Attend a political function anywhere in Pinellas County and it’s almost inevitable you’ll see one name consistently listed as a sponsor.
That is, other than Bill Edwards.
The name is Alan Suskey of Suskey Consulting, the governmental affairs firm based in Tallahassee, but with deep roots in Pinellas.
Of course, Suskey does not have the millions of dollars Edwards has, so its noteworthy to see him as a patron of so many diverse interests, from the Warehouse Arts District to the University of South Florida – St. Pete campus, as well as a headline sponsor of at least one political fundraiser a week.
Over the last eighteen months, Suskey has built a lobbying practice that represents almost all of the major players in the Pinellas community before state government. And with leaders from the area set to have a major impact on the next two sessions (at least) of the Florida Legislature, Suskey Consulting can expect even more growth.
Already a part of Suskey’s client roster are Drug Free America (which connects him to Mel and Betty Sembler, as well as board chairman Jim Holton), Eckerd College, Solar Sanitation (whose owner is Pinellas GOP chairman Nick DiCeglie), the Warehouse Arts District (which indicates Suskey’s close relationship with major player Rob Kapusta), among others.
Even Edwards and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker have turned to Suskey, like they did when they wanted the North American Soccer League included in the mix for sports facilities incentives money or when they sought state funding for improvements to Mahaffey Theater.
Suskey was recently hired by Great Explorations Children’s Museum as it embarks on a $2 million capital campaign to construct a final mezzanine of 2600 square feet to add classroom and group activity room space as well as funding a freshening of exhibits.
Even though Great Explorations has never asked for public funding for capital projects in the past, it was decided by the museum’s board to employ an experienced lobbyist to guide the process of asking for State funding. That’s when Great Ex reached out to Suskey.
“He is very effective in telling the story of several worthy non-profits to state legislators, building the case for the wise use of taxpayer fund,” said board member Scott Wagman.
Suskey’s effectiveness is based on his knowledge of the appropriations process — he cut his teeth in politics working for the master of the purse strings, the late Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young — and the strength of his relationships with the local delegation and key lawmakers, including Sens. Jack Latvala (the incoming Senate Appropriations Committee chairman) and Jeff Brandes and several members of the state House, including Speaker-to-be Chris Sprowls.
Today, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is deciding whether to include Suskey in a contract for governmental relations services. A committee smartly recommended Tampa-based lobbyist Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting and Suskey share the contract.
There may not be two lobbyists who care more about the Tampa Bay area than Pierce and Suskey (uh-oh, I might get in trouble now with my friends at Corcoran & Johnston and Southern Strategy Group). There certainly is not another lobbyist who cares more about Pinellas than Suskey.
PSTA would do well to go with the hometown guy.