the state to make sure the affordable housing coffers are adequately funded each year. Whether in the Legislature or in local advocacy, Durgan’s approach to his career has always been “a mindset and philosophy of service.” He added: “I always saw myself running for office and getting elected. That might still happen down the road — I’m always open to that.”

Bryan Eastman

Bryan Eastman has found his niche in the space between technology and politics. That has led the 30-year-old, Gainesville-based Democratic political consultant to recently found PoliEngine, which bills itself online as “the simplest way for candidates to build professional websites.” Eastman, who has previously worked in the tech industry while also managing to notch more than 30 races on his resume, described the business as a “web-building platform for candidates and political issues” that he can run while continuing to consult. He noted that a “digital-first strategy” isn’t uncommon in modern races and suggested that puts his age cohort at an advantage because they’re “one of the first generations of digital natives ... who grew up on the internet.” One of Eastman’s highlights in ballot work occurred in 2018, when he managed the successful “Half-Cent for Alachua County Schools” campaign, which he said is especially fulfilling in hindsight. “It’s hard working in politics and there’s a lot of anger, a lot of vitriol,” Eastman said. “But there’s something about when I get to drive past a school and I know projects are going to get done there because I was part of the team that was helping pass that initiative.” Eastman got involved in his first race at 21, and while the Central Florida state House candidate didn’t win, he hasn’t had second thoughts about politics since. “I got the bug at that point,” Eastman said. “It just keeps drawing you back again because there’s just something about political campaigns, about the people that choose to do it, about the passion, the excitement — it’s unparalleled.” A proficient player of guitar, bass and mandolin, Eastman said that in his spare time he might be heard plucking an old Waylon Jennings song or anything from a country or bluegrass artist. 84 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

Jake Farmer

When Jake Farmer got his first job after graduating from Florida State University, he borrowed a tactic from former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Major Harding, whom Farmer met during college. “I put a sticky note down and I wrote, ‘Do the right thing,’” Farmer, 27, said, attributing the idea to Harding. Now the director of government affairs at the Florida Retail Federation (FRF), Farmer still holds onto that wisdom as he’s “fighting for good laws that make Florida the best place to do business.” Farmer is among a team of advocacy professionals focused on a number of issues all with an eye toward preserving Florida’s retail industry, from “pharmacies to grocery stores to home improvement” and more, Farmer said. FRF’s member base is diversified and so is its list of issues. Farmer could be focusing on efforts to crack down on organized retail crime, which FRF backed successfully last Session. Or he could be helping to usher expanded pharmaceutical practices, for example. Next year, Farmer said, he and FRF will again be leading the charge to require online sellers to remit sales taxes, something recently supported by the U. S. Supreme Court. “Closing the loophole,” as Farmer described it. “Our retailers are innovative and creative and they’re going to fight to be the best they can be,” Farmer said. “But when you have online stores, they can have an automatic advantage of not having to collect sales tax.” Farmer came to FRF after getting connected with former Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant, working in both the office and Fant’s House campaign. When he’s not working, Farmer said he’s usually trying to get home to his wife, Paige, and son, Cooper, who was born just as committee weeks were ramping up ahead of the 2019 Legislative Session.



Trip Farmer

Monitoring and making news is Trip Farmer’s trade. The 24-year-old is already a senior associate at Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K), where he specializes in public affairs at the company’s Tallahassee office. In that role, he “puts on a lot of different hats,” meaning he might work on crisis communications one day and the next handle talking points for an issue moving through the Legislature. It’s that fastpaced fluidity that he relishes. “I would definitely say public affairs is my niche and something that I really strive for perfection in and enjoy the work,” he said. A Florida State University graduate, Farmer joined the H+K team as a fellow while still in school. That’s when he learned the grooves of public relations, from research on clients and competition to observations on the news landscape and how clients could fit into it. Based in the capital city, Farmer spends a portion of the year — during the annual Session — helping clients reach lawmakers and other policy influencers. That could include establishing talking points, writing press releases or developing materials seen in and around the Capitol. As a young public affairs professional, Farmer said Twitter is an especially useful tool to reach his target audiences and “sometimes blog outlets are more of a mainstream, easier way to access information,” he said. Farmer during the 2019 Session helped push a series of substantial insurance reforms across the finish line. “That was a great victory,” Farmer said of the new laws, which seek to crack down on abuse of the state’s assignment of benefits (AOB) system and had fallen short of success in previous years. H+K’s international practice allows Farmer to “get plugged into several different accounts” during the legislative offseason. So when he’s not coordinating press conferences in the Capitol, he could be sending news clips to an IT client or car manufacturer. Farmer is a big believer in “putting in the long hours” while he’s young. People, he said, “never undermine a strong work ethic.”



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Carlo Fassi

When Carlo Fassi jumped back into the Northeast Florida political machine earlier this year, he was met with open arms. Before aiding in a handful of local 2019 races in Jacksonville, Fassi, nearly 29, spent a few months helping his family’s business in South Florida after the death of his father, Riccardo. It was during that break from politics that Fassi reflected “on why I was in The Process in the first place.” And the people with whom he built relationships didn’t mind his leave of absence. “I was welcomed back extraordinarily,” said Fassi, who in June joined Southern Strategy Group (SSG) at the lobbying powerhouse’s Jacksonville office. As one of the newer lobbyists on staff at SSG, Fassi brings with him a saddlebag of contacts that he has interacted with from a relatively brief but impactful time in the world of campaign consulting and government management. A two-term student body President at the University of North Florida, Fassi served a stint on the State University System’s Board of Governors as the higher education oversight panel’s student representative. Shortly after graduation, Fassi launched his consulting career by representing an energy company’s plan to build a tri-state, billion-dollar pipeline. Of the issues, projects and campaigns he has worked, Fassi is most proud of Melissa Nelson’s successful 2016 bid for State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit. Fassi managed that campaign, which he said “galvanized the community” behind someone with a “new approach to smart justice.” In 2018, Fassi managed Republican candidate Baxter Troutman’s stab at the party’s nomination for Agriculture Commissioner and later worked on a successful state House race. He’s comfortable operating outside of the limelight, he said. “I’d prefer they’d write about my guys, not about me.” A “Star Wars” fan, Fassi holds close to him a phrase of advice from Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn: “Your focus determines your reality.” Fassi’s father, he said, would tell him that as well. “I remain focused on what problems I need solving, what campaign I need winning,” Fassi said. “It’s always just maintaining focus on what’s important and discarding what’s not.”



Taryn Fenske

What’s the key to being an effective political communicator? To Taryn Fenske, it’s staying on topic. “It’s important that the masses of Floridians understand the message you’re trying to portray,” said Fenske. Redundancy, she added, isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you’re driving home a theme to voters. Fenske, 27, is the former Florida communications director for the Republican National Committee. With a productive midterm election behind her, she’s currently doing consulting work and keeping options open for 2020. Her approach to politics involves “staying flexible and adaptable.” During the 2018 cycle, Fenske did just that by incorporating an emphasis on opposition research, “trying to teach [voters] what they didn’t already know about Democratic candidates.” Fenske got her start in the political process at the Department of Economic Opportunity, “a fun, fast-paced environment,” under then-Gov. Rick Scott’s administration. After joining Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign and later aiding in his office’s communications efforts, Fenske took her talents to Cleveland, Ohio, to handle surrogate scheduling at the 2016 RNC Convention. After that, Fenske joined then-freshman U.S. Rep. John Rutherford’s office. When she took up her gig with the RNC’s Florida efforts, Fenske said she made a point of reaching out to the party’s candidates across the ballot and offered her skill set as a resource. “Developing relationships is really important,” she said. Fenske credited Monica Russell, the former communications director at DEO and a key member in Scott’s administration, as a mentor. Looking ahead, Fenske said she’s willing to take on a mentee of her own, hoping to impart what she has learned — humility, determination and a work-life balance — to younger people looking to make their mark. In her spare time, Fenske likes to travel. She’s also aiming to finish 75 books before the year’s end. With more than 40 already behind her, she’s more than on track to meet that goal.


Samantha Ferrin

When Samantha Ferrin went to work for the Florida Lottery in 2017, she was charged with the unique task of getting the agency on better terms with the Florida Legislature. That summer, the Florida House had sued the Lottery over a financial contract, and Ferrin, now 30, was someone brought into the fold who could help “rebuild relationships” with lawmakers after the high-profile incident. Currently Chief of Staff at the Lottery, Ferrin said the experience broadened her understanding of The Process and is an example of how she took what she “learned in terms of my skill set and applied it to have the most impact.” Growing up, Ferrin said she had always planned on becoming a lawyer. “That was my path from probably the time I was in kindergarten,” she said. “I was going to law school to become an attorney.” But after a college internship in the Attorney General’s Office, she pumped the brakes on that idea. “I realized that you could actually make positive policy change on the front end instead of having people go to court on the back end and fight about it,” Ferrin said. After a few more years in the AG’s office and a stint in the Majority Office of the Florida House, Ferrin applied her experience to a lobbying role at the Department of Management Services. She works with purpose, and credits that in part to author Simon Sinek’s “Find Your Why.” Outside of the Lottery, Ferrin is involved with the Junior League. She is the chair-elect to the organization’s State Public Affairs Committee. Perhaps a chance to give “women an opportunity to sharpen their advocacy skills,” she explained. “What I do every day for a living is probably a little bit more intimidating to someone who’s never been in the Capitol,” Ferrin added, noting that the panel could give women more “confidence” to advocate for their communities.

Jaime Figueras

A jack of all trades when it comes to politicking, Jaime Figueras is one of the go-to guys for Republican campaigns in South Florida. Now 30, Figueras has been working as a GOP operative since 2012. He’s currently at Frontline Strategies and helping build out Irina Vilariño’s 2020 challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. He has previously held regional and statewide positions with the Republican Party in which he helped establish political infrastructure for candidates across the ballot. Born and raised for a portion of his life in Cuba, Figueras has a track record of facilitating Hispanic political engagement. His approach to that is malleable but focused on conveying the big picture of the Republican Party: “I guarantee you that wherever they came from, they want a government that’s fiscally conservative and that’s less intrusive into their everyday life. So if you can articulate that well to that individual, chances are you’ve got somebody’s ear.” As Figueras rose through the ranks of his party’s field operations, responsibilities and expectations increased. That prompted Figueras to develop his own approach to campaigning, one that emphasizes resource allocation to volunteers and staffers. “We created a good workplace culture where we kind of lean on each other as much or as little as we need to,” he recalled. “My biggest thing with everybody was to make sure that they were successful in their role.” Although he has worked for a party that in recent history has had success in the Sunshine State, Figueras has had to handle political losses. He managed Republican state House candidate Jose Mallea’s unsuccessful bid in 2017. But ups and downs, Figueras suggested, are part of the job. “The highs are really high and the lows are really low.” Figueras paralleled political activism to business when he explained his approach to being a political operative. “We’re ultimately in marketing and selling,” he said. “You listen first, figure out what your audience cares about and then figure out what your platform has in common with their values.” SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 91


Matt Floyd

Currently the government relations and special contracts manager for the Port of Tampa Bay, Matt Floyd, 26, sees his job as a constant opportunity to give back to a city he loves. “Any investment or any time that I can spend investing in the city and trying to help it be better, — specifically the Port — and grow is great,” Floyd said. Floyd came to the Port after working with former Tampa-area Sen. Dana Young. After helping elect Young in 2016, Floyd joined the Senator’s office and later managed her unsuccessful 2018 re-election bid. Floyd recalled the campaign as “rewarding” and that the narrow loss was difficult to comprehend. “You’re just so invested into helping Dana that you can’t even imagine a situation in which you lose,” he said. As well, the election will always be a bittersweet moment for Floyd, who not a day later became a father to his firstborn son, Barrett. “It was a rollercoaster of emotion,” he noted.


