Staff Reports, Author at Florida Politics

Staff Reports

What Florida politicos are reading this summer

The dog days of summer are here.

While July is generally considered one of the slowest months in Florida politics, that doesn’t seem to be the case this year.

Two special elections in South Florida mean election season is already in full swing, and 2018 hopes are keeping pace, even with rising temperatures. And with committee meetings starting in just over two months, it seems as if we’re already racing toward the start of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Still, summer is a time to kick back by the pool or on the beach, enjoy some down time, and maybe even read a good book. So we reached out to Florida politicos to find out what they were reading for pleasure this summer.

Here are their responses:

Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee mayor and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial hopeful

“Like Trees, Walking,” by Ravi Howard. Written by the mayor’s brother-in-law, the novel is inspired by a 1980s lynching in Alabama.

Gwen Graham, former congresswoman from Tallahassee and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial hopeful

“Giant of the Senate,” by Sen. Al Franken. “Sometimes we all need to take a step back and laugh a little. Senator Franken’s journey from Saturday Night Live to progressive champion is hilarious and inspiring,” she said. “I hope it encourages more people to enter public service. No matter what your background is, Al Franken proves we all have a contribution to make in the public square.

Adam Putnam, Agriculture Commissioner and 2018 Republican gubernatorial hopeful

Putnam said he’s reading three books on the road this summer: “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” by Candice Millard; “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill,” by Candice Millard; and “Rum Punch: A Novel,” by Elmore Leonard. “I love books about history, but I like to toss in a good fiction that has deep roots in Florida,” he said.

Matt Caldwell, state representative and 2018 Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner

An avid reader, Caldwell said he is currently reading three books as he travels across the Sunshine State: “Hard Scrabble,” by John Graves, which is on loan from his uncle; “Cracker History of Okeechobee,” by Lawrence Will, which was a gift to him from Rep. Ray Rodrigues; and “The Plantagenets,” Dan Jones, which he picked at a bookstore.

Denise Grimsley, state senator and 2018 Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner

Currently reading: “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life,” by Joanna Weaver. Grimsley said she’s reading it because “in the fast pace of a statewide race and my professional career, I need to stay focused on the real reason I do what I do. Martha was more concerned about cleaning and Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and learned. All I do is meaningless without my faith. I don’t want to be a Martha, I want to be a Mary.”

Jeremy Ring, former state senator and Democratic candidate for CFO

Ring is currently reading two books by Michael Singer — “The Untethered Soul” and the “Surrender Experiment.” The Margate Democrat got the chance to meet with the author this summer and really enjoyed the conversation, and getting to know him and understanding his teachings.

Jay Fant, state representative and Republican candidate for Attorney General

Just finished: “The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For,” by David McCullough. “Anything he writes is worth reading, and this is a short compilation of his best speeches,” said Fant.

“I always read baseball books in the summer, too, and am a few pages into Terry McDermott‘s ‘Off Speed,'” he continued.  “What’s missing is a good fiction to round it out, but I’m still in the hunt for that.”

Jim Boyd, state representative

Current read: “Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms: My Life in American Politics,” by Ed Rollins. Up next: Hamilton.

Dane Eagle, state representative

“Sunburn. Every morning. #plug”

Jason Fischer, state representative

“Making Modern Florida: How the Spirit of Reform Shaped a New State Constitution,” by Mary E. Adkins. “It came highly recommended by a friend, and for me, it’s a very timely read,” said Fischer about his summer read. “I’m new to the legislature, just served my first Session (and special), and I’m watching the Constitutional Revision Commission with great interest. Definitely worth it!”

Chris Latvala, state representative

“Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” by Jonathan Allen and Aime Parnes.

Evan Axelbank, a reporter with Fox 13 in Tampa Bay

“Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution” by Diane McWhorter. Axelbank called it an “amazing history of the civil rights movement in Birmingham.”

Heather Beaven, CEO of the Florida Endowment Foundation

Beaven said she’s taking “The Rise of a Praise Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern,” by Thomas Knock; “All the Gallant Men, An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor,” by Donald Stratton; and “The True Flag” on vacation with her.

