Back-To-School Special Series: Higher ed, brought to you by these Florida lobbyists

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It’s back to school month for Florida college students, which means that towns like Gainesville and Tallahassee will once again be flooded to their higher capacities. But while most students have had the summers off, the business of education has continued in their absence — and has so, too, for the lobbyists and politicos who handle the “gov” side of higher ed.

The “who’s who” of Florida education lobbyists includes a spate of expert lobbyists, academicians, and students. So many, in fact, that it would be fruitless to attempt to name them all. Approximately 241 lobbyists are registered to represent colleges, universities and professional schools; 102 lobby for educational support services; 32 lobby for junior colleges; 5 lobby for technical and trade schools; and that’s only for those categories that exclude elementary and secondary schools, exam prep, tutoring, and professional development.

Let’s look first at a handful of public colleges and universities — and don’t be surprised when you start to see some overlaps. For the most part, public colleges are represented by internal government affairs teams, while the school’s foundation is represented by outside lobbyists. I’ll avoid making the distinctions in the following, as really, the institution is the same.

Representing Florida A&M, we have Sean Pittman, Tola Rhombi Thompson, and Jason Unger; representing Florida Atlantic, there’s Meghan Hoza, Pamela Landi, Ken Pruitt and Kristina Wiggins; and for Florida Gulf Coast, there’s Wilson Bradshaw and Jennifer Goen. Florida International brings in some big guns with Travis Blanton, Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, Manny Reyes, Robert Reyes, Fausto Gomez, Andreina Figueroa, and Scott Ross; and the same for Florida Polytechnic, with Mario Bailey, Brian Ballard, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Rhett O’Doski, Greg Turbeville, Sean Stafford, David Shepp, and Derek Whitis.

Then there’s the tiny but fierce New College of Florida, who knows well enough to keep on hand Capital City Consulting, a firm that shares these two qualities with its tight and brawny trio of Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Jr., and Chris Schoonover.

Florida State has Kathleen Daly and Garnett Stokes, internally, along with outside guns in the form of Al Lawson, Jr., and Sean Pittman.

The University of Central Florida teams up with Chris Carmody, Chris Dudley, Towson Fraser, Fred Leonhardt, Robert Stuart, and Stacy Webb; and the University of Florida with Wilbur Brewton, Matt Bryan, Linda Collins, David Daniel, Belita Moreton and Andrea Reilly. The University of South Florida brings on Robert Blair, Michael Cantens, Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, and Amanda Stewart; and the University of West Florida, Chip Case, Rich Heffley, and Kelly Horton.

While one may expect that public colleges run the show in Florida, politically speaking, this is far from true. “ICUF” as it is known, the Independent College & Universities of Florida, Inc., have a well-run organization that keeps on its roster some of the best in the lobbying business: Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Steven Shiver, and Cameron Yarbrough to name a few.

From there, most independent colleges also keep their own lobbying bands busy. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has three from the Southern Strategy team: Paul Bradshaw, David Browning, and Towson Fraser; and Flagler College: Browning, Fraser, and Chris Dudley. Full Sail University has Richard Coates; Gannon University has Michelle McKay; and Hodges keeps around Jim Magill, Kim McGlynn, Mac Stipanovich, and more.

Keiser University teams up with a few big lobby firms to have Brian Ballard, Ron Book, Rana Brown, Mathew Forrest, Kelly Mallette and others aboard; and Nova Southeastern takes the same smart approach, having Ballard, Carol Bracy, Michael Cantens, Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Greg Turbeville, Amy Young and more on their side.

For their part, Stetson University teams with Frank and Tracy Mayernick, Emily Nance, Foyt Ralston, and Cari Roth; and the University of Miami brings on Billy Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Larry Overton, Melissa Akeson and others along with Ballard, Book and Mallette.

Monica Rodriguez takes on the job of representing the Florida Association of Cosmetology & Technical Schools; and a strong Jacksonville team of Bo Bohannon, Marty Fiorentino, Joseph Mobley and Mark Pinto represent the First Coast Technical College.

The New World School of the Arts has Bob Levy as their solo lobbying guide; and Michelle McKay has this distinction, too, for the Bert Rodgers School of Real Estate. Allen and Sandra Mortham represent the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges; and for the kind of education you can get in the Outward Bound Discovery program, look to Jack and Keyna Cory and Erin Daly for the gov affairs side of things there.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.