A former starting quarterback for the University of South Florida football team, Floyd likened the sport to managing a campaign. “Drills during summertime,” he said, were comparable to canvassing efforts for the months-long Young campaign that began before the summer of 2018. Election Day, he added, mirrored the feeling of the first game of the season. Floyd didn’t want to speculate about his future career aspirations but said that he enjoys the behind-the-scenes aspects to politics and policy, or the less-partisan community relationship building he’s currently focused on at the Port. To the up-and-comers, Floyd recommended “not getting ahead of themselves” and instead “keep your head down” and do the work that’s required. When he’s not helping to better the Port, Floyd could be investing time into his son, enjoying time with his wife, or getting better at CrossFit in his garage-turned-gym.

Max Flugrath

There’s a never-ending aspect to handling communications for a statewide race, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “It’s exhausting but electrifying,” said Max Flugrath, 27, who served as communications director for Philip Levine’s Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign and later Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide-elected Democrat in 2018. Flugrath, now the press secretary for Fried at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, entered the world of politics from a background in art and graphic design. After getting his master’s degree in political science, he picked up experience in Democratic fundraising and legislative policy and eventually helped run former state Sen. Rod Smith’s narrow loss in 2016. After that, Flugrath joined the House Democratic Office’s communications efforts, eventually becoming the communications director under then-Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who now serves in the state Senate. Joining that office, Flugrath said,

Alexis Franco

When it comes to public relations, Alexis Franco is ahead of the curve. Just 22 and freshly graduated from Florida State University, Franco is a full-time communications and marketing coordinator at the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA), which represents the state’s mammoth hospitality industry in Tallahassee. There are “different tactics” for “different markets,” Franco said about her approach to communications at FRLA. “We have chapters all over the state. In Miami, what works for them doesn’t necessarily work for the Northeast.” Before landing at FRLA, Franco worked part-time and interned through a series of PR and marketing gigs while studying the trade at FSU. While working at the Tallahassee-based BowStern Marketing Communications, Franco met Amanda Handley, now the press secretary for FRLA. Handley told INFLUENCE Franco is the lead on event chapter marketing, “a daunting task,” but Franco is effective and “does all of this with a smile and an incredible sense of humor.” Franco considers FRLA as among her first politically focused jobs. But

“showed me the expansiveness” of the Legislative Process and taught him coordination. “As a communications professional, you have to utilize all your resources and use your policy analysts and experts to help educate you so that you can craft the message and work on strategy.” With a creative background, Flugrath said he thrives in the area between digital and traditional communications efforts, which he said are converging toward a singular practice in politics and government. What also helps, he said, is having grown up in the Internet Age. “I think it’s made people my age more adaptable, adept and given us an understanding on how to better reach people and make an impact,” Flugrath said. And as politics continues to evolve alongside technology, he hopes to see campaigns recruit “creative directors.” Flugrath indulges in athletics but also enjoys the exchange of ideas. Having studied some religion and philosophy in school, he paraphrased philosopher David Hume’s notion that “reason is the slave of the passions” as an example of something that’s helped mold his career.

she brushed up against the advocacy arena while working alongside Allison Aubuchon, a Tallahassee-based PR pro, where she worked on a proposed amendment in 2018 and a project to raise the cigarette tax in Mississippi. “She is poised and professional beyond her years, diligent, focused and creative,” Aubuchon told INFLUENCE. “She is one young Florida professional to watch.” While at BowStern, Franco recalled a particularly impactful project: aiding in state Sen. Lauren Book’s “Walk in My Shoes” that sought to raise awareness for sexual abuse. “Seeing the stories of all the people that had been affected,” Franco said, “it was really an amazing experience.” With her foot firmly inside the door of The Process, Franco said breaking into the industry isn’t necessarily as difficult as remaining in it. “There are a lot of people and they all work really, really hard,” Franco said. “So my advice would be to always be open to learning, always be an available and a helpful hand, and always just work hard to move your way up.”


Drew Heffley

Drew Heffley grew up in the backyard of state government and politics – and got hooked quick. A 25-year-old Tallahassee native, he’s now one of the legislative minds at the Florida Medical Association (FMA), a voice in the Capitol representing the interests of medical professionals across the state. Heffley has followed a path not unlike that of his father, Rich Heffley, a political consultant and lobbyist. His father’s work and his appetite for policy and political strategy “really shaped the direction I wanted to go growing up,” recalled the younger Heffley. A graduate of Florida State University, one of Heffley’s first internships was with thenstate Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican who currently serves in the U.S. House. “That’s when I fell in love with it,” Heffley said of the political process. He later pivoted to the political side of things, working for a political action committee under Republican strategist David Johnson, who said Heffley is “willing to do any and every job on a campaign” and likened Heffley to a current Chicago Cubs second baseman and former Tampa Bay Ray. “In baseball terms, he’d be Ben Zobrist – can field, hit, play any position, and succeed at All-Star levels all while being a great influence in the clubhouse,” Johnson said. With three Sessions under his belt at FMA, Heffley said he has become more involved each year. Depending on the year and month, Heffley could be diving deep into health care policy or investing time and energy into getting “pro-medicine” candidates elected to office. When he’s out of the office, Heffley said he’s likely spending time with his wife and four dogs, or maybe out on a golf course in Tallahassee. On his youth, Heffley said it has helped him connect with mentors or veterans of the political system in Tallahassee. For some of that advice, Heffley can simply ask his dad, who he credits for imparting to him strong values. “Family’s everything, that’s been a lesson he’s taught me growing up,” he said.

Michael Hensley

Michael Hensley is about to make his next big — and arguably biggest — move in politics. The 22-year-old is tailing off his last semester at Florida State University and intends to “immediately” move to Washington where he has applied to more than 70 Capitol Hill-related gigs. Not picky – “just trying to get my feet wet.” The ambitious step, and hopeful payoff, is a culmination of the work Hensley has done in Florida. Throughout college, Hensley has interned for a handful of electeds or political operatives. At the time of his INFLUENCE interview, he was interning at U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Tallahassee office, where his favored task has been coordinating with constituents about federal relief from Hurricane Michael, which hit the Panhandle in October 2018. “I’ve always enjoyed the constituent outreach part of it,” Hensley said. Hensley’s first stint in The Process was an internship for former state Rep. Kathleen Peters. He credits that time for his political appetite. “It opened my eyes toward the Legislative Process in Florida and really 94 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

made me hungry for more.” Rounding out Hensley’s resume is experience interning for local races or lobbying firms in Tallahassee. He has also helped at the office and on the campaign for nearby U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn. His closest mentors are Joshua Gabel, a regional director for Rubio, and Landon Hoffman, whom Hensley worked with in Dunn’s office. “I think youth is actually a useful thing because people are more willing to help you,” Hensley said. “People are more willing to be candid with you, they’re more willing to offer you insight.” While at school, Hensley served in the student Senate and later the student-lobbying arm of FSU. The son of a reconnaissance Marine, Hensley said he emphasized advocating for student veterans. Asked whether he sees the political landscape changing in real time, Hensley said “the partisan divide keeps getting bigger.” The solution? “People need to find common ground and I think anything can get done.”

Tasi Hogan

Careful not to call it “unfair,” Tasi Hogan took note of how residents of Guam, where she was born, could not vote in presidential elections. “As a child I always thought it was kind of strange,” Hogan, 27, said. “I guess that was a sort of wanting-whatyou-can’t-have mentality.” But now an established presence in Central Florida Democratic politics, Hogan is more than making up for lost time in electoral participation. She came to Florida after growing up in Nevada and California, bringing with her a unique perspective of how Democrats operate in other states. In the Orlando area, Hogan has worked for a number of campaigns, like Jerry Demings’ successful bid for Orange County Mayor and John Mina’s election to Orange County Sheriff. And now, Hogan is managing Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s re-election. Young for the job, Hogan acknowledged that institutional experience is valuable but said people her age are at an advantage when it comes to digital outreach and other nuanced campaign strategies. “Leveraging social media and technology I think comes a lot more naturally to young operatives,” she said. “When I go to a candidate and tell them we’re going to use this texting platform to engage voters or target voters with Instagram ads, they think it’s really cool and super high-tech — but to me it’s been at my fingertips for a while now.” A veteran of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, Hogan credited that experience with bridging her to the grassroots organizers and players in Orlando. President Donald Trump’s victory, she added, made it clear to her that she would remain in the political game in Central Florida. “I was totally despondent,” she said. “But I knew I needed to keep fighting and continue to make this great place that I live a better city.” Outside of campaigns, Hogan has managed to visit all the continents, including Antarctica. Before she’s 30, Hogan plans to visit all 50 states. At the time of her INFLUENCE interview, only nine remain.






Madeline Holzmann

Madeline Holzmann has been able to rely on numbers, rather than words, to communicate in politics. Holzmann, 22, recently graduated from Florida State University with a degree in statistics and math. Currently the communications director for Florida Internet & Television, she helps the advocacy arm of cable and internet businesses in the state by blending her passion for digits and politics. “I’ve been able to use my programming and statistics background to kind of develop strategy on our most pressing issues and being able to develop how we’re going to move bills through the Legislature with our lobbying team and just what messaging points work the best,” she said, noting that successful advocacy and outreach


depends on a results-oriented, data-driven process. Before starting her current gig, Holzmann worked on the scheduling and logistics team for Attorney General Ashley Moody’s successful 2018 bid. It was a bit of a homecoming for Holzmann, who at 10 years old discovered politics when she volunteered to wave signs for one of Moody’s earlier judicial campaigns. When she got the call from Moody’s campaign in college, Holzmann said she transitioned to online classes to balance the statewide political effort with her studies. “It was the best decision,” she said. “Big risk, big reward.” While in school, Holzmann dedicated her spare time to various student government activities and founded the Women’s Caucus at

FSU’s student governmental body. She also set up what she described as an “amateur statistics and consulting polling firm,” through which she polled the student body on issues they would like to see on the university’s legislative agenda. Along with Team Moody, Holzmann credited a number of mentors who’ve helped her along the way, like campaign consultant Anthony Pedicini, who said Holzmann’s “has a tremendous work ethic and her can-do attitude changes a team.” An aspiring pollster, Holzmann suggested there’s room for improvement in the science. Five years from now, she could be making a name for herself doing just that. “I would love to be a pollster who is able to develop models to accurately predict elections,” she said.

