Dean Cannon’s eight years in the Legislature culminated in a term as House Speaker, a post he held from 2010 through the 2012 elections.
On its own, presiding over the chamber is enough to put Cannon on Florida Politics’ list of Politicians of the Decade, but his tenure came at a tumultuous time.
Florida was reeling from the Great Recession and had the highest job loss rate in the country; the state had to raise taxes by more than $2 billion to make ends meet the year before and was facing another $2 billion shortfall heading into Cannon’s first year holding the gavel.
Things in the state were not doing well, problems exacerbated by turbulence within the Republican Party.
Political newcomer Rick Scott had just upset establishment favorite Bill McCollum in the Republican primary on his way to the Governor’s Mansion; Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, had abandoned reelection — and the GOP — to run for U.S. Senate, and the Republican grip on the Florida House was seemingly in jeopardy after former House Speaker Ray Sansom resigned amid corruption allegations.
When Cannon took the reins in 2010, he was one of the few recognizable and trustworthy people at the top of the state government. That distinction required him to serve as a stabilizing force in Tallahassee, and he rose to the challenge.
Despite supporting McCollum in the primary, Cannon quickly found common ground with then-Gov. Scott.
One priority they shared was a rollback of growth management rules, which they both argued would help spur job creation in the recession-weary construction sector. Now, construction is consistently one of the fastest-growing industries in the Sunshine State.
His time at the top started the state down the path toward the prosperity it’s enjoying today. From property tax reform to transportation to health care, his imprint is still felt in many policy arenas.
“Dean was the first House Speaker I worked with as Governor, and he was a great partner,” Scott, now a U.S. Senator, told Florida Politics. “Working together, we passed major policy reforms to help Florida families, Including cutting taxes and reducing burdensome regulations. He has done great work on behalf of our state, and he truly loves Florida.”
Though Cannon exited elected office in 2012, it wasn’t his final act.
Earlier this year, the Winter Park Republican joked that House Speakers’ influence on the process craters “about 15 minutes after Sine Die” in their second Legislative Session.
That may be true for some House Speakers. And it may have been true for Cannon in 2012. But it’s not true of him today.
In his second act, Cannon has risen to the top of Florida lobbying, handling the needs of clients from the Panhandle to the Keys. And his reach is only expanding.
Earlier this year, Cannon took over as President of GrayRobinson, one of the most successful law and lobbying firms in Florida.
“Dean has often told me that he wanted to mirror his term as Speaker after mine, which is a great compliment,” FSU President John Thrasher said. “He was a highly impactful Speaker and has continued to be a highly effective advocate on the outside — a goal we both share! Dean is a great leader and deserves this high recognition.”
Under his stewardship, the firm is rising to new heights, bolstering its intellectual property and technology law practices and setting up shop in Washington. In the coming decade, he could become as well known in the nation’s capital as he is in Florida.