Volusia County renews lobbying contract with GrayRobinson

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As Volusia County Council searches for a federal lobbyist, the board renewed its state lobbying contract with prominent Orlando law firm GrayRobinson.

The contract, approved unanimously at the council’s recent meeting, is about $50,000, similar to the agreement Volusia signed last year.

One year after Volusia switched to GrayRobinson from Pennington, Andrew Gant of the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that the board did not hesitate to re-sign with one of Florida’s most influential lobbyists, founded by attorney Charles Gray.

“He’s a force in Central Florida for many years,” said County Councilman Doug Daniels, a friend of Gray’s. “(He) created the University of Central Florida. He has done so much for Central Florida and for Volusia County. The list would lead out the door.”

Since November, GrayRobinson’s political action committee recently provided more than $90,000 to numerous political campaigns and committees, according to campaign finance records. Between November 2012 and July 2013, the firm contributed about $77,000.

The News-Journal notes GrayRobinson contributions included campaigns of Volusia council members, including Daniels, Joyce Cusack, Pat Northey and Josh Wagner.

The GrayRobinson attorney named to handle Volusia’s account is Fred Leonhardt, a Volusia County native who once practiced law in the area. “Both of them have an extraordinary amount of influence in Tallahassee,” said Daniels.

The Volusia County Council has no official lobbyist selection process.

Gray began in the influence industry in 1960s by advocating then-Gov. Haydon Burns to fund UCF, known as Florida Technological University at the time. He owned property in DeBary in what is now Gemini Springs State Park. Gray sold the Volusia County ranch to the state in 1994 for about $5.7 million.

He also chaired the Florida Turnpike Authority in 1965 when Walt Disney announced plans for a new Central Florida project. Gray advocated the interchange at Interstate 4 and the turnpike, which became a crucial thoroughfare to Walt Disney World.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.