R I S I N G S TA R S
f you’re running for office in Florida, you probably already know Melanie Brown. If not, just know this: She’s one of the money “men”. The 35-year-old has made a name for herself as one of the top fundraisers in the state. Need proof of her prowess? When she was at the Republican Party of Florida, she raised $13 million to elect Republicans to the Florida House. Nearly a decade later, she’s still one of the go-to people when it comes to raising campaign dough. So when she joined Johnson & Blanton in 2011, it was only natural she would be involved with fundraising. “My love language is elections and fundraising,” said Brown, the director of government relations at Johnson & Blanton. Brown got her start as an OPS secretary in the Senate Appropriations suite while she was at Florida State University. She worked there during session, putting herself through college and fueling her love of the process. It was also where she met Jon Johnson and Travis Blanton. She calls them her “couch stalkers,” joking they would loiter on the couch in the front of the appropriations suite. They took a liking to her, and when her time in the Senate ended, they offered her a job. They hired her to be a runner, but that job quickly morphed. Soon Brown was tracking bills and doing administrative duties. When the office manager left, she stepped in and filled that role too. “She had a great way about her,” said Johnson. “She’s really a utility infielder, if you will, she can play any position and play it really well.” She did it so well that elected officials noticed, and pretty soon some of the state’s top lawmakers were calling Johnson & Blanton to see if they could steal her away. “That was a high honor that she was noticed by elected officials,” said Johnson.
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She left the firm in August 2006 to become the finance director for House campaigns at the Republican Party of Florida. It was a chance to spread her wings, try her hand at campaigning, and learn the ropes of the fundraising business. She helped raise millions to elect House Republicans, before taking a job in the Speaker’s office in 2008. And after a few years as a House staffer, her stalkers came calling. “We had a spot that we needed to fill, and she was the person we wanted to hire,” said Blanton. “We obviously wanted her back.” The offer allowed Brown to move to Tampa, and gave her a chance to expand her horizons, while also getting back to the fundraising side of things. Johnson & Blanton is a significant contributor to candidates and committees, and it is Brown’s job to manage their program. That means researching candidates and their positions, developing plans and disseminating the contributions. And her talents are so well known, Johnson and Blanton occasionally field calls from candidates asking if she can put together an event for them. “She understands what they need, she is super easy to deal with, and highly, highly organized,” said Blanton. For Brown, the job gives her the best of everything. She gets to raise money and help candidates, but also is able to dive into the policy side of things. She’s gotten involved with health care policy, and is tasked with handling the firm’s social media. “I’m the jack of all trades,” said Brown, a mother of two. “We’re all hands on deck. I would say balancing it is always tricky, but I just think of the good things we’re doing for our clients.”
PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson
Johnson & Blanton’s ‘utility infielder’ raises money — and so much more
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