John Thrasher won’t be presiding over FSU’s homecoming this year. He’ll have one of his own instead.
Thrasher assumed the FSU presidency in 2014 and, to borrow a turn of phrase from former Gov. Jeb Bush, he brought a pair of “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” with him.
The first: pilot FSU from the No. 43 public university to a Top 25 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s highly regarded annual listing. The second: Raise $1 billion.
He had accomplished both five years into his seven-year tenure, and by the time he bid the university farewell, it was firmly within the Top 20 and had cut the ribbon on more than one major facility, including the landmark entrepreneurship center named for the late Jim Moran.
After going out on top as Florida State University’s President, the former House Speaker, Senator, lawyer and veteran is revisiting one of his other careers, lobbying.
His landing spot: The Southern Group.
Thrasher was there at the firm’s beginning. After capping off his term as House Speaker in 2000, he joined The Southern Group founder and chairman Paul Bradshaw to launch the firm in 2000. He exited when he ran for Senate in 2009 and, later, became FSU’s 15th President.
In his absence, The Southern Group has become one of the top lobbying shops in Florida and has proved to be the most lucrative in recent quarters.
Thrasher’s return bolsters an already stacked roster of lobbying talent at TSG, bringing an unmatched level of state government knowledge, invaluable business connections, and lifelong relationships to the firm.
Bradshaw, enthused by Thrasher’s homecoming, credits The Southern Group’s meteoric rise in part to Thrasher’s early guidance.
“The culture and character of our firm was shaped by President Thrasher. There is literally no person in Florida who has his breadth of experience as a public servant,” Bradshaw said. “He has served as a county commissioner, Florida House member, House Speaker, Senator, and finally as FSU President. He has unmatched relationships in Florida and across the country.
“And you know his most impressive accomplishment? He was awarded two Bronze Stars for his valor in Vietnam, and he never talks about it. John Thrasher is a hero and a statesman and a legend in Florida.”
Thrasher, for his part, couldn’t be happier to stave off retirement just a little longer.
“The Southern Group is home to me and my wife, Jean. The partners have always treated us like family, and I am excited for the opportunity to end my career back where I started 21 years ago,” he said.
After Florida Politics reported Thrasher’s hire, he told the Tallahassee Democrat that he is “not going to be lobbying, per se, mostly working in client development and working with existing clients, not the Legislature.”
“They’ve got an incredible team,” he continued. “I’m happy to be a small part of the group. I don’t know if I have a title, just ‘ole John Thrasher.'”
He also said FSU wouldn’t be one of those clients — Thrasher, as FSU president, was registered as a lobbyist for the university until his retirement. He said FSU’s head legislative affairs officer, former state Rep. Clay Ingram, was doing a “great job” lobbying for the university.
He also lauded new FSU president Richard McCullough.
“He’s doing a great job in navigating through all the things … COVID, and now obviously, the football season has kicked off,” Thrasher said. “We had a great game Saturday night, even though we didn’t win.”