Influencers Opinion

Florida Influencers have their final say - plus a message to our next governor

Republican Ron DeSantis (left) debates Democrat Andrew Gillum during the 2018 campaign for Florida governor won by DeSantis.
Republican Ron DeSantis (left) debates Democrat Andrew Gillum during the 2018 campaign for Florida governor won by DeSantis. Wilfredo Lee Getty Images/Pool

For the past seven months, 50 Florida Influencers — composed of leaders in the state’s political, business, academic and faith communities — have offered their viewpoints on issues of importance to Florida this election year. Their mission: Offer real solutions to Florida’s political candidates.

With the election a couple of days away, we asked them to offer some words of advice to the new governor and state and federal lawmakers. Here are their responses, condensed for clarity and space:

“Seek first to understand. Seek out diverse opinions. Listen. Compromise. Act with integrity and gain the respect of those who may disagree with you. Spend time with a history book. Use common sense. Be a true servant leader.”

Susan Towler, vice president, Florida Blue Foundation

“We are a state many are looking to for opportunities and expansion. However, we can’t close the deal without significant investment in developing our workforce. These days, all other considerations are secondary to workforce quality. This is the message being sent by those seeking to move to Florida, and we would do well to be responsive by making significant and catalytic investments in our education system to ensure our state can claim it provides its residents with the top Pre-K to secondary to higher education opportunities.”

Jaret Davis, co-managing shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, Miami office

“Be daring and tackle issues that you can impact. Don’t get wrapped in ineffectiveness by spending energy on issues that are out your control. Life is too short, be RELEVANT.”

Mike Fernandez, chairman, MBF Healthcare Partners

“Ours is a vulnerable paradise that is showing the wear of growth that has outpaced preservation. Now it is your turn to usher in a new era of sustainability. We have never seen such a culmination of environmental tragedies — red tide, harmful algal blooms, catastrophic hurricanes and sea level rise bubbling up through our storm drains. But we also have never seen such public awareness of these issues. Conservation doesn’t have a party — red or blue, we all need clean water, clean air and the healthy environment that underpins our state’s economy.”

Julie Wraithmell, executive director, Audubon Florida

“Let’s focus on the needs and will of the people. Let’s move forward in making positive changes in the way you act, the way you talk and, most importantly, in the way you do things that benefit the people you represent regardless of political affiliation. Let’s respect differences, agree to disagree, then lead and legislate in an objective manner with integrity and compassion.”

Victoria Kasdan, executive director, We Care Manatee

“As our new governor and lawmakers prepare to lead our state, I suggest that they reinforce their knowledge of Florida’s unique environment, culture and history by reading or re-reading the following books: Cynthia Barnett: ‘Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.’; Jack Davis: ‘The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea’; Marjory Stoneman Douglas: ‘The Everglades, River of Grass’; Zora Neale Hurston: ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’; and Patrick Smith: ‘A Land Remembered.’<TH>

Kent Fuchs, president, University of Florida

“Focus on thinking about what has brought our economy strong over the last eight years. Maintain fiscal efficiency, look for smaller improvements rather than huge changes. At the federal level, get spending under control.”

David Mica, executive director, Florida Petroleum Council

“Regardless of party or platform, Florida is the ultimate vacation destination. We welcome visitors of all backgrounds and beliefs, and we want to continue to make sure that our state continues to provide the best visitation experience. The tourism industry fosters entrepreneurship and creativity, encourages economic development and provides much-needed jobs. The policies we adopt in regard to tourism, tourism marketing and business development have the potential to impact every Floridian.”

Carol Dover, president, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association

“Remain singularly passionate about your service to the people of Florida and invest your efforts, time and resources in advancing that mission. Find ways to work with everyone at the table to get things done as opposed to allowing for a stalemate in decision-making mired in politics or future political gain.”

Bob Ward, president, Florida Council of 100

“There is a proven way to provide economic and educational opportunities regardless of one’s station in life. When free enterprise, the protection of private property and the rule of law are allowed to flourish, education, healthcare and the quality of the environment all improve, and more people are lifted out of poverty able to pursue their version of the American Dream — either for themselves or their children or grandchildren than by any other system in the history of humankind.”

Bob McClure, president, James Madison Institute

“Do what is in the best interest of all the citizens of Florida. Continuing the partisan approach to governing will no doubt lead to additional economic and social distress.”

Michael Finney, president and CEO, Miami-Dade Beacon Council

“Develop a plan based on facts, as opposed to where is the money for your campaign, that benefits Florida and execute on it. Set aside your future political aspirations, be a true leader. Remember you are a public servant; you are not in it for the recognition, you are in it because you want to serve others.”

Carlos Garcia Perez, partner, SMGQ Law

“The competition for travelers and the revenues they bring is intense and increasing.Many destinations have recognized the great value tourism brings to their economy and are aggressively investing to attract visitors. We need Florida’s new governor and lawmakers to recognize the solid foundation tourism provides to our state’s economy, allowing it to grow and diversify, and continue to invest in our #1 tourism industry.”

Bill Talbert, president and CEO, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

“Listen well, work together and remember who elected you.’’