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Zach Hubbard

When it comes to ideology, Zach Hubbard has a striking resemblance to the two lawmakers for whom he has worked: state Rep. James Grant and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, two Tampa Bay-area politicians known for pushing the tech envelope and emphasizing individual liberties. “I just kind of fell in love with what they do with liberty and innovation in the state,” Hubbard, 23, said of his decision to stay involved in politics after graduating from Florida State University. Hubbard, of Lutz, had interned with Grant throughout college but had originally planned to take a job in the finance industry — “something completely different from what I’m doing now,” he said. Hubbard is currently a legislative aide for Brandes, a position he took after helping re-elect Grant in 2018. Such gigs with Brandes or Grant, Hubbard said, is like “drinking out of a fire hose.” Both lawmakers are prolific bill authors, “and we work every single one of them.” During the 2019 Session – his first with Brandes – Hubbard was siloed on insurance and innovation issues, which he said required frequent meetings with insurance experts in the Legislature. To excel in The Process, Hubbard said, “anticipation is key.” Whether it be the boss’ or the bill’s needs, “I was never really asked for something I didn’t already have,” Hubbard added. In his spare time, Hubbard enjoys playing basketball, listening to podcasts or reading – maybe something by economist Milton Friedman or libertarian staple Ayn Rand, he noted. Before getting connected with Grant and Brandes, Hubbard said he considered himself a “traditional Republican.” But the two lawmakers impressed upon him the importance of “bringing the best innovation, the best competition and the best business to the state of Florida.” Hubbard also noted that while his young age might not be the “first thing” of which he informs someone, it can be advantageous. “It really does give you the opportunity to have many mentors … a lot of times they see themselves in you and it allows a mentorship to take place.”

Haleigh Hutchison

A Democratic operative who isn’t afraid to find common ground across the aisle, Haleigh Hutchison is equal parts peacemaker and deal broker. Those are just some of the attributes she has picked up from an action-packed stint maneuvering through the Northeast Florida political engine. Now 26, Hutchison has worked for Jacksonville pols like former Mayor and City Councilman Tommy Hazouri while also engaging in a number of Democratic efforts in the area. In 2018, Hutchison managed Tracye Polson’s unsuccessful attempt to turn a nearby state House seat blue. A Parkland native, Hutchison returned to South Florida recently and is a vice president at EDGE Communications, Christian Ulvert’s consulting and communications shop. Hutchison credits both government and campaigning jobs for facilitating her interest in politics. With Hazouri, she said, “That’s where I really learned about government and what fixing potholes and cleaning up after a hurricane means to everyday people.” But Hutchison added later that she encourages anyone interested in politics to take a stab at a campaign because they offer a little bit of everything. “You get all aspects,” she said. “You get policy, you get talking to people, but you also get the not-so-fun side of politics, which is the negative campaigning and the amount of money it takes to actually run any race these days. So that’s a good way to see if you have the chops for this.” As a young operative, Hutchison said the game of politics is changing because it’s becoming easier to “suss out” the authenticity of a candidate, something that she said matters to voters — and not just during even-numbered years. “Campaigning never stops,” she said. “We don’t just go to church one time and expect to earn someone’s vote.”


Mandie Jones

Before managing government relations at AdventHealth, Mandie Jones, 29, interacted with the health care provider from a different perspective. Her mother, Sylvia, battled a rare form of cancer for years. “In that time you really get to know a different side of health care,” Jones said. Jones’ mother transitioned to end-of-life care at AdventHealth, then Florida Hospital, and Jones was happy with the care provided to her mother. “The care that we received there was unforgettable,” she said. For the same company that cared for her mother, Jones now maintains relationships with legislatures in the several states it serves. AdventHealth is a faithbased health system and religion is “a big part of what we do and how we think about what we’re doing each day,” Jones said. Jones’ first immersion in politics occurred while she attended the University of Florida where she served as a student Senator. “I fell in love with how

much positive change you can make when you have a platform to advocate for your issues,” she said. Later, she would graduate from Florida State University’s master’s program for Applied American Politics and Policy. Under former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, Jones worked for the executive office as well as the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration. It’s through these jobs she cultivated a passion for policy and politics, an arena she plans to continue working in. “For me, the pivotal moment was working in the Scott administration and really being able to see the inside of politics,” she said. “That’s when I knew that I wanted to do it for a career.” An African-American woman, Jones said her work philosophy is “to live a life in honor of my ancestors and in service of my descendants.” When Jones isn’t at the office, she could be volunteering with the Junior League, traveling or caring for her 7-year-old brother.



Andrew Kalel

Ask Andrew Kalel, 26, how he ended up working as the legislative affairs director for the Offices of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, and he’ll tell you that it happened just as it did to James Garner’s character in the western comedy “Support Your Local Sheriff!” “I’m on my way to Australia, and this just kind of happened,” Kalel said, paralleling through metaphor his journey to that of Garner’s character (who becomes Sheriff of a Colorado settlement and never makes it to Australia, his original plan). “It was never something I thought I was going to be in necessarily when I came to go to Florida State University.” Kalel took the lead on governmental affairs at the agency in October 2018. It’s a unique role at the Offices of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, which previously did not have anyone in Kalel’s capacity. Kalel said the 2019 Legislative Session served as an educational experience for him, along with policymakers to whom he articulated his agency’s interests. For Kalel, not going to “Australia” is just fine. He said he enjoys work that is challenging, and appreciates taking deep dives into complex policy topics. “It gives me an opportunity to look at issues that are tough and issues that are dynamic,” Kalel said of working in state government. “And I enjoy all that.” Kalel graduated from FSU with a degree in applied economics. He has previous experience in other state agencies and worked at the Shutts and Bowen law firm before landing at his current gig. His youth, Kalel said, can sometimes be challenging in the professional sphere. But he concedes it gives him more energy — “and that’s a good thing, I suppose.” Kalel credited his professional success to Rip Colvin, executive director of the Justice Administrative Commission, and his dear friend Anthony Miller, former general counsel of the Agency of State Technology. As well, he mentioned Candice Brower, the Governor’s Regional Conflict Counsel for the 1st Region, as another professional mentor. When he’s not working, Kalel is likely driving a distance to check out a good restaurant or out on the water with his water scooter. He doesn’t quite know what’s next but in the meantime he’s keeping true to his work philosophy: going about his business and letting “work speak for itself.”


Albie Kaminsky

Albie Kaminsky has always had a passion for business and, over time, he found a way to occupy the space between it and government. Nearly 28, Kaminksy is the senior manager for government affairs at Charter Communications, which provides cable, internet and phone services under the Spectrum brand. It is a gig he found his way into after several years working in the Legislature and in politics while also managing to obtain an MBA. “Simply put, I’m an educator,” Kaminsky said. “I help educate our local leaders on the vast amount of resources provided by a Fortune 100 company like Spectrum.” A two-time graduate from the University of Florida, Kaminsky got his start in The Process with former state Rep. Doug Holder, who at the time chaired the Regulatory Affairs Committee. “A lightbulb moment to see the clear intersection between business and politics,” Kaminsky recalled. In Tallahassee, Kaminsky later worked for Rep. Jay Trumbull during his first term and then joined former Rep. Jim Boyd’s office, which netted Kaminsky a distinction from the Florida Sheriff’s Association for aiding in Boyd’s legislation that targeted the state’s opioid crisis. Kaminsky advises those looking to get their feet wet in politics to always be passionate about who they’re working for. “I’ve been lucky enough to be working with a lot of different quote-unquote bosses, but all of them had turned out to be friends and mentors,” he said. Kaminsky said he carries with him an emphasis on empathy in the workplace and with whatever project or issue he takes on, a virtue he attributed to “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. It’s a strategy that has proven successful from his leadership positions at UF and within the Florida Blue Key organization to his role with Spectrum today. “I always like to start thinking about what the opposition might be thinking about, how I can empathize with them and how we can reach a general consensus,” he said.

Colin Kirkland

When it comes to the question of occupation, Colin Kirkland’s answer is plainspoken. “I’m an advocate,” said the 26-year-old policy and government relations director for the St. Johns County School District. “That’s what I see myself as most.” While young, Kirkland is well positioned to act as the district’s voice in Tallahassee. He grew up in the state capital, graduated from Florida State University and has been involved in the political process since his early start as a House page. Before landing in St. Johns, Kirkland had worked with former state Sen. Charlie Dean, state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (both mentors to him) and the Florida Justice Association. Those stints, he said, have endowed him with “exposure to diversified issues.” “I think my experience working within the Legislature for a number of years gives me a unique view here within the school system to be able to separate and put together the intent of legislation versus its impact here, and make that connection,” Kirkland added. To navigate the “complexities” of Tallahassee and represent the school system’s interests well, Kirkland said he constructs a “bridge of communication” at least, in part, by storytelling. One example: tying students’ accomplishments and needs to the policy decisions made in Tallahassee. “When it comes to advocacy, I think we all have a story to tell,” he said, suggesting that’s a uniform approach for anyone carrying a community’s interest. Among the younger lobbyists in the Capitol and beyond, Kirkland said that while some aspects of the process have evolved — namely the proliferation of digital tools for bill tracking and other needs — the crux remains unchanged. “I’m not sure things are operating differently so much as they’re operating more quickly and more publicly,” Kirkland said. “But I think the core of the importance of relationships has remained steady.” When he’s not in the office, Kirkland could be on a golf course or spending time with his girlfriend in St. Augustine or Jacksonville — though he acknowledged he’ll “always be biased to Tallahassee.” SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 101


Landsberg said the 70-80 volunteers she and Perez recruited helped make Leon competitive and boost his name recognition and polling status.

