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Sunburn — The Morning Read Of What’s Hot In Florida Politics — 9.7.21

John Thrasher makes a triumphant return to The Southern Group. Image via FSU.

  By Peter Schorsch    

Good Tuesday morning and Shana Tova. Rosh Hashanah began at sundown Monday. For those observing two days, it ends at sundown on Wednesday.

L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem.


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.

After going out on top as FSU 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.


The Florida Chamber Foundation embarked on a national search to find its next executive vice president.

David Gillespie has the right stuff for the Florida Chamber.

After combing through numerous top-flight applicants, the Foundation announced Tuesday that it had found the right man for the job: retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Gillespie.

“Florida is at a crossroads, and the Florida Chamber Enterprise is continuing to make intentional changes to align our talent to the Florida 2030 Blueprint and our mission to secure Florida’s future. The addition of David Gillespie, a battle-tested, senior intelligence officer is the right leader at the right time to continue unifying Florida’s business community toward the Florida 2030 Blueprint goals,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson.

As the new EVP, Gillespie will help the Florida Chamber Foundation work through the goals outlined in its Florida 2030 Blueprint — the group’s research-backed plan to bring the state economy into the Top 10 if it were ranked as a country.

The former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer has served in six major operational global conflicts or campaigns, including being deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan and charged in part to advise the Commanding General of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, the ISAF Director of Intelligence, and international staff on threats to nation-building and coalition forces.

He also has experience with the U.S. Department of Defense’s intelligence apparatus, has worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, and has served as a projects leader for management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

“As a veteran of our United States military, David is a seasoned leader who understands the importance of putting the mission above self,” said Todd Powell, Chair of the Florida Chamber Foundation.


RSA Consulting Group welcomes Melody Arnold to the team, naming her Director of Government and Community Affairs at the Tampa-based firm.

Congrats to Melody Arnold for her new gig at RSA Consulting.

Arnold is an experienced lobbyist and health care advocate who spent the past seven years working for the Florida Health Care Association, where she held the title of Associate Director of Government Affairs. In that role, she represented more than 500 long-term care facilities, facilitating FHCA’s advocacy, member relations, and political fundraising initiatives.

“Expanding our close-knit team was a big decision, and we knew it would have to be just the right person to fit into the culture we have built at RSA,” Ron Pierce, the firm’s president and CEO, said. “We weren’t actively hiring, but when we met Melody, we knew right away that she would be an incredible addition to our team.”

As Arnold moves in-house to the boutique consulting firm, she will lead state-level health care advocacy efforts and continue her work with FHCA from her position within RSA.


GrayRobinson has promoted Joseph Salzverg to shareholder.

Joseph Salzverg gets a big boost at GrayRobinson.

Salzverg, who has been a part of the political and public policy arenas for more than a decade, came to GrayRobinson as a member of former House Speaker Dean Cannon’s Capitol Insight when the two firms joined forces in 2016.

Since 2018, he has been based in the firm’s Miami office (splitting his time between Miami and Tallahassee). He has played an integral role in growing the firm’s government affairs presence and client base in the South Florida region.

“I am incredibly proud of Joseph and know how hard he has worked to become a shareholder at GrayRobinson,” said Cannon, president and CEO of GrayRobinson. “It is always great when you get to see a talented team member like Joseph rise to a new level. Joseph has an incredibly bright future ahead of him.”

Salzverg, who lobbies both the legislative and executive branches on various issues, is also known for representing clients before local governments on procurements, land use, and government matters. Salzverg also assists corporate and nonprofit interests in market entrance strategies and community engagement initiatives throughout South Florida.

By the way, congrats:


Rashad D. Thomas is AT&T Florida’s new Regional Director of External Affairs for Miami-Dade.

In his new role, Thomas will be responsible for external and legislative affairs activities in Miami-Dade County and parts of Broward. His responsibilities will include working with local and state government officials and enhancing AT&T’s presence throughout the region.

“Miami is a key driver for our business in Florida, so we’re excited to have someone as talented as Rashad to help guide our efforts with elected officials and stakeholders in the area,” said AT&T Florida President Joe York. “His experience in Miami-Dade Government and roots as a lifelong Miamian make Rashad a strong addition to the AT&T Florida team.”

Thomas came to AT&T from Port Miami, where he served as Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Community Relations. The position saw him collaborate with local businesses and organizations to connect them with opportunities at one of Florida’s biggest economic engines.

Thomas has held positions from Deputy County Mayor’s assistant to a VP post on the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee ahead of Super Bowl LIV through his nearly two decades in the Miami-Dade County government.


Welcome back — Florida Politics proudly announces health care reporter Christine Sexton is returning as our newest staff member, continuing a beat she has covered for more than two decades. During that time, Sexton wrote on health care issues for a wide range of print and online sites: POLITICO Florida, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Florida Current, Florida Medical Business, and trade publications such as Florida Lawyer and National Underwriter. She recently served as a reporter for the News Service of Florida and had earlier worked here at Florida Politics. “I am looking forward to this opportunity, and I am ready for the next chapter of my career covering Florida health care policy,” Sexton said Monday.


@MaryEllenKlas: .@GovRonDeSantis is asked about vaccine passport penalties and suggests vaccines aren’t intended for public health: “It’s about your health, and whether you want that protection or not, it really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.”

@SullyDish: Offering citizens bounties to hunt down other citizens for “crimes” is pure evil. It is a form of illiberalism that’s truly poisonous.

Tweet, tweet:


@Munzenreieder: NY Media loves to focus on climate change in Miami like that city will eventually be lost while pretending NYC will magically be saved somehow. Dangerous attitude.



Horrible tweet @OmariJHardy: Non-political post: If I hear one more reference to McKenzie Milton‘s reconstructed knee, I promise you — I will vomit. I don’t give one tarnation that Milton has a great story. He still plays for FSU. ??

@Eric_Adelson: The original quote came from John McKay, legendary coach of the creamsicle Bucs: “What do you think of your team’s execution, coach?” asked a reporter. McKay replied, “I’m in favor of it.”

@WendallPierce: The depth of my love for this brother can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. An immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition portraying the lives of those whose humanity is seldom elevated until he sings their truth.


FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.comSept. 7,2021

Republished with permission