Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried isn’t sitting at her desk waiting for 5 p.m. to roll around. Quite the opposite, really.
In the past few weeks alone, Fried has been chugging along, holding news conferences, making announcements and launching initiatives that cover nearly every aspect of the department voters elected her to lead.
When she wasn’t nudging the Florida Cabinet into meeting on the restoration of felon civil rights, she was holding the first statewide summit on climate change since 2008, announcing enhancements to Florida’s model prescribed burn program, and urging utilities to adopt energy efficiency and conservation measures.
Fried even managed to work into her busy schedule a “Fresh from Florida” tailgate at the Florida Gators’ football game in Gainesville last weekend.
That’s just a small slice of the work Fried has put in since she took office less than nine months ago. She has left no stone unturned within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Under her leadership, she has also streamlined the concealed weapons permit process, almost single-handedly stood up a regulatory framework for Florida’s industrial hemp and marijuana industries, and made a name for herself as a strong advocate for transparency and competence in state government.
Recognizing her role as the only statewide elected Democrat, Fried has also separated herself from her Republican colleagues in higher office by establishing positions like an LBGTQ Consumer Advocate, which was created in March.
As the de facto leader of the state party, Fried has also been keeping an active political calendar, keynoting the all-important Palm Beach County Truman Kennedy Johnson Gala in September and the Leadership Blue Dinner in Orlando in June, among other Democratic Party events.
That’s not to imply she has let partisanship bleed into her official duties as Florida’s Ag Commissioner.
The South Florida Democrat is well aware she was elected in a nail biter. When she came out on top, she firmly pledged to represent all Floridians. Even, and especially, the ones who didn’t vote for her in November.
It’s yet another promise kept.
Fried made multiple trips to Washington, D.C, scoring hugely important federal dollars to help save Florida’s troubled citrus industry. She has also put in countless hours helping do the same for those still suffering in the wake of Hurricane Michael — that’s in addition to her hemp advocacy, which could truly revitalize Northwest Florida’s decimated agriculture industry.
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. From a Palm Beach Post editorial shortly after the election that hailed her as “of a different cut entirely,” to a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel one that asserted she has “performed this role admirably,” Fried consistently earns well-deserved plaudits from newspaper editorial boards across the state.
In the latter piece, the Sun-Sentinel cited her leadership in the dismissal of financial regulator Ronald Rubin, who was accused of sexual harassment.
In that case, Fried was instrumental in bringing to light some of the problems with the process in how the Florida Cabinet heard the Rubin case, pushing for public notice and transparency before the vote on Rubin’s dismissal.
A year ago, Fried’s focus on fully implementing the state’s medical marijuana program may have made her seem like a single-issue candidate. But as an elected official, she has proven she has a knack — if not mastery — of many issues.
In a town dominated by Republicans, Fried seems undeterred and at home while building a strong record for her future, whatever it may hold. One could even say she’s the hardest working person in Florida’s government.