Jessica Landsberg

Jessica Landsberg is well aware that she could be taking meetings with “someone who potentially has been in politics for longer than I’ve been alive.” But that hasn’t stopped the 21-year-old from starting her own business alongside her equally youthful partner, Nadir Perez. The two teamed up in 2018 to launch Ven Vamos Strategies. As its namesake suggests (translation: come here, let’s go) the business bills itself as a one-stop shop for candidates who need canvassers. That means Landsberg and Perez service their clients with walkers, or grassroots volunteers who act as door-to-door surrogates for candidates. “We do everything we can to ensure that they’re going to help that candidate get elected by being able to engage voters, being eloquent, speaking with confidence and helping get their platform and their pitch across,” Landsberg said. The idea for the business came from Landsberg and Perez’s work for Alfie Leon’s unsuccessful stab at the Miami City Commission in 2017. Landsberg said the 70-80 volunteers she and Perez recruited helped make Leon competitive and boost his name recognition and polling status. While still in school, Landsberg has already notched some important wins through Ven Vamos. Republican state Rep. Vance Aloupis used the canvassing operation’s resources during his 2018 bid, for example. The daughter of former Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg, Jessica Landsberg grew up as a witness to the anatomy of South Florida’s communities. She said she takes clients if they’re “good people” — regardless of their party affiliation. Landsberg’s work-life balance is more of a workschool balance because she still has a final semester at Florida International University. Afterward, she intends to go to law school and perhaps stay involved later in politics as a campaign consultant or lobbyist. A former collegiate basketball player, Landsberg credited part of her work ethic to sports and the determination they require. Landsberg said she has been called an “old soul and traditionalist,” a striking contrast to her age. But that’s a label that holds true for someone who specializes in canvassing, a time-tested political strategy with unquestionable effectiveness.


Kyle Langan

Kyle Langan, 26, carries with him the unique ability to distinguish between even-numbered and off-year elections “You have a very smaller voter base to work from,” Langan said of the latter. “So you have to be very precise with who you target as a voter to make sure that you turn out the most amount of people of that district population in order to get the votes you need to win a race.” There’s merit to that observation, too. Langan was one of the chief brains behind Republican state Rep. Lawrence McClure’s 2017 special election victory to Hillsborough County’s House District 58. Currently the legislative aide to McClure, Langan operates mostly out of Plant City (where he fishes frequently in nearby bay waters) and has a rounded-out perspective of The Process, from the field to lawmaking in Tallahassee. Both jobs, he said, are equally rewarding. “I’m kind of split 50-50,” Langan said. “I love the strategy, planning, teamwork and all the effort that you get to put into a campaign to hopefully get a result. But in The Process, there’s no better feeling than when you help a legislator pass a bill to better the state.” Langan is a graduate of Florida State University, where politics “was something I paid attention to and cared about, but it was never a passion of mine until I got more involved.” After working campaigns during the 2014 cycle and later working alongside former Sen. Charlie Dean during his last Legislative Session in office, Langan was hooked. He has been on the losing side of a campaign and he has “carried that feeling and motivation toward everything I’ve done, because you learn more from the losses than you do the wins.” Among his mentors in The Process are Dean, McClure and Florida Justice Association operations director Kevin Sweeny. “They’ve taught me to do everything the right way, how to go about it and instilled loyalty as the biggest part of how I do what I do and why I do it,” Langan said.

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McKinley Lewis What’s in a name? For McKinley Lewis, it could be politics. If asked, the 27-year-old might humbly reveal he’s both named after and related to William McKinley Jr., the 25th U.S. President. He remembers growing up and reading his grandmother’s preservation of the front page of a newspaper published after President McKinley had been assassinated. Experiences like that facilitated in McKinley an early interest in government and politics, which has resulted in a decorated resume in the profession. In 2016, Lewis joined then-Gov. Rick Scott’s administration after playing a chief role in communications efforts at the Department of Health and the Department of Corrections. Staying on through the remainder of Scott’s term, Lewis has a series of positive memories and lessons learned as one of the Governor’s top aides. He recalled two personal calls he received from Scott: one on the day before Lewis married his wife, Air Force Capt. Dr. Meghan Lewis, and another to congrat-

ulate him on the birth of his daughter, Addison. “He so deeply cares about the folks who work with him,” Lewis said. Lewis also dealt with a series of tragedies and disasters during his time with Scott, which overlapped with the Pulse, Fort Lauderdale airport and Parkland shootings, along with a number of hurricanes, including Irma and Michael – “dark times for so many people in our state.” Lewis, now the senior vice president of accounts at On 3 Public Relations, carries with him how Scott and others on the team answered to difficulties. “That’s really where you learn from people, when you see them have to solve problems,” Lewis said. Now back in the private side of political communications, Lewis said the jobs are similar in focus and “boiled down to knowing your audience.” He added: “At the end of the day, what makes someone successful in government is what will make them successful in the private sector.”

Karis Lockhart Don’t mistake Karis Lockhart for an intern. At the ripe age of 22, she is already the deputy director of legislative and Cabinet affairs at the Department of Economic Opportunity and boasts a resume that fits the bill. When it comes to government and politics, Lockhart said she’s “known no otherwise.” Her mother, Amy Lockhart, served on the Seminole County School Board from 2012 until getting elected to the County Commission in 2018. The younger Lockhart aided in that race and cherishes her mother’s primary victory as her best moment in politics to date. “It really was amazing to see the final votes come in and realize we just won,” Lockhart said. Before graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2018, Lockhart held a number of student leadership positions tied to the Republican Party, including a stint as chair of the UCF College Republicans and later chair of the Florida Federation of College Republicans. While she has spent time previously articulating the party’s platform to younger voters, Lockhart said her new position requires her to leave partisanship at the door and follow through for the priorities of Gov. Ron DeSantis and the jobs agency. But

that has likely been a natural shift. Before transitioning into state government, she aided in the digital post-primary efforts for DeSantis and in ticketing and credentialing efforts for his inaugural outfit. Among some of the youngest operators in the process, Lockhart said her youth gives her “a lot of opportunity to grow and learn new perspectives.” Tailing off her first Legislative Session, her main takeaway involved getting educated about the contours of state government. “Just learning The Process, you hear about it but just learning it firsthand is another experience.” Having grown up in Sanford, Lockhart in 2016 aided in the re-election of Republican former state Rep. Jason Brodeur. Brodeur, who in 2020 is seeking a nearby Senate seat, described Lockhart as an invaluable asset to his earlier campaign, someone who is detail oriented, shows up early and leaves late. “As a candidate, you’re always worried about events and making sure you have enough collateral, and T-shirts, and clipboards, and koozies, and whatever else we had to promote my candidacy,” Brodeur told INFLUENCE. “Karis always had a stocked box of everything ready for whatever community event we were doing.” SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 105


Hannah Plante

Hannah Plante’s initial passion for politics eventually led her to the realm of education policy, a focus she expects to have throughout her professional career. At 27 years old, Plante manages legislative affairs at Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that helps administer a number of state-backed, school-choice scholarships to students in Florida. “We work to help disadvantaged children in Florida to make sure they get the best education possible,” Plante said, adding that her role at the organization involves meeting with stakeholders like students and parents, and articulating their interests to policymakers in Tallahassee. Plante first waded into politics as a college intern on one of state Sen. Bill Montford’s campaigns. A two-time graduate of Florida State University, she has since held a number of political and governmental jobs in the capital, including stints at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services along with the Florida Chamber, which she credited for introducing her to education policy. Plante earlier in 2019 wrapped her first Legislative Session with Step Up For Students. The annual lawmaking process resulted in big wins for school choice advocates like Plante with the passage of the Family Empowerment Scholarship, which is intended to finance more schooling options for financially disadvantaged families. “I’m just a small part of that but to be a part of that process was a really cool accomplishment,” Plante said. As part of a younger bloc of advocators in Tallahassee, Plante said she’s not afraid to ask questions of those who are willing to share insights and experiences. “Sometimes it can be hard to ask a seasoned professional questions that you feel you should already know the answers to,” Plante said. “But in my experience everyone is happy to share their knowledge and help you out.” Her advice to the up-and-comers? It all hinges on obtaining real-world experience. “Do the unpaid internships, stuff envelopes, get coffee,” she said. “Everyone has to start somewhere and the best way to learn the industry is to be in it and to be grateful of every step you take.”


Sarah Proctor Demont A Tallahassee native, Sarah Proctor Demont has never been far from politics and policy. But she didn’t grow up in a political household — “far from it,” she said. Still, Demont credited her parents as her “biggest cheerleaders,” supporters who’ve helped guide her through school at the University of Georgia and the first leg of a promising career in political communications. Demont, 28, is one of the many talents at Bascom Communications, a leading Republican communications firm based in the capital city. In 2018, she played a key role in crafting and executing messages to voters for ballot amendments and candidates, from state Senate hopefuls to statewide contenders – even Gov. Ron DeSantis. When asked who has helped shape her career, Demont pointed to Sarah Bascom, president and CEO of the full-service comms shop. “I really believe, and I’m not saying this because I work there, if you want to be in political communications there is no better person to work for,” Demont said. “Her understanding of the process is second to none.” “Her political instincts are inherent and her work ethic is in her DNA – making her a rising star not only in our firm but our industry as a whole,”

Bascom told INFLUENCE. After DeSantis secured victory in 2018, Bascom Communications took on the behemoth task of executing the first-term Republican Governor’s transition to office and inauguration. Demont described her role as a utility player, “tagging in” whenever needed to ensure DeSantis’ seamless switch from candidate to officeholder. At Georgia, Demont studied mass communications and journalism. It was an internship at her hometown newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, that prompted Demont to continue to pursue a career that melded her understanding of journalism and her appreciation for politics. As a young communications professional, Demont has stood witness to the proliferation of methods to contact audiences. In her current gig, it’s all about segmenting those audiences and using the right tools to contact them. “As political consultants, we’re always trying to figure out how to reach voters, how to reach the millennial voters,” Demont said, “how to best resonate with them, what they’re looking for as opposed to what older generations are looking for.”



Orlando Pryor

The scope of health care and its intersection with government is what drives Orlando Pryor, a lobbyist and veteran of the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). “It impacts everyone’s life,” Pryor, 30, said. “It touches everyone in ways large and small.” While Pryor’s resume is spotted with stints on campaigns, he has made a mark in Tallahassee at AHCA, the health policy and planning arm of the state. Beginning as a legislative analyst under former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, Pryor would serve the agency as its deputy chief of staff before departing to the private sector in 2018, where he’s using his health care expertise as a lobbyist at Strategos Group. Before leaving the agency, Pryor would see the passage of a key “omnibus” health care bill backed by AHCA, a “capstone piece of legislation that kind of ended one part of my career and helped push me to another.” As far as maneuvering through the Legislative Process, Pryor suggested it gets better with age. “It’s a game that’s really kind of tilted to those that have been here for longer because they just have better relationships, more grounded, and honestly have a better understanding of what they can and can’t do and what’s the best way to push different angles you can play,” Pryor said. With several years logged at AHCA, Pryor said he had almost been an anomaly among millennial friends who had jumped from one career to the next with pace. He said he chose to stay true to his philosophy of “running your own race,” regardless of what colleagues and friends do. That idea might have paid off, too. Pryor credits the team at AHCA and his time there for his professional development, from legislative matters to the nuances of Medicaid policy. “Everything I have in terms of knowledge and expertise came from the people at AHCA,” he said. When he’s not a lobbyist, Pryor is a hobbyist. Ripping a page from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s lifestyle, he dedicates each year to a different activity, from golf to tennis to dancing to piano. “I’m always trying to stay as busy as possible,” Pryor said.


