By Jacob Engels
Periodically, we will be releasing a “Local Power Players” column that features a Q&A with one of the movers and shakers in our area and beyond. This column will provide a basis for our yearly ” Orlando’s Most Powerful” ranking. First up is Gray Robinson super lawyer and lobbyist Fred Leonhardt.
Fred has been a member of the Board of Directors of Enterprise Florida, the State’s economic development organization, for 11 years. He is also Past Chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Floridians for Better Transportation and The Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. He serves on the Board of Directors of the James Madison Institute, a privately funded public policy “think tank” in Florida.
Below is our Q&A with Fred —
Tell Us About You & Your Family –
I am a native Floridian, born in Daytona Beach, attended the University of Florida for undergraduate school and law school. I married Vicki, my hometown sweetheart, and we had two children. We moved to Orlando in 1986. I have been with Gray Robinson law firm for 21 years. Our family members all reside in Central Florida, between Daytona Beach and Orlando.
Tell Exactly What It Is That You Do In 140 Characters Or Less –
My practice has consisted primarily of government relations, a euphemism for lobbying, with a long history in real estate development permitting as well. Fortunately I am with a state wide full service law firm and we represent many employers (such as Darden Restaurants), institutions (University of Central Florida), local governments (City of Orlando), sports teams (The Orlando Magic), trade groups (Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association) and Florida citizens.
Your Two Favorite Quotes –
”A lobbyist is the person you hire to protect you from the person you elect”…..and “In the legislative process if you are not at the table you are probably on the menu.”
What Can Elected Officials Do To Help Improve Florida’s Economy –
Elected officials should remember that government was created to act in a limited number of fundamental areas and not to overstep its bounds. The best thing elected officials can do is to avoid the temptation to expand government and take over more responsibility. The framers of the US Constitution correctly felt that families and religion should be the primary source of influencing how people conduct their lives, government was to be in third place. And as far as the economy is concerned, elected officials should strive to create a favorable climate within which the free market system can conduct business. Let the entrepreneurial spirit thrive and celebrate successful people as role models for each generation.
Five Favorite Florida Politicians, Past or Present —
Former Florida Governor Leroy Collins, set a moral compass on important public policy issues such as integration, at a time when being enlightened on that topic was unpopular.
Former Governor Jeb Bush, used great influence to improve education for all Floridians regardless of family income level. He has made a difference in many lives and a lot of those he has helped have no idea how important his leadership was in helping them.
Former United States Senator Mel Martinez, if the country had listened to him on immigration reform we would be a country with a lot fewer problems today. It is ironic that the only immigrant in the United States Senate got shut down on a plan not too different than the one that now is surfacing as the great bipartisan compromise. And members of both parties helped derail the enlightened ideas of Senator Martinez.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, an outstanding law enforcement professional who has wisely managed his resources, greatly improved public safety in our County, and refunds taxpayer money to the county treasury.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, he finds a way to get things done and leads by building consensus and making people feel they are part of the process. Check out the City Skyline if you want to assess his impact!
Most Important Bills This Session —
The budget. Where the rubber meets the road, how we take advantage of an improved economic situation will say a lot about our state’s real priorities.
The collective group of bills that are part of the economic development/job creation legislative package, such as the manufacturing machinery sales tax exemption.
And MOST IMPORTANTLY the pre-emption bill. Nothing will wreck our state’s economy quicker than allowing cities and counties to get in the middle of the employer- employee relationship. Decisions on what an employer should do for sick leave, employee benefits, vacations and so forth should be left to the entrepreneurs. And if the rules are different in every jurisdiction it is even worse, much expense would have to be incurred on compliance and consumers will have to pay for all of it. Check above on my feelings about the role of government.
Name One Rising Star In The Florida Republican & Florida Democratic Party —
Democrat, Representative Daryl Rouson, Florida House, selected to be Minority Leader by his peers. Smart, sincere, amazing life story, respected on both sides of the aisle. Would be a very credible candidate for higher office including Florida Senate, US Senate, Attorney General of Florida.
Republican, current Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, servant-leader personality, skilled at making people like him even if he disagrees with their position on an issue. He will be regarded as one of the most effective Speakers ever.
Charitable Work You Are Involved In Or Support —
Boy Scouts of America, Past President of the East Central Council, most worthwhile organization I am familiar with, teaches life skills, leadership, ethics and morality.
Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute, Past Chairman of the Board. Vastly improved capabilities in our community for all heart related health issues.
Favorite Musician(s) —
For me, a tie between Paul McCartney and Carlos Santana. Both from my era growing up. I was at Woodstock and watched Carlos Santana perform, the lowest paid musician at Woodstock ($1500) and one of the best.
And Paul McCartney, who was NOT at Woodstock, a melodic Beatle who gives the finest concerts of any musician on tour today, I will be seeing him for the third time in Orlando May 17th.
Restaurant(s) You Enjoy Most in Tallahassee —
Again a tie……Longhorn Steak House, owned by Darden, away from the capitol but always busy and excellent and reasonably priced; and close to the capitol, Restaurant 101, great food, beautiful outside seating, the staff is superb and the owner is a really nice guy.
What Do You Like To Do In Your Spare Time —
Anything at the beach or an a boat. Walking, swimming, sailing, cruising, tanning, fishing.
If you know someone who is a “Local Power Player” and should be featured in our column, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post. Along with the Post, he owns several other businesses and is currently enrolled at Valencia College. Jacob has lived in Avalon Park since it’s founding and enjoys playing with his black Labradoodle Jasper, listening to indie rock, and seeking out new business ventures. He can be reached at email@example.com