Katie Bohnett

Looking forward to finishing: “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” by Jonathan Allen and Aime Parnes. “Troy gave me his copy after he finished it, and it reminds me a lot of ‘Game Change’ in that despite most sources choosing to remain anonymous, it is obvious from the level of detail that most of it is accurate,” she said. “It is also well-written, especially considering how quickly it was published after the election. It contains many lessons (so far) for both sides of the aisle to help make sense of … where we are at.”

She’s also planning to give the “2017 Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual” a read. “As a new-ish employee of the First Amendment Foundation and a longtime supporter, there is no better time than the present to educate myself further on the specifics of our state’s all-too important Sunshine Law,” she said. “You can still order a copy at Floridafaf.org to add some ‘sunshine’ to your stay/vacation or to add this resource to your personal library.”

Candace Bunker, manager of legislative and Cabinet Affairs for Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

“Devotion,” by Adam Markos.

Rivers Buford, with the American Heart Association|American Stroke Association

“I’m reading Sunburn and Florida Politics on my iPad.”

Lyndsey Brzozowski, senior vice president at Bascom Communications & Consulting

Just finished: “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” by J.D. Vance. “I thought it was a truly fascinating and insightful read and am telling everyone to check it out,” she said.

Gayle Cannon, Columbia County Republican state committeewoman

Just finished: “Use of Force,” by Brad Thor. Now starting: “The Swamp: Washington’s Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It,” by Eric Bolling.

Jennings Cooksey, an attorney with Hopping Green & Sams

Current reads: “A Brief History of Time,” by Stephen Hawking; “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World,” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Tantum Collins; and “House of Spies,” by Daniel Silva.

Gus Corbella, senior director of government law & policy at Greenberg Traurig

Corbella’s summer reading list includes “Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy,” by Tim Harford; “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” by Jon Meacham; “Just Kids,” by Patti Smith; “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Double Cup of Love,” both by Eddie Huag.

Dan Daley, Coral Springs vice mayor and an attorney at Shutts & Bowen

Currently reading (well, listening to) “Great Expectations,” by Charles Dickens. “I’d like to say it’s because I have ‘great expectations for the coming Legislative Session, but really, I just wanted to expand my literary knowledge,” he said when asked what prompted him to pick up the classic read this summer.

Julie Delegal, a contributing writer at Jacksonville Magazine and Folio Weekly

Liane Moriarty has me mesmerized: “The Hypnotist’s Love Story,” “What Alice Forgot,” “The Husband’s Secret.”

Christopher Emmanuel, director of infrastructure and governance policy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Currently reading: “The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For,” by David McCullough.

“David McCullough’s newest book is a collection of his speeches throughout the years — which is perfect for those looking for a series of short, powerful reads,” said Emmanuel, when asked why he decided to pick it up this summer. “The unifying theory of ‘The American Spirit’ is that the future has always been uncertain and is always shaped by the actions of individuals. By looking back at historical events through this lens, the reader leaves with an appreciation of our shared American history and a renewed motivation to act.”

Sally Everett, the director of legislative and intergovernmental affairs for the City of St. Petersburg

It’s the summer of David McCollough for Everett, who is reading “The Path Between the Seas” and “The American Spirit.”

“I love everything he’s written,” she said.

Cesar Fernandez, senior public policy associate at Uber

“The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” by Chris Whipple.

“I have always loved reading about the history of U.S. Presidents, and for a political junkie like myself, there’s no better way to absorb this history than through the lens of the White House Chief of Staff,” said Fernandez when asked why it made it onto his reading list. “Without giving too much away, the book opens with a scene from December 2007, when outgoing Chief of Staff to President Bush, Josh Bolton, convened a meeting of almost every living former Chiefs of Staff to give advice to President Obama’s incoming Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel. It has always fascinated me that despite being the highest profile job in American politics, White House Chiefs of Staff from both parties have guided US Presidents through unpopular political decisions to do what’s best for the American people.”

Keith Fernandez, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s counsel and communications director

“Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie.

Chris Hand, co-author of “America, the Owner’s Manual: You Can Fight City Hall — and Win” with former Gov. Bob Graham

Currently reading: “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America,” by Gilbert King.

Hand also joked he’s giving his own book another read. “It’s so informative that I keep reading it over and over again,” he quipped.

Carrie Henriquez, a governmental affairs consultant with Henriquez Consulting

“Rereading A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Obviously fiction but the title alone is indicative of the Trump administration.”