Stephanie Rosendorf

Stephanie Rosendorf recalled her AP Government class as the moment she decided to pursue a career in public policy and politics. It was 2008 – a “historic election year,” Rosendorf said. As a student she had witnessed President Barack Obama’s first successful bid for the Oval Office and would later cast a vote for the two-term President as a Florida Delegate in 2012. Now 28 years old, Rosendorf has since graduated from law school at the University of Miami. While licensed to practice law, she’s spending her time interpreting policies and advising clients at Metropolitan Public Strategies, a progressive political consulting firm operating in New York and Florida. Rosendorf’s work spans from research to outreach. As a millennial working in the Digital Age, she suggested the rapid evolution of outreach and campaign tactics is bittersweet. “It’s a lot easier in some ways to get the message out, but in many ways, it’s also harder because there are so many avenues and so many different forums,” Rosendorf said. She also said there’s room for improvement — “such as building relationships, really studying the issues and making sure you always do what’s right and put principle above partisan politics” – in the political and issue-based advocacy arena. Rosendorf is relatively new to her role at Metropolitan Public Strategies. Before that, she worked alongside Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich, complementing her longtime ties to South Florida. Rosendorf graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School well before the school suffered a remarkable tragedy. But as a political operator, she is compelled by the actions of her alumni after the tragedy. “Everybody deals with grief in different ways,” Rosendorf said. “I’ve kind of been inspired by those who’ve tried to channel their grief and loss of their loved ones into purpose and action.”

Elaine Sarlo

One of Elaine Sarlo’s early challenges in government came after the catastrophic Hurricane Irma swept through the state in 2017. As the Southwest regional director for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a job she still holds today, Sarlo and most of Rubio’s team were tasked with finding unique ways of helping constituents get back on their feet after the Category 4 storm passed through most of the state. “The Senator put a big emphasis on finding creative solutions to help people,” Sarlo, 23, remembered. Through that process, which in part involved setting up recovery centers to help constituents coordinate with federal relief systems, Sarlo recalled the office successfully helping a displaced single mother of children with disabilities. “We were able to get her into permanent housing and might have even helped her into a better situation than she was before the storm,” Sarlo said. “That took a lot of creative efforts and a lot of teamwork on our end ... I will probably never forget that.” Calling the Senate “the greatest legislative body in the world,” Sarlo considers her time so far in Rubio’s office as humbling. The job has taught her to understand and appreciate how government – at all levels – affects constituents, she added. Sarlo said her political career “started off” with College Republicans at the University of Central Florida. “I was chairman my junior year and that led into a ton of opportunities,” she said. Among those opportunities was the chance to work as deputy campaign manager for one of Orlando state Rep. Rene Plasencia’s re-election bids. Sarlo, whose family has long lived in Florida, grew up on a cattle ranch. When she’s not at the office, she said she could be hunting in a tree stand or hiking the family land.



Katie Smith

As a student Senator at the University of Alabama, Katie Smith’s advocacy efforts thrust her into the national limelight after fellow Senators effectively rejected her proposal in 2014 to desegregate fraternities and sororities on campus. While her legislation didn’t pass and the defeat diminished Smith’s social standing, she recalled the moment as pivotal: “Because of that experience, I’m stronger and I know I can use my voice to do something good,” said Smith, 25. Now a consultant at the Mayernick Group lobbying firm, Smith has continued to work for causes she believes in. Throughout her life, for example, Smith has advocated for disability rights on behalf of her brother, who has autism. At Mayernick, she has been able to work on meaningful projects for organizations like the March of Dimes, which focuses on infant and maternal health. Part of an up-and-coming cohort of activists and advocates, Smith noted that the proliferation of social media and other digital tools has streamlined the industry. “I love that we can all be connected even if we disagree about it,” she said. Some of Smith’s mentors in The Process have been her mother, also a disability-rights advocate, and colleague Tracy Mayernick — “It’s amazing to see her work because she is just a powerhouse,” Smith said. In the advocacy industry, Smith said “being honest, truthful and loyal is the most important thing that you can do.” A graduate of Florida State University’s masters track for Applied American Politics and Policy, Smith said she plans to stay involved in a similar career field and entertained the idea of working for a disability-focused nonprofit. When she’s away from the Capitol, Smith could be on a hike with her 2-year-old goldendoodle, Baxter, or volunteering time with the disability community. Soon, for example, she’ll speak to younger members of that community about getting involved in the electoral process.

Gretchell Trochez-Triguero

Gretchell Trochez-Triguero has helped execute a palpable shift in officeholder demographics. When it comes to women, she said, their presence is increasingly noticeable, “a lot more loud.” Trochez-Triguero, 26, can take some credit for that change. She’s finance director for Ruth’s List Florida, an organization committed to electing progressive women up and down the ticket in the Sunshine State. For her, politics is personal. A first-generation Floridian born to Honduran immigrants, Trochez-Triguero credits women, especially those of color, who are running for office in historic numbers with bringing a family-oriented culture to the ballot. That’s a good thing, she said. “Anything in politics has to be about mutual respect. When they’re telling you what they care about, it’s the most personal thing they can do.” Trochez-Triguero’s gig at Ruth’s List is integral to the organization’s mission. The buck can either stop, or flow, through her. She’s responsible for making sure financial resources are available to recruit, train and, it’s hoped, elect progressive women to office. Before working with Ruth’s List, she held a similar role for former Gov. Charlie Crist’s election team in 2014 and has interned or worked for other Democratic officials and causes. Coming off 2018, a high-water mark for the number of women elected to serve in Congress, Trochez-Triguero pointed to victories closer to home, like those of Democrats Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Sen. Janet Cruz, both of whom won by incredibly tight margins. “It was a good year to be a woman and a good year to be running for office,” Trochez-Triguero said. Personally, Trochez-Triguero sees immigration as a “passion project.” She credits her parents for sacrificing parts of their lives for their children, and she hopes to continue facilitating a “diverse electoral body.” In her spare time, Trochez-Triguero is on a quest to find the best brewery in the Tampa Bay area. Asked if she’ll ever run for office, she pointed to the negative. “I feel like if I get six, seven, 10 women to run for office, it’s a lot more effective than if I just did it on my own.” 110 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019


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Dave Vasquez

Dave Vasquez keeps close to mind the magnitude of the work he does each day for Gov. Ron DeSantis in one of the most populated states in the Union. “It’s humbling,” said the 25-year-old press secretary. “It’s a unique experience and it’s not one that I take for granted.” He joined DeSantis’ administration after serving as the press secretary for the first-term Republican Governor’s successful campaign in 2018. In 2016, Vasquez got his political break when he was brought on to manage former Altamonte Springs state Rep. Bob Cortes’ campaign. Vasquez credited Cortes as a mentor. “It was a big test of faith and the Representative put a lot of trust in me at a very young age,” Vasquez said. Before joining DeSantis’ campaign at the beginning of 2018, Vasquez lived in the Washington area, doing communications work for President Donald Trump’s in-

auguration and later managing external affairs at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Already accomplished in the world of political communications, Vasquez suggested that success in that sector requires teamwork and coordination between several components of an organization or office — “having a great team that can get you a full, 360-degree view of policy matters, exactly who the stakeholders are and exactly where the fault lines are can make all the difference in the execution.” A naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Colombia, Vasquez came to the States at a young age with his family. As he has worked his way through conservative politics, he said he has continued to acknowledge the opportunity his parents afforded him. “I think that’s something I’ve always been mindful of,” Vasquez said. “I try to live up to the gift that I’ve been provided.” Having spent the better part of his childhood in the Tampa Bay area, Vasquez said he frequently returns home on the weekends to visit family and spend time at the nearby St. Petersburg Sailing Center.



Hunter Wilkins

Meet Hunter Wilkins. As he’ll put it humbly, he “helps get people elected.” More specifically, Wilkins is the 21-year-old political operations powerhouse behind recent victories like U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz’s win in Congressional District 6 in 2018 and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s successful 2019 re-election – two Republican campaigns he oversaw while also pursuing a degree at Stetson University, where he’s wrapping up his final undergraduate year. While it might sound impossible, Wilkins said he balances his time by prioritizing a commitment to excellence in whatever he takes on. “It’s something my family has instilled in me since I was young and I decided I wanted to make a difference,” he said. Wilkins’ youthful promise complements that of his first campaign, when he in 2014 helped get state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan elected. Wilkins cited that project as his first immersion in politics. Sullivan, then 23 and a family friend of Wilkins’, had at the time become the youngest woman elected to the Florida House, though that record has since been broken. Flash forward to 2019, when Wilkins can now boast a few more victories, from Jacksonville City Council races to Waltz’s successful bid, or as Wilkins said, “where things fell into place.” When asked how he managed that run, Wilkins suggested the candidate — a decorated Green Beret veteran who has advised national leaders on counterterrorism, among other notable accolades – did the legwork. “[Waltz’s] whole life, he served his country and this is just another part of that and I think the voters recognize that and it’s something every voter can relate to and appreciate,” Wilkins said. But that’s not to say Wilkins isn’t savvy in the field. He said he has found success in sticking to the basics of grassroots advocacy, while recognizing and implementing some of the newer campaign tools available in modern politics. “You need the bread and butter, so knocking on doors and calling voters directly is something I firmly believe in,” Wilkins said. “It’s something that’s often overlooked because it’s hard to do.” As a side project — almost a hobby — Wilkins has set up a small business, Merus Strategies, to facilitate his interest in political advocacy. Expect Wilkins to remain involved in the upcoming 2020 election and beyond. The good news for aspiring Republican politicians in the Sunshine State? Wilkins plans to continue his craft here. “I love this state and the political machine has been interesting to me,” he said. “I care about making a difference and I care about helping people — I think this is a great way to do that.”



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loridians Set to play key roles in 2020 presidential races by scott powers


he 2020 presidential election might not be won or lost in Florida but, behind the scenes, Sunshine State politicos are likely to have as much say as anyone anywhere about who wins.