Daryl Tol, CEO, Florida Hospital

“Be a servant leader. Care about others and put selfish desires aside. Take care of the people under your charge. Leave your personal ambitions aside.”

Ken Lawson, president and CEO, Visit Florida

“We are a swing state. Sometimes Democrats will win. Sometimes Republicans will win. But when it comes to our environment, the state should never lose. Our elected officials can’t abandon Florida interests to appease special-interest donors who want to frack our state, drill our state, confuse our state into voting against its very future. Our state leaders have to agree to make the environment a non-partisan issue.”

Xavier Cortada, artist

“It has been a long and divisive campaign season, and the citizens of this state are tired and distrustful of state leadership. An early summit to call together the leadership and pledge to work together for the betterment of the state and its citizens would go a long way to provide a clear path to solving the issues identified as being of the greatest importance to Florida’s future.”

Rhea Law, chair, Florida offices, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney

“I believe the majority of Floridians are nauseated by the negative political ads on television and the ‘tribal’ warfare that exists between the political parties. Americans desperately want bipartisan collaboration and a more civil tone to deliberations that are important to our democratic form of government.”

Brian Keeley president and CEO, Baptist Health South Florida

“Exercise common sense and compassion while prioritizing people and not money.”

Franklin Sirmans, director, Perez Art Museum Miami

“Gridlock is not an option. Let’s be different than other states. Let’s be fixers and problem solvers regardless of electoral outcomes — not problem makers.”

Al Cardenas, senior partner, Squire Patton Boggs

“The polarized and toxic divide that exists among the electorate not only degrades our democracy, it also prevents us from working together to solve some extremely serious challenges facing our state and our country. Bringing the people of Florida together — regardless of region, party, race or religion — and seeking common cause with others is absolutely critical to our collective well-being and our future.”

Jacob Solomon, president and CEO, Greater Miami Jewish Federation

“Our next governor must remember that he represents the basic needs and interests of all Floridians and must be guided in this regard in prioritizing policies and budgetary decisions. You may not please all, but the greater good should always be a GPS.”

Marlon Hill, partner, Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel

“Be guided by the values that have made our state strong and focus on solving the problems that have been identified throughout this election cycle.”

Carol Probstfeld, president, State College of Florida, Manatee, Sarasota

“As leaders in this great state of Florida, I urge you to always remember the instrumental role education plays in our society and do everything in your power to support and properly fund public education. I especially encourage you to support our national-model state colleges, as they singlehandedly educate more than 800,000 Floridians every year via traditional degree and short-term programs that put people to work.”

Eduardo Padron, president, MDC

“What I would say to the next governor and lawmakers is, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you are an American first. Make sure you are making decisions not based on ego or party but on what’s best for Floridians.”

Emilio Estefan, CEO, Estefan Enterprises

“We must work together to overcome political differences for the greater good of our citizens. We cannot continue to fiddle while Florida burns.”

Steve Zack, partner, Boies Schiller Flexner

“Florida needs investment in its future and science-informed decision-making to guide those investments. The resiliency planning in Miami-Dade, Tampa Bay and Southeast Florida is a critical step toward investing in Florida’s future. Resiliency planning and investment should be supported at the state level.”

Tiffany Troxler, director of science, Sea Level Solutions Center, FIU

“You have been entrusted to guide our nation’s third-largest state into the future and by so doing, impacting more than 21 million lives. Use this unique leadership opportunity to serve the best interests of all Floridians — those who voted for you and those who didn’t.

We need leaders working together across the aisle to shape policies, informed by economists and subject matter experts, that best position our state for continued and accelerated growth and prosperity.”

Maria Alonso, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade

“The economy and health of this state are in your hands, and this is a pivotal moment to reshape Florida’s narrative into a more progressive future that attracts diversified industries, increases economic participation for all small businesses regardless of race or socioeconomic status, improves teacher pay and the quality of our education system, restores environmental integrity and builds a transportation infrastructure that will support our population growth and mobility needs.”

Fabiola Fleuranvil, CEO, Blueprint Creative Group

“Think with your heart, govern with your fist and make sure you take into account all people’s opinions before making decisions that will change the lives of the people who elected you.”

Terry DeCarlo, LGBT activist

“Fight for communities and the people working to make them great. When in doubt, lean toward the most compassionate and empathetic responses and actions you can muster.

This is a historically critical inflection point in our country, and you need to be part of the solution.”

Chris Caines, executive director, Miami Urban Future Initiative, FIU

“Please do not succumb to the increasingly prevalent tendency to focus on rhetoric that appeals to our most base and primal fears, but rather focus on the issues that enable us to share our ideas and common desired outcomes for peace, prosperity and being a beacon of hope in the world.”

Shelley Katz, vice president operations, Lutheran Services Florida Health Systems

“Focus some of your early political capital on the nonpartisan question of how Florida can best help communities become better places for people to age, which will address some of the long-term physical infrastructure gaps that we have while building social infrastructure to enable neighbors to better help neighbors who are aging at home. And Florida is among the least civicallyengaged states, and the escalation of political tribalism over the last few election cycles has only exacerbated that systemic deficiency. Be a leader for all Floridians.”

Jeff Johnson, state director, AARP



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