Clayton Hinson, director of accounts at Harris Media

“A Will to Win: The Manager’s Diary,” by Sir Alex Ferguson and David Meek.

Chris Hudson, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Florida

“The Prince by my favorite Florentine … again. Next up the ‘Vanishing American Adult’ by Ben Sasse.

Carolyn Johnson, director of business economic development and innovation policy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Currently reading: “The Child,” by Fiona Barton.

David Johnson, Republican political consultant

Currently reading: “The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five Year Campaign,” by Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie; and “Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago,” by Mike Royko.

Johnson also recommends “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Ever Presidency,” by Chris Whipple.

Jeff Johnson, state director for AARP Florida

“Tattoos on the Heart,” by Gregory Boyle, S.J., which Johnson called a “great and challenging perspective on living out what it means to be Church in the center of the gang capital of the U.S.;” and “The Exceptional Seven Percent,” by Gregory Popcak, which Johnson said is a “very interactive book on how to build an exceptional marriage based on studies of the blissfully happy.”

In case you’re wondering: Johnson said he doesn’t just read books by people named Gregory, and these books are ones he has “read multiple times and often give to friends because they’re so valuable.”

He also said he’s reading the Hamilton book over his daughter’s shoulder.

Charlie Justice, Pinellas County Commissioner

Current read: The latest from Randy Wayne White.

Collin Kenline, staffer for the Florida House of Representatives

Current read: “American Gods,” by Neil Gaiman; recently reread “Ready Player One,” by Ernest Cline.

William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute

“Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

Lara Medley, legislative aide to Rep. Colleen Burton

Medley said it’s the summer of Dan Jones — she read “The Plantagenets” and just started “The Hollow Crown.”

Timothy Meenan, managing shareholder Meenan PA

“Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

Samuel McCall, Samsson Construction and A Civil Design Group

Currently reading: “Signing The Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence,” by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese.

Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy for the James Madison Institute

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid — but in fairness I’m reading it to my daughters at night.”

Samantha Padgett, vice president and general counsel at the Florida Retail Federation

Just finished: “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” by Simon Sinek. Padgett said she “loved it!!”

Connie Prince, wife of Sen. Jack Latvala

Current read: “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman. Prince said it is a “great read … funny, sad, enjoyable … I think it reminds me of what my dad would have been like if still alive and that would have been 101.”

Jim Potter

Currently reading “Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon,” by Jeffrey Kluger; and has “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” by Neil deGrasse Tyson on CD to listen to.

Chris Quinn, vice president of industry and government affairs for JAX Chamber

“The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States 1783-1789,” by Ed Larson.

Tara Reid, an associate with Strategos Group

“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” by J.D. Vance.

Ralph Reid

“It Can’t Happen Here,” by Sinclair Lewis.

Ashley Ross

Ross is in a book club with several other women in “The Process,” and they are currently reading “All the Missing Girls,” by Megan Miranda.

Preston Rudie, founder of Catalyst Communications Group and former communications director for former Rep. David Jolly

“Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption is Worse than You Think,” by Rep. Ken Buck.

Tim Stapleton, CEO of the Florida Medical Association

Currently reading: “The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse,” by Tom Verducci.

“I’m a long-suffering fan of the Cubs. This book offers a behind the scenes view of how the World Series championship team was built from the ground up,” said Stapleton about his selection. “It’s very similar to ‘Moneyball’ by Michael Lewis because it is not only a book about baseball but also about leadership and business!”

Mac Stipanovich, a Republican lawyer and lobbyist

“All things Virginia Woolf — diaries, essays, short fiction, reviews, novels, biography — but don’t know why.”

Kevin Sweeny, operations director for the Florida Justice PAC

Summer reads: “ Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz; “the Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics,” by David Goodhart; “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success,” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness; and “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America,” by Joan C. Williams.

Stephen Urgo

“A Land Remembered,” by Patrick Smith. Urgo called the book a “fascinating story covering three generations of a Florida family beginning in the mid-1800s.”

Steve Vancore, partner at VancoreJones Communications and president of Clearview Research

Currently reading: “Public Opinion Quarterly: Survey Research, Today and Tomorrow.” Vancore says this about his summer selection: “A real page turner filled with romance and conflict. It also explores which form of polling is most valid and reliable. I won’t spoil the ending but it looks good for live operator phone polls.”