Other than President Donald Trump, with Mar-a-Lago as his second home, none of the major candidates has serious Florida connections. Yet Florida remains the biggest prize among the swing states, usually decided by less than 2 percentage points and arguably the most unpredictable, having gone Republican, Democrat, Democrat, Republican, Republican, Democrat, Republican in the past seven presidential elections, going back to 1992. Twenty-nine electoral votes are up for grabs in the state. That’s more than Ohio and Wisconsin combined. More than Virginia and North Carolina combined. More than Michigan and Minnesota combined. More than Pennsylvania and Iowa combined. Running for President? You need someone who knows Florida. You need a Susie Wiles, a Steve Schale, an Alex Garcia, an Alex Heckler, a Brendan McPhillips, or a Justin Day on your team. Besides Trump, the Democrats wanting his job — Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Steve Bullock, John Delaney, and others —already are taking heed. There is no shortage of talent or experience in highstakes, close, hard-fought campaigns in Florida. “There are a lot of people working in politics in Florida,” said Schale, who’s working informally, as he has before, for former Vice President Biden’s campaign. “Just look at the last election; we had three statewide elections that went to a recount. There’s a lot of talent who worked on campaigns in 2018, 2016, and before who have experience in a really competitive state. “I believe this to be true: If you can have success and do well in Florida, you’re going to do well almost anywhere,” Schale added. Arguably, no one has done better in recent elections than Wiles. Wiles was Trump’s state co-chair, along with Joe Gruters, in 2016 before jumping in during the last four months and essentially winning Florida for Trump, just as she did last year, becoming Ron DeSantis’ campaign manager down the stretch of his nail-biting, come-from-behind victory. For now, she’s taking an informal role in Trump’s 2020 re-





election campaign. Garcia, formerly chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and before that political director for House campaigns at the Republican Party of Florida, is Trump’s regional political director for the Southeast, including Florida. “It’s very early. I think it will grow and develop as we get closer to the election,” offered Wiles. It’s not so early for the Democrats, who have caucuses and primaries in just a few months, so the competition to recruit Florida politicos already is well underway. Harris, the California Democratic Senator who shook up things with her attacks on Biden in the June debates on NBC, is awash with early staff who have Florida connections. Heckler of LSN Partners is fundraising for Harris. So are Brad Carlson, the Miami developer and national LGBTQ Task Force board member, and Stefanie Sass, former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s former finance director. Kirsten Allen, former deputy communications director for Andrew Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, is in a like role for Harris. Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also has no shortage of Florida connections. Samantha Pollara, finance director for Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s campaign earlier this year and deputy finance director for Sean Shaw’s Florida Attorney General campaign last year, is a regional investment director



for Buttigieg. McPhillips, who ran Gillum’s campaign through his upset victory in last year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, and Kevin Donohoe, who had been a senior communications adviser to the Florida Democratic Party, are on Buttigieg’s team. Marisol Samayoa, communications director for the Florida House Democratic Caucus last year, is now a deputy national press secretary for Buttigieg. Christian Ulvert also has raised money for Buttigieg. Another of Nelson’s former finance directors, Greg Goddard, is taking on that role for Klobuchar, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota. Carlie Waibel, former communications director for Nelson, is Klobuchar’s national press secretary. Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s communications director and senior communications adviser, now is the Iowa communications director for O’Rourke, the Democratic former Congressman from Texas. Hopkins, Shaw’s former communications director, is national press secretary to Delaney, the Democratic former U.S. Representative from Maryland.




Despite their experiences with other campaigns that started up from nothing, Samayoa, Hopkins and Burgan talked about the freshness of their current campaigns, all dark horses. Consequently, they said, their Florida experiences are being taken seriously. “It feels like a startup where everyone’s ideas are heard. Everyone gets to collaborate, work together,” Samayoa said of the Buttigieg campaign. “The job just feels like there is no hierarchy, there is no one who is better than another…. What we are being told is, ‘We’re counting on you to help us.’ I think it is a reflection of our candidate himself.” Longtime Democratic fundraiser and finance adviser Day from Tampa now is raising money for Bullock, the Democratic Montana Governor. There are no statewide elections in Florida in 2020, and not many major congressional battles are emerging yet. Thus, everyone from Florida with the experience and skill to drive multimilliondollar political campaigns happens to have some free time on their hands, and perhaps some free money to offer. “From a fundraising standpoint I think Florida is only behind California and New York, where candidates come to raise money. So, from a finance standpoint, that’s why you see so many

campaign financiers being reached out to by the campaigns, to get them on board, because of their networks in this state and their ability to pull together some large amounts of money,” Day said. “But I think even the staffers, the finance staffers who are on the ground in Florida, they want those people as well. Because they also can bring their networks into these campaigns. They know where to go, to get people to help raise money, and who to introduce them to,” he continued. “A lot of these campaigns, as they’re starting out, it’s not so much about raising money. It’s more about making introductions. I think staffers on the ground are helpful at that as well as your fundraisers. “I think that’s one of the reasons campaigns spend so much time in Florida,” he added. The media often focus on Trump’s appeals to his base. But Wiles said that is not how he won Florida in 2016. And she does not think she’ll need to remind anybody that to win Florida or states like it he’ll need a much broader appeal than just his rock-solid base. “Florida is a 50-50 state. I hear quite frequently how Florida is red, or put Florida in the Republican column. I don’t agree with that,” Wiles said. “In a presidential year, and frankly what we just


PRESIDENT 2020 finished in a gubernatorial year, you have to fight for every single vote. And I don’t think 2020 will be any different.” No one has to be reminded of that, she said. “The good news is I don’t have to. They, the campaign at large, understands the importance of Florida,” Wiles continued. “Brad Parscale, the President’s campaign manager, because he ran the digital strategy, he understands very well the nuances of this state, which some say is four states in one, some say five. So there’s not a lot of convincing to be done. That’s good news for someone like me.” And, she added, Trump himself, with his Mar-a-Lago home, “is very, very focused on what goes on here, in tune with Florida voters, so, even if we lost our minds and weren’t paying attention, he would be.” Like Wiles and Day, Schale has no official role with the campaign he’s supporting for Biden. But he has been in that position before. After Schale helped Barack Obama and Biden win Florida in 2008 and 2012, he sort of emerged as the face and voice in 2015 for the draft-Biden effort for the 2016 election. Florida, home to millions of transplants, is Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and so many other Northern and Midwestern states that have been and could again be in play. You want to know how to appeal in the Cleveland suburbs? Ask around in Sarasota. The Philly suburbs? Try Broward County. The small and medium-size towns and cities spreading through the Rust and Corn Belts like stepping stones? Hop and skip around Central Florida counties from Pinellas to Volusia, Marion to Indian River. “The reality is, the types of voters who live in those places, Volusia, you know, suburban, exurban, where did a lot of them move from? Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois,” Schale said. “So they’re largely the same kind of voters. If you can get to those voters there, it’s going to translate here.” The primaries also will wash out more than a few. Schale is encouraged regardless. “I think it’s a good thing you’re seeing so many people engaged. As painful and frustrating as primaries can be, the upside of 2008 was you had two, really three with John Edwards, really


delaney robust campaigns, where people were learning the skills of what it takes. “So by the time we get to the general election, we’re going to have a really strong, seasoned pool of operatives,” he said.





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Mike Haridopolos’ U.S. Senate bid lasted just six months, but it gave birth to a campaign that’s still spending eight years later. That’s thanks to millions of dollars in contributions he collected in 2011 from individuals and businesses with interests before him while he was Florida’s Senate President. He handed off the gavel in 2012 and later went to work in lobbying, with his old campaign funds subsidizing his new career. In the years since, Haridopolos has cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks to powerful lawmakers he sought to influence on behalf of clients that include NASCAR

promoters, online ticket sellers and U.S. Sugar. By now, you’ve probably heard about zombie campaigns, the previously secret but frequently abused campaign committees that never seem to die – even when a politician’s public career clearly has. They’ve allowed former federal candidates to violate the spirit of campaign finance laws – and quite often, the letter of them as well – spending other people’s money on personal electronics, country club dues, expensive meals and lavish travel. According to campaign filings, Florida zombies include Haridopolos, whose federal run was done in by several high-pro-

file scandals back in 2011; disgraced Congressman Mark Foley, who is subsidizing his posh Palm Beach lifestyle with campaign donations that are (ironically) old enough to be in high school; and legislator-turned-lobbyist George LeMieux, who also uses his old funds to cut campaign checks that might otherwise have come out of his own pocket. Federal laws, unlike Florida’s campaign finance laws, do not require candidates to close campaign accounts after each election. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) suggests candidates should wind down accounts and ship off excess funds to nonprofits or other political commit-


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lives of family and friends, instead of nonprofits and charities that might have otherwise benefited from the member’s legacy. There are also former politicians like Bill Nelson, whose campaign could enter zombieland this summer if it’s not shut down. Nelson’s political career may be over, but with more than $1 million in cash left unspent from his failed re-election bid to the Senate, his campaign account could have many more years of life left, with little oversight on how he can use it.


tees within six months of leaving the campaign trail, but there is no mandate. While candidates are prohibited from personally benefiting from campaign funds, the FEC wasn’t even bothering to review their filings for violations until the Tampa Bay Times and WTSP-TV exposed the widespread abuses last year. The FEC has now changed its review policy and opened inquiries this summer on 50 campaign committees that continue to spend long after the campaigning ended, including those belonging to Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, and Joseph Kennedy II. Yet, even with new scrutiny, some politicians continue to exploit the loopholes without any apparent fear of repercussions. Maybe it’s because they know few in D.C. have any appetite to change it. Public shame may be the only way to drain this swamp, which is why Florida Politics has been highlighting different former Florida politicians who are operating and benefiting from a zombie campaign. The Florida swamp skews Republican, but rest assured, the abuse nationwide is thoroughly bipartisan. One of the most egregious examples exposed by the Times/WTSP investigation was the Democratic consultant in Hawaii who, after a respected Congressman died suddenly in office, took control of the campaign account and paid himself $100,000 over the next 17 months to consult on the campaign of a dead man. Other campaigns of deceased lawmakers have been used to enrich the

If there’s any job less celebrated than an IRS auditor, it may that of an FEC analyst. Even when red flags are identified on campaign finance reports, they seldom result in action, thanks to toothless laws, poor agency funding, and partisan gridlock among appointed FEC commissioners. In fact, an agency spokesperson admitted to Times/ WTSP reporters the FEC didn’t typically review any of the campaign finance reports submitted by former members of Congress. That changed this summer, when the agency began asking old, but active, campaigns why they were still spending money. “Your most recent report discloses a significant amount of residual cash on hand,” the FEC wrote each of the 50 suspect campaigns. “While a committee of a former candidate or officeholder may remain open for winding-down purposes, your reports do not appear to indicate that the committee is winding down.” The changes at the FEC – and rare agreement among its commissioners – came as a pleasant surprise to its critics. “Some of the violations were so egregious years and years (after the candidate left office),” said U.S.

