Uber is losing one of its brightest stars.
Stephanie Smith is leaving her position with the rideshare giant as its Senior Public Policy Manager to become the Director of Government Relations for Anthem, Inc.
Her last day with Uber is this Friday, Aug. 14.
Smith will take on a similar role handling government and policy for Anthem’s Simply Healthcare, a leading managed care firm that works with patients enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare in Florida.
In addition to its Florida Healthy Kids contract, Simply Healthcare serves more than 600,000 Floridians through Medicaid, Medicare, long-term care and specialty programs. Last year, through its Clear Health Alliance affiliate plan, Simply Healthcare was the only managed care organization to be awarded a contract to operate an HIV/AIDS specialty plan in all eleven regions.
While Smith’s departure is a win for Simply Healthcare, it’s a major loss for Uber.
During her five years with the company, Smith oversaw several transformative policy wins.
Smith was an integral part of the Uber policy team leading efforts to create statewide regulations for rideshare. The battle was oftentimes grueling, with the taxi lobby fighting hard to block regulations it saw as harmful to its business model.
With companies like Uber being able to operate seamlessly statewide, taxi companies feared they’d be pushed out of the vehicle-for-hire space.
The battle showed a side to Smith that makes her one of the state’s most effective policy players, cultivating relationships with lawmakers and industry leaders to forge compromise for all.
“As someone who has worked hand in hand with Stephanie over the last 5 years to improve mobility options in Florida, I can attest she has proven to be one of the most proficient and trusted advocates in the state,” Sen. Jeff Brandes said. “I look forward to working with her in her new role and know Uber now has big shoes to fill.”
Brandes worked side-by-side with Smith on rideshare regulations.
Rep. Daniel Perez, who is in line to become House Speaker in 2024, also praised Smith’s adroit advocacy.
“Stephanie’s time with Uber is one in which her advocacy helped advance transformative, pro-consumer public policy that helped promote economic growth, create tens of thousands of jobs and increase access to cost-effective transportation options that have helped millions of Floridians. She is a forward-thinking and dedicated professional and I know she will make a big impact in her future endeavor,” he said.
Most recently, Smith helped broker state legislation allowing companies like Uber to provide nonemergency medical transportation for Medicaid patients.
While proposed legislation, which was eventually adopted this year, addressed critical issues with medical transport facing Medicare patients, it faced a bevy of hurdles as some worried about safety.
Like the statewide regulations Smith helped create, she was a staple in Tallahassee, constantly working with supportive lawmakers as well as those who were reluctant to approve the legislation.
But one of Smith’s biggest battles wasn’t within the halls of the state Capitol. She and a team of attorneys and other policy professionals with Uber, spent months battling the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, a public board that time and time again sided with taxi companies on local regulations.
Before the state implemented its own regulations, Uber worked with individual counties to implement rules so it could operate legally. Nowhere were the hurdles as high as in Hillsborough.
Eventually though, aided by negative public perceptions on the PTC and growing popularity for disruptive rideshare service, Uber, in partnership with competitor Lyft, reached a compromise. The PTC was later eliminated.
But Smith’s work was not just about policy, she also worked with state leaders on various public outreach issues including with the Attorney General’s office to help raise awareness with riders and drivers to spot potential human trafficking.
When Smith’s exit became official Uber’s director of public policy and communications, Adam Blinick, described it as “bittersweet.”
“There’s no way I can adequately summarize Stephanie’s contributions during her tenure,” he wrote in an email to Uber staff. Blinick described Smith as a “natural leader” and extolled her knack for lobbying.
“In her home state, Stephanie was more than simply our in-house lobbyist — her knowledge of the business and ability to localize it saw her influence the passage of important legislation and got her a seat in the Governor’s emergency operations center during Hurricane Dorian,” he wrote.
“To know Stephanie is to know one of the kindest, most professional people one can meet. Rarely have I met someone who so has the respect, admiration and adoration, not only of her colleagues, but of those with whom she engages with externally.”
With Smith departing, Javi Correoso, Uber’s current public affairs manager, will lead both policy and communications in Florida.