Erin VanSickle, director of external affairs at Volunteer Florida

Currently reading: “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” by Chris Whipple; “Behind the Red Door: Unlock Your Advocacy, Influence, and Success,” by Florida PR maven Karen More. And to keep things in perspective, VanSickle said she’s reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” by Yuval Noah Harari, which was recommended by Saif Ishoof, the vice president for engagement at Florida International University.

Sean White, a legislative analyst in the Senate Majority Office

‘The Gatekeepers’ by Chris Whipple, which was a gift from family back in the district.

Larry Williams, the owner and managing partner at Larry Williams Consulting

“My genre of preference is thrillers, with my favorite author being the late Vince Flynn and his protagonist Mitch Rapp. I am currently reading the 13th book in the Mitch Rapp Series, ‘Order to Kill’ written by Kyle Mills who took over the Rapp franchise when Vince passed away. Looking forward to reading the 14th book in the series, ‘Enemy of the State’ to be released in early September.

“I also like Ben Coes (protagonist is Dewey Andreas) and Brad Thor (protagonist is Scot Harvath) both characters similar to Mitch Rapp. I just finished reading Coes’ 7th book, ‘Trap the Devil’ and will be downloading Brad Thor’s 17th Harvath novel titled ‘Use of Force.’”

Michael Williams, managing director of media relations at CoreMessage

Current reads: “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis and John Sandford’s “Prey” Detective series.

Tyler Winik, legal affairs & special projects for the Brevard County Clerk of Circuit Court

“Rereading ‘The Fault in Our Stars,’ by John Green. Over and over again. Favorite summer read.”

Brian Yablonski, chair of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

“English Creek” by Ivan Doig. “I allow myself to divert from non-fiction once or twice a year. This is my 2017 diversion.”

Amy Young, managing partner at Ballard Partners in West Palm Beach

“Like everyone else, I keep ‘Make Your Bed,’ by Adm. William McRaven on my nightstand. And, while I am on the beach, I’m reading ‘The Lose Your Belly Diet,’ by Travis Stork.”

Skylar Zander, the deputy state director, Florida for Americans for Prosperity

“The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise,” by Michael Grunwald.

Frank Zilaitis, an attorney at Zilaitis Law in Indialantic

Zilaitis said his copy of “The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z,” edited by Harry Binswanger, has been by his side all summer. “Pleasure reading? Yes, the ARL is pleasure reading in the sense that the results of the 2018 election cycle will dramatically affect the futures of Floridians,” he said. “The contents of the ARL are an effective tool for understanding the issues and passing judgment on politicians’ past performance and new candidates’ political platforms, from within Ms. Rand’s four-pronged paradigm of reality, reason, egoism, and capitalism.

Sally Bradshaw’s Midtown Reader offers up suggestions for summer reading

You know what Florida politicos are reading; now it’s time to let some literary experts weigh in.

Sally Bradshaw, a longtime adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush, opened Midtown Reader in November. The 1,500-square-foot bookstore located in Tallahassee’s Midtown neighborhood is working to build a community of book lovers in the capital city, hosting a variety of literary events and cultural programs.

We reached out to Bradshaw, an avid reader, to see what the team at Midtown Reader recommend we pick up this summer. And don’t worry — it isn’t all politics.

Midtown Reader recommends:

— “The Magpie Murders,” by Anthony Horowitz: Who doesn’t love a good Agatha Christie-like murder mystery? But this story, set in a sleepy English village, is actually a mystery within a mystery, where book editor becomes detective to solve the death of her mystery-writing author. A #1 Indie Best bookstore pick for June, you won’t be disappointed in this fun read.

— “Hunger,” by Roxanne Gay: Gay is all the rage in indie publishing world right now, and her memoir does not disappoint. Raw and real, she tells the story of our love/hate relationship with food through her own experience and challenges, including an unspeakable act of terrible violence which she experienced as a young girl. Gay’s courage and honesty are remarkable, and inspiring.