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat. “Even an FEC that’s been a paper tiger couldn’t take it any longer.” However, it’s not clear if the letters will stop all the campaigns from exploiting the loopholes in the law. Similar FEC inquiries are often shrugged off by campaigns with vague excuses that go unchallenged. Indeed, watchdogs in Washington say real reform can only come from Congress. Castor last year teamed up with U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Tarpon Springs Republican, to sponsor the bipartisan “Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain Act,” which would have required campaigns to shut down two years after a candidate’s last election or day in office. It also would have banned former Congressional members from lobbying until their account was closed. The bill failed to get a hearing in 2018, but with new House leadership in 2019, much of the proposed zombie language was added to H.R. 1, a wide-ranging campaign finance and ethics reform bill that was approved and sent over to the Senate in March. There, it met the same fate as so many other proposed reforms; dead on arrival at the feet of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the self-proclaimed “grim reaper” of any bill that substantially changes the way politicians raise funds, spend money or run for office. Yet it’s hard to imagine an easier issue for the two parties to come together on than stopping dead candidates from spending campaign funds from beyond the grave. It’s a bipartisan problem that will require a bipartisan fix.


“We need a champion on the Senate side,” Castor said of proposed zombie reforms. Neither of Florida’s Republican U.S. Senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, would provide comment on zombie campaigns, despite more than three months of questions. Scott, who campaigned last year on a platform of setting expiration dates on members of Congress, has shown zero interest in setting expiration dates on members’ campaign spending, even when the funds are used by former members to lobby Congress or subsidize their post-political lives. Perhaps not so ironically, Scott is a longtime friend of McConnell, and has not challenged him on any major policy issue since taking office after his November 2018 election. None of this should be a surprise to Democrats, who know any sweeping reform bill passed along party lines stands zero chance in the Republican-controlled Senate. So why doesn’t Castor team up with Democratic leaders and Bilirakis to pass a narrowly-focused, stand-alone zombie bill that targets only the most egregious abuses? Perhaps legislation that simply bans campaigns from spending after a candidate dies, resigns in shame, or has been out of office for several decades? Castor says with all of the controversies coming out of the White House, zombie campaigns simply can’t get the attention they need in Washington. Democrats have held the majority in the House for seven months, but have yet to give a stand-alone zombie bill a single hearing. “It’s frustrating,” Castor said of the process. “You just don’t give up on these things; sometimes it takes a couple of years. “I’m very pleased we (got zombie campaign reforms passed) with H.R. 1… it took many years to get that done. It gave us an opportunity to educate other House members and the public on the issue. If (our effort) wasn’t moving at all … we wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk to other members, send letters, and hand out news stories about the issue. “Many of the new House members were elected to reform Washington, and many of them are interested in it.”


The FEC has no specific restrictions on using leftover campaign funds to lobby members of Congress, but the federal ban on personal benefit sounds like writing checks to sitting members of Congress, while working as a lobbyist, is a prohibited use. That hasn’t stopped Haridopolos, LeMieux, or dozens of other former politi124 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2019

cians from using their war chests to bankroll the very lawmakers they are being paid to influence. Former Congressman Dennis Ross of Lakeland also has been cutting checks to his former colleagues, while joining a lobbying firm just months after his term ended last January. Then there’s Jeff Miller, the former Panhandle Congressman who has been operating a zombie campaign for the last two-plus years, while working with powerful lawmakers and the White House to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He reported spending thousands of campaign dollars on meals, hotels, and undisclosed reimbursements in the months after he left Congress, as he was picking up new clients and starting to lobby the Trump administration. Miller’s new constituency: His lobbying clients, who stand to make billions of dollars through the privatization of veterans’ care. The ears of Washington watchdogs perked up upon hearing these examples. “Miller’s use of campaign funds to influence policy for the benefit of his clients is not only illegal, but egregiously misuses the donations voters entrusted to him,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Campaign accounts are meant to be for campaigns, that’s it. When people are no longer running for office, they need to wind their accounts down – (and not) further their business interests.”


Florida election law requires state legislative, gubernatorial and Cabinet candidates to close their accounts down after each election cycle. If they wish to run again, they can open a new account. That didn’t stop former state Sen. John Legg, a Trinity Republican, from rolling his old campaign funds in 2016 into a new campaign account – for a possible election six years in the future. The rules also didn’t stop Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum from carrying a multi-million-dollar PAC balance from his gubernatorial campaign through to his new voter-registration venture. But political action committees aren’t held to the same strict standards as primary candidate committees, and most large donors know that.

It’s plausible, perhaps likely, that both Legg and Gillum will run again. But Florida is rife with former members of Congress who appear to be retired, yet they still keep old campaign accounts alive: — Cliff Stearns, the Ocala lawmaker-turned-lobbyist, was spending his leftover campaign funds on expensive meals, checks to colleagues, and compliance payments to his wife, who serves as his treasurer, until a federal complaint appears to have slowed his spending considerably. — Ander Crenshaw, a former Jacksonville Congressman, turned his old campaign funds into thousands of dollars in dinners, Apple products, and a trip to Disney World. — And former Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement in 2017, then spent money on expensive meals and various trips, including one that appeared to be to Disney with her family. The FEC is looking into some of these cases now, but politicians know the odds of real accountability is low, with a process that’s exceedingly slow. Until then, hopefully the fear of being shamed as Florida Politics’ next “Zombie of the Week” prompts the abusers to reel in their outrageous spending. Be warned: No zombie is safe.

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What I’ve Learned

Arthenia Joyner 76, Tampa Civil-rights warrior, former Senate Democratic Leader, longest practicing black woman lawyer in Florida INTERVIEWED BY JIM ROSICA

ON INTEGRITY AND THE PROCESS: I learned that people gain respect for you when you remain true to your values and your word is your bond. That you believe in – and never compromise – your core beliefs. Folks know that if I said something, if I gave a commitment, that was it. Now there were a couple of times when I changed, but I called the person and told them. In fact, I called somebody from the Senate floor once and told them I wasn’t certain what I would do and I would make my decision later, and they said they had never had anybody call them to say that. And then a while later I called back and said, “Nope, can’t support it.” And that person said, “I respect you even more because nobody has ever done this before.” I’ve always been one to be forthright and would not compromise what I felt was fundamental to my being .… You know, what happens sometimes when you’re in the minority and you file a bill that other folks feel is a big deal, the (majority party) takes it from you. They say they’ll put both names on it (a Democratic and Republican sponsor) and then at the end of the day they don’t …. Being in the minority, there were times that things were basically unfair.


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“...people gain respect for you when you remain true to your values and your word is your bond.” SUMMER 2019 INFLUENCE | 129


Joyner, then a state Senator, makes a point during a committee meeting. Photo: Florida Senate Media Library But it all boils down to this: If you equip yourself, if you read the bills, if you acquaint yourself with the rules, you could get things done. You were in a better position than people who didn’t. To question all of the bills effectively, I had to read the bills, so that was paramount to me, that I read every bill that was coming up in committee. Because otherwise how could I make an informed decision on the matter, without being fully aware of the ramifications of what this particular bill would do? I just made it a part of me that I had to lead by staying up many a night by reading bills. And lo and behold, on the last page, there would be one thing in there. I remember one night I was on (page) 95 (of a bill) and I said, “I’m quitting.” Then I said, “No, you only have about 10 more pages.” Well, right on the last page was a kernel of something that I would have missed had I quit. And that bill was up in committee the next day. People don’t necessarily like to read the bills. They take the lead from whoever the bill’s sponsor is, they listen to other folks, ask questions and then they take off from there. It’s like, “Are you kidding? Read all of those bills?” But I would say, “Yes, that’s what I’m here for.”


ON “HORSE TRADING”: Oh yeah, it happens. There are certain people that they know they can go to, but I can tell you this: Nobody in my 16 years ever asked me to vote for something in exchange for something going in the budget. Never. Because they knew that if I was opposed to something, that was it. I didn’t care. I said, “Ten million dollars, I don’t care what the figure is.” If it was philosophically a wrong, and not in (my community’s) best interest and compromised my values and my beliefs and they knew that, then nobody ever asked me. Nobody ever came up and said, “Well, Joyner, if you vote for this, you know, what was that project you said you wanted?” I took the position that the money was not important when it came down to my principles. I was raised by parents who instilled in me that it is very important in life that you stand up and stand firmly for what you believe and never ever let money or any other enticement weigh on what you know would not be in the best interest of you and others. So I never, ever got approached because folks knew that if I said I’m opposed to something, that was it.

ON HER LEGISLATIVE “GREATEST HITS”: I was happy with a lot of what I did. Women’s rights, criminal justice reform, and some of the things I proposed 10 years ago we’re just seeing it come to be .… I tried to change the felony threshold amount. I filed that bill several times but the second time the House sponsor backed off and said it wasn’t the right time for the bill. I was furious, but they didn’t want to pursue it. Now I see what’s passing and I laugh and say, “Well, at least I had the right idea back then.” I did some lead poisoning prevention legislation, some human trafficking. I filed a bill that created the first human trafficking commission. One of the things that’s going on is female genital mutilation. I have been to Africa 10 times and I know that it’s prevalent over there and it’s part of the culture in some countries, but we wanted to make sure that nobody ever does that in Florida, so I passed that bill. Black infant mortality, a study on why babies were dying more than white babies. So it was across the gamut, from health care to criminal justice, but I would say that criminal justice reform was really my No. 1 goal. Now I see it happening and I’m overjoyed at the fact that it might be 10

years later but it’s getting done. I remember the first time I filed one of those (criminal justice reform) bills and I talked to people and they laughed at me and said I was crazy. I said, “Well, Texas is closing prisons, they cut back on their numbers. We can do the same thing. We have too many people in the criminal justice system. We need to get rid of new mandatory minimums.” So things are just happening now that I’m overjoyed with. But it really boils down to economics and I understand that, but the bottom line is: Legislation is passing. The interest now in “smart justice,” as they call it, is at a very high level. So when you look at that, you feel that the time you spent was of consequence. That some of what you pursued is now automatically being taken up and being discussed and is meeting with some success. ON HER ADVICE TO ASPIRING POLITICIANS: No. 1, you’re not going to be successful if you can’t convince people in your district that you will represent them and make informed decisions based on what is best for (them). That integrity is important and that you are going to serve with integrity, and you are going to go up there to garner respect and do what is right. It is so important that people understand that you have got to hold fast to your principles. You remember the old saying, when I first went up in 2000, you can eat their food and drink their liquor and still vote against them. (laughs) I heard that so much when I was a freshman, and that was during the time when the lobbying corps wined and dined every Legislator — and I’ve never been a real drinker. But it didn’t matter to me. That was when I found out that people respected me for knowing that there is nothing you can do to sway me from doing what is right, because respect and integrity go hand in hand, and in my opinion you can’t have one without the other. You’ve got to understand that this is not a game; you’re going up there to work. You’ve got to read your bills, you go (to Tallahassee) to be known as a person who follows through, a person whose word is kept, and can’t be bought. I know it’s important to get funds for your district, but not at the expense of your character and integrity. ON WORKING WITH PEOPLE WITH “DIFFERENT VIEWS”: While we may not share the same belief philosophically, we all share the same humanity. We were able to pass legislation 80 to 85 percent of the

time that bridged the gap and ... benefited all of the people. Whether it was guns, abortion, criminal justice ... what’s important is at the end of the day we were able to work together and we cultivated a relationship where we were able to respect each other. I know Sen. (Dennis) Baxley, know him from the House. We had our battles. You know he’s famous for the “stand your ground” legislation … but now we got over that and worked together on issues that we shared the same view on. At times he

“You’ve got to understand that this is not a game; you’re going up there to work. You’ve got to read your bills, you go (to Tallahassee) to be known as a person who follows through, a person whose word is kept, and can’t be bought. I know it’s important to get funds for your district, but not at the expense of your character and integrity.” supported some of my legislation, and I supported some of his, because you can’t let your anger enter into it and be vitriolic and let it interfere with your ability to enact meaningful public policy. You win some and you lose some and you move on. But you don’t get involved in it to the point where you become ineffective because of your inability to not let it become personal or because you don’t like the person. You just do your job, and try to convince them, go talk to them, you sit down, you go over the bill, you discuss all of that, and try to come to common ground. You try to get the other

side to agree with you. Some people take the attitude, “I don’t like it, I hate that bill you passed.” Sure, I dislike a lot of legislation that some of the Legislators filed, but I very seldom backed down to disliking them (personally) to the point where I couldn’t work with them. I got angry at times, back when I filed that lawsuit and a former Legislator, now a congressman (Matt Gaetz), made a statement which I considered to be racist. He said the legal pleadings looked like they were “researched and drafted by Sen. Joyner and spell-checked by (then-)Sen. (Dwight) Bullard (who is black).” Well, every lawyer – and he is a lawyer – knows that the pleadings are done by the lawyer. I was the client. So that was personal and that one went beyond the pale. I did not appreciate that and I made it clear at that time that I felt I was targeted by a racist Republican man. But I can tell you this, I was defended by a Republican because (former) Sen. (Jack) Latvala was the first one out of the gate who made a statement that that’s no way to talk about a person. … That’s what happens in politics. You get to work with people of all stripes and all philosophical beliefs, but your job is to go and get legislation and public policy done that benefits everybody. What makes a difference in this country of democracy, we have got to communicate with each other. That’s why there’s this big racial divide, because people won’t talk to each other. Everybody wants the same thing: We all want our kids to do better, we want them to have an education, we want them to have a decent salary, so they will be able to enjoy and have a reasonable and good quality of life. But you would never know that about me, and I remember now – without saying who – there was a Legislator who had a problem with his kids. One day I said, “You don’t look too happy today.” He said, “Well, my grandson passed away and I’m distraught about it.” And we talked about it and then I was able to bring up situations where I might have been faced with something that affected me at that level, and so our relationship changed as a result of that, because he was able to confide in me on what was going on in his family and how it was affecting him, and I was able to discern that. I remember one other that smoked every day and every single day I asked him to stop smoking. He finally stopped smoking and got married and I met his wife. I told her, “I kept him alive for you because I got him to stop smoking.” .… Re-


WHAT I’VE LEARNED lationships matter and make a difference, and I took that interest in him because I know that smoking kills because I had a friend who died from it. So I bugged him so much that he finally stopped. He told me “I’m not smoking anymore,” and it all came about because we worked together on some bills and I kept saying “You can’t keep doing this.” I have found that in dealing with people whose views were the opposite of mine, I think they were able to see that and understand that black people are just like white people, we all want the same thing out of life for ourselves and our families. And I guess the other thing is, after 50 years I’ve been everything. I’ve been “colored,” “negro,” “black,” and “African-American.” I prefer “black,” because not every African is black. If you go to South Africa, if you go to Morocco, I’ve been all over there, I’ve seen every shade. So I’m black. ON PIONEERING IN THE LAW: When I was a young attorney and the first woman lawyer in Hillsborough County, I couldn’t go to the jail to see a client without – each and every time – presenting ID. I finally went to the Sheriff and said, “Look, I’m

the only black woman lawyer here. Why do I have to go through all of these chases every time I come to the jail, can you all just let them know?” And then I opened an office in Polk County, and I’d go down to the jail there and other places, and was always looked upon like maybe I was an assistant or something. There was no acceptance of the fact that, you know, here’s a black woman practicing law. The only reason I’m the longest practicing black woman attorney in the state is because others before me went out of state. So they weren’t here to practice in Florida. There are so many women lawyers now, women are more than 50 percent of the law students in law schools now. They occupy all types of jobs relating to the profession, from partners in law firms to in-house counsel at corporations. Many doors have opened, even though there are still some areas, perhaps of some limited numbers of women lawyers and particularly black women, where we are low, like partners in law firms. We are in corporate offices, we are in private practice, we are partners in law firms, but the numbers are still not as high as they could be as it relates to minorities and

black and Latino women, but I’m happy to see the progress that we’ve made. There’s still a way to go and I’m just honored to have been in my time in life and come to the profession when I did, when we were not yet represented. So I’m happy to see where we are, but we are by no means where we ought to be. .… You get in and you fight, and you make a difference and I’ve tried to impress upon young lawyers how important it is in the legal profession, your words matter, being prepared .… Some people work for what they want to be but when you get there, you got to look like what you are. My dad always told me, “look like you’re wealthy and walk like you got somewhere to go.” ON HANGING OUT WITH PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: When I was President of the National Bar Association in 198485, I was invited to the White House for the signing of the May 1, 1985, Law Day proclamation along with the President of the American Bar and some other bar associations. So we were in the Oval Office and my friends had said, “we want to know if that’s really his hair.” You remember that old commercial, “Only your hairdresser knows for sure.” So, I went and I participated, and he was a Republican that had not appointed any black folks to the bench. He was not highly favored by the black community, so I kind of went in with an attitude like, well, I’m here because I’m a Bar president – and he was just as cordial as could be. Completely the opposite – well, not quite the opposite – of what I expected. “Oh, Ms. Joyner, I’m so happy to have you here today.” Then he invited me to come back. He told (one of this assistants), “Take her name and let her come back and let’s give her a complete tour of the White House.” I was married and had stepdaughters, and he said, “Well, come back and bring them.” Now, that was just something I didn’t expect, so that’s the story. I have all these pictures of that day, the group picture, and then our individual picture with him shaking my hand and a Law Day proclamation, which I had hanging in my office in the Legislature. So I was liked by all my Republican friends there. I would ask them, “Do have a picture from the Oval Office with the Holy Grail of the Republican Party? They would say, “No, you got us on that one.”

Joyner, speaking from the rostrum of the Senate chamber. Photo: Florida Senate Media Library











My Liberal Confession In Word And Deed, Gov. Ron DeSantis Proves He’s Not As Conservative As I Thought by gary yordon


’m a liberal. There, I said it. If there’s a closet, I just swung open the door, slipped on some Birkenstocks and grabbed a bowl full of muesli. No more trying to hide my liberalism by wearing tiny royal blue suits and tan loafers at the Capitol or laughing really loud at an off-color joke with influential lobbyists. When I buy drinks I’m going to be comfortable putting my Amazon Visa on the table instead my Platinum AmEx. And I’ll quit trying to choke down the “President Galvano’s Great Kimchi Salmon Burger” at the Tallahassee political hangout, Andrew’s restaurant. I voted for Gwen Graham in the primary, and when she was gone I pivoted to Andrew Gillum. Without even a hint of equivocation, I chose sides. I wrote a column calling Gov. Ron DeSantis a minion of Donald Trump. I wrote that because that’s who Ron DeSantis told me he was. His first TV commercial had him teaching his daughter how to build a wall. In every debate he talked about what was wrong with Gillum, not what was right about himself. Very Trumpian. But after six months as our Governor, I’m joining thousands of other Floridians’ asking the same question: Who is this guy? Right out of the box Gov. DeSantis started answering questions with thoughtful, unrehearsed, non-robotic responses. Finally, for the first time in eight years, there was a reason for a reporter to turn on a recorder. We had somehow stumbled into substance. The Governor’s first significant decisions were issues liberals care deeply about ... like the long-overdue pardoning of the Groveland Four. The new Governor created the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, charged with directing integrated scientific research, and then appointed a Chief Science Officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research and monitoring. A Governor of Florida interested in rolling science into his decision making? What a clever new approach. How about $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources?


And the establishment of a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, charged with focusing on expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms over the next five years? And boom, he even compassionately cleared the way for those patients who need to smoke their pot to light up without breaking the law. Look, there are still a dozen things he has done that make my hair burst into flames, but he has done enough to force me to reconsider who he is, and that’s the point of this column. Why did he have to run so far to the right and pucker-up behind the President? Why couldn’t he throw a progressive voter a bone? Here’s why: We have seen the enemy and they are us. For every voter DeSantis would have gained by letting us peek behind his climate change curtain, he ran the risk of losing someone who still believes our weather is just “extreme.” Would he have gained more votes than he would have lost if he said smokable pot is appropriate for those who need it? We are so polarized and intolerant as voters we only slither along the path that leads to our chosen rat. And the real-life byproduct of our closed minds is exactly why people like Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum can’t move their lips enough to let a little compromise dribble down their chins. Clearly, as a Freedom Caucus guy in Congress, DeSantis is never going to come as far to the middle as I would hope, but I’m growing weary of our divided state and nation. And because of that I’m OK with acknowledging when he throws a pitch right down the middle for a liberal voter to hit. He has a ways to go before he gets my vote, but he’s doing enough to get my admiration, and that’s a good start. I have this feeling he cares about people, and that’s a good reason for both sides to bump heads in the center aisle. I’m not sure how this plays itself out over the next three years, but at least whatever DeSantis does, he will have looked us in the eye and let us know what he’s thinking. And maybe, just maybe, he will be trusting in us enough to share those thoughts in his next campaign.


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