— “Marriage of a Thousand Lies,” by SJ Sindu: Sindu, who received her PHD in creative writing from FSU and now teaches at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, has written a debut novel that is honest and moving — a complex story about a Sri-Lankan family and a strong female protagonist who struggles with her own identity against a backdrop of deep traditions and community. Booklist calls it a “timely tale with themes of immigration, free will, identity and personal choice.”

— “The Lion’s Paw,” by Rob White: A great book to read with your 2nd through 5th graders (and if you grew up in Florida it was probably read to you by your 4th grade teacher), the Lion’s Paw tells the tale of three unlikely friends — two orphans and a runaway — who travel across Florida in a stolen sailboat to search for the elusive Lion’s Paw seashell, which they believe will bring the runaway’s father home. Originally published in 1946, and only recently republished by White’s family, it’s a classic adventure story with wonderful old illustrations. We’ve sold so many we can’t keep it in stock!

— “Daring to Drive,” by Manal al-Sharif: This memoir of a Saudi woman whose life changed because of her education is sure to be a summer best-seller. The daughter of a taxi-driver who ultimately landed a job as a computer security engineer, Manal begins to see and challenge the confines of her fundamentalist society. Library Journal calls it “fascinating, powerful and heartbreaking.” We call it a great and empowering story.

— “The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road,” by Finn Murphy: College dropout Murphy has driven more than a million miles in the eighteen-wheeler he named “Cassidy”, moving people’s belongings from coast to coast. His experience of life on the road as a professional mover is part storytelling, part social commentary. Funny and honest, Murphy takes readers on the road trip to end all road trips.

— “House of Spies,” by Daniel Silva: From London, to St. Tropez, to Casa Blanca, legendary Israeli spy, assassin, and art-restorer Gabriel Allon yet again fights terrorism and searches for the world’s most dangerous man. Silva has maintained his #1 NY Times best-selling status for book after book.

— “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis — And How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance,” by Sen. Ben Sasse: Too many helicopter parents, too many participation trophies, too many government programs to which our youth are becoming entitled. And did you know that 1 in 3 kids between the ages of 18-34 lives with their parents? Sasse, Republican US Senator from Nebraska and former college President has the answer to this crisis — or at least some answers to reverse the trends and get our kids back on track.

— “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate,” by Sen. Al Franken: Candid and of course really funny, Franken describes his unlikely run for public office and the eight-month recount that followed along with the challenges of serving in a polarized Washington, DC. It’s been named the “best political book of 2017” by New Republic and “compulsively readable” by Booklist. And did I mention it’s really funny??

Need another suggestion? Bradshaw said she’s reading — and hand-selling — “Kingdoms in the Air: Dispatches from the Far Away,” by Bob Shacochis, this summer.

More Florida Forest Service firefighters to head out West

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam Thursday said he’s sending 24 more wildland firefighters from the Florida Forest Service to help fight fires out West.

“After selflessly battling one of the worst wildfire seasons in Florida history, our firefighters will help protect other parts of our country from wildfire,” Putnam said.

The latest deployment makes a total of 91 Florida Forest Service firefighters battling western wildfires. Crews will potentially be sent to Utah, Montana, California, and South Dakota, he said.

The National Interagency Coordination Center will fly state and federal firefighter crews from Tampa to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they will receive assignments.

“Florida Forest Service firefighters have proven their bravery and ability time and again when fighting Florida’s wildfires,” State Forester Jim Karels said. “They are exceptionally well-trained and know how to suppress wildfires aggressively and safely.”

18 apply for openings at Public Service Commission

Eighteen people have applied for three openings on the state’s Public Service Commission, according to a list released Tuesday.

Tuesday was the deadline to apply for the seats now held by Commissioners Art Graham and Ronald Brisé, which are up at the end of the year. Both men have reapplied for their positions; they were last reappointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013.

Applications for a third PSC opening, created when Commissioner Jimmy Patronis stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as the state’s CFO, aren’t due till July 28.

Among the applicants: State Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican; former PSC member and former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican; and Associate Public Counsel Erik Sayler.

The commission regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. A commissioner’s pay is $131,036 per year.

The Public Service Commission Nominating Council, which is responsible for “screening and nominating applicants,” released an updated applicants list, below. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate.

Ed Hooper endorsed by Florida Professional Firefighters

Ed Hooper has received the endorsement of Florida’s Professional Firefighters.

The organization announced during its 73rd annual convention in Sarasota this week it was backing Hooper, a Clearwater Republican, in his Senate District 16 race in 2018. In a statement, Jim Tolley, the organization’s president and CEO, said it was honored to have worked with Hooper during his time in the Florida House and looked forward to the “same relationship in the Florida Senate.”

“We are excited to have a firefighter in the Florida Senate. Your 24-year career in the fire service, as well as your service on the Clearwater City Council, gives you unique insight into the needs of today’s fire service,” said Tolley. “We believe that you will continue to faithfully serve the citizens of Florida as a Florida Senator. Likewise, your leadership will serve the interests of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the men and women who have made the protection of life and property their life’s work.”

Hooper is vying to replace Sen. Jack Latvala in the Florida Senate in 2018. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Francis Rooney to go python hunting in Big Cypress swamp

Rep. Francis Rooney is going python hunting.

The Naples Republican announced Monday he plans to take part in the South Florida Water Management District’s python elimination program on Aug. 10. The program aims to eliminate the Burmese python, an invasive species, which damages the Everglades ecosystem and its native wildlife.

“I am looking forward to hunting these devastating and invasive snakes,” said Rooney in a statement. “The python is a predator impacting the delicate balance of the ecosystem across the Everglades and the State of Florida.  Innovative ideas such as the Python Elimination Program incentivize members of the public to assist in removing this invasive species and remind us that we all have a vested interest in restoring the Everglades.”

Rooney is the latest Florida politician to head out on a python hunt. In May, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined python hunter Tom Rahill on a hunt in South Florida. The Miami-Dade Republican killed a 15-foot Burmese python with a pocket knife during his trip, posting photographs on social media.

POLITICO Florida reported at the time Lopez-Cantera grabbed the snake, and Lopez-Cantera helped pulled it out when they realized how large it was. The lieutenant governor then killed it with the knife.

The South Florida Water Management District renewed the program in June, after the pilot program eliminated 158 snakes in about two months. The district’s governing board also expanded the area where python hunters are allowed to access to include Broward and Collier counties. Previously, the hunt was only allowed in Miami-Dade County.

“Joining this hunt is a worthy challenge,” said Dan O’Keefe, the chairman of the SFWMD Governing Board in a statement. Having also experienced the program firsthand by participating in a live hunt, I cannot say enough about the tremendous work of our bounty hunters working long hours and enduring the harsh summer elements to rid the Everglades of this destructive python threat.”

Rooney is scheduled to go python hunting in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Aug. 10.

 

Personnel note: Peebles & Smith becomes Peebles, Smith & Matthews with hire of Ryan Matthews

Peebles & Smith is now Peebles Smith & Matthews.

The firm announced Monday that Ryan Matthews, who most recently served as the interim secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has joined as a principal.

Peebles and Smith is a well-regarded boutique lobbying firm whose list of clients heavily tilted toward local government clients. On the roster include  the cities of Cape Coral, Gainesville, Kissimmee, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa and Winter Park.

Few Capitol insiders are considered as expert on municipal issues like Peebles and Smith.

“Ryan’s government background, both at the DEP and the Florida League of Cities, make him an ideal addition to the firm,” said Bill Peebles, founding principal and managing partner. “One of the primary reasons we are changing the name of the firm to Peebles, Smith & Matthews is to ensure our clients know they will be represented by each of our unique talents and skill sets.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Matthews as interim DEP Secretary earlier this year. He served in that role until Noah Valenstein, the state’s new DEP Secretary took over the helm at the DEP.

Prior to being named interim secretary, Matthews held several other positions at the state’s environmental agency, including deputy secretary of regulatory programs and director of the Office of Water Policy.

Prior to joining the DEP, Matthews was the assistant legislative director and member of the Office of General Counsel at the Florida League of Cities.

Matthews received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, a juris doctorate degree from Florida Coastal School of Law, and a master of laws in environmental law from the University of Denver.

Jose Mallea releases ad featuring Jeb Bush ahead of HD 116 primary

Jose Mallea is bringing in some star power — Florida politics, style — in the final days of his special House District 116 primary campaign.

On Monday, Mallea campaign released a Spanish-language radio advertisement featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush. The ad comes just one week before the special Republican primary in the race to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26, in House District 116.

“Governor Bush is one of Florida’s greatest leaders, and I am honored to have him behind our campaign,” said Mallea in a statement. “I plan to keep working hard in the home stretch of this primary to make sure District 116 has a representative in Tallahassee who will work hard for conservative policies that will improve education and increase opportunity for everyone.”

Bush endorsed Mallea in May, saying in a statement at the time that Mallea, a senior advisor to his 2016 presidential campaign, was “the right leader for District 116.”

According to a translation of the advertisement provided by the Mallea campaign, Bush calls Mallea a “trusted friend that’s going to defend us.”

“Jose will use his Republican values to work for you in the Florida Legislature,” he says in the advertisement, according to the translation provided by the campaign. “That’s why I am asking for you to vote for Jose on July 25.”

Mallea faces Daniel Perez in the July 25 primary. The winner will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election.

Diaz resigned to run in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal, in Senate District 40. The primary in that race is also scheduled for July 25.

AAA: Gasoline prices still could rise despite recent leveling off

Gas prices “have held relatively steady for the past two weeks, but now face upward pressure,” according to a recent advisory from the AAA.

The national average for one gallon of regular unleaded is $2.25—that’s a penny less than a week ago, but three 3 cents more than this time last year, a news release said. Data comes “from credit card swipes and direct feeds from 120,000 gas stations nationwide.”

In Florida, gas prices averaged $2.13 on Sunday, a half cent lower than last week and three 3 cents less than last year.

“Gas prices could inch a little higher this week,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. “Refineries are running on all cylinders, cutting into excess crude stocks. That helped push oil prices higher last week, which puts upward pressure on prices at the pump.

“The increase on the retail-side may only amount to as much as 5 cents by the end of the week,” he added. “While this could be the start of a gradual uptick in gas prices, drivers are likely to continue saving at the pump compared to what they paid earlier this year.”

The least expensive gas price averages in Florida are in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ($2.01), Orlando ($2.04), and Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice ($2.07).

The most expensive gas price averages in Florida are in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($2.24), Pensacola ($2.23), and Miami ($2.22).

Personnel note: Mark Kaplan named chair of Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy 2017-18 board

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has tapped Mark Kaplan to serve as the chairman of the board.

The organization announced recently that Kaplan, the vice president of public affairs at Mosaic, will serve as chairman of the 2017-18 Board of Directors. Kaplan, according to the literacy organization, brings extensive legal and policy background to the board, as well as expertise in finance and education.

Kaplan is no stranger to the Bush family. Prior to joining Mosaic in 2007, Kaplan served as chief of staff to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He also served as the executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and a member of State Board of of Education.

Kaplan received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Florida State University College of Law. He has been a member of the foundation’s board since 2014,

The foundation also announced John Engler, the former three-term governor of Michigan and the former president of Business Roundtable, will serve as vice chair. Engler, who made improving education a top priority during his time in the Governor’s Mansion, also served 20 years in the Michigan Legislature.

“We’re fortunate to have a board composed of talented, dedicated leaders who who share not only our passion for changing lives through literacy, but also our commitment to being good stewards of the contributions made by our generous donors,” said Liza McFadden, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, in a statement. “With an incoming chair and vice chair who bring decades of policy experience, as well as a new member with expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship, this year’s board is set to help us continue to maximize our efforts.”

The foundation also announced Chris Frangione, the vice president of prize development and execution for XPRIZE, has joined the board.

The 2017-18 board of directors is:

Mark Kaplan, chair, of The Mosaic Company;

— Former Gov. John Engler, vice-chair;

Jean Becker, chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, secretary;

David Bere, Nonni’s Foods, treasurer

Jeb Bush Jr., Jeb Bush Jr. & Associates;

Peggy Conlon, former president and CEO of the Ad Council;

Craig Denekas, Libra Foundation;

Chris Frangione, XPRIZE;

Timothy Gage, Comcast;

Doro Bus Koch, Barbara Bush Foundation Honorary Chair;

Tricia Reilly Koch, BB&R Consulting;

Liza McFadden, Barbara Bush Foundation; and

— Former Gov. Bob Wise, the Alliance for Excellent Education.

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