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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 7, 200812:00 PM EST

Lobbyist changing with the time

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

“You never know what will happen. You just have to go with it,” said Marty Fiorentino last week a few days after the new sign with his company’s new name, The Fiorentino Group, was installed at his offices at The Carling.

Following the departure of his former partner, Shannon Hewitt, for a job in the mayor’s office, Fiorentino made a slight course change. He now has a five-person staff in his “government relations and business development” firm. That’s fancy verbiage for “lobbyists” but Fiorentino doesn’t have a problem with the “L” word.

“That’s what we do. We level the playing field and our goal is to help people,” he said.

In addition to the firm’s headquarters in Jacksonville, The Fiorentino Group also has an office in the state capital.

“When the legislature is in session, we move the whole operation to Tallahassee,” said Fiorentino.

Last year, Bo Bohannon joined the firm as senior vice president. He began his career in government in 1974 with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, then moved to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. In 1995 he joined State Rep. Daniel Webster’s staff as chief legislative analyst for commerce and economic development issues. Bohannon also served under Florida House Speaker Allen Bense as council director of the House Commerce Council.

Prior to joining The Fiorentino Group, Bohannon served as director of government affairs at The Advocacy Group at Tew Cardenas.

Fiorentino said Bohannon’s more than 34 years of experience and contacts in Tallahassee are invaluable and he was lucky to talk the veteran political staffer out of retirement.

The firm’s most recent addition is vice president Joe Mobley, former assistant vice president of legislative affairs at Fidelity National Financial. He also was Duval County Tax Collector Mike Hogan’s top aide when Hogan was a member of the Florida House of Representatives and served in a similar capacity to current State Rep. Jennifer Carroll before joining The Fiorentino Group.

Mobley pointed out he, too, is proud to be called a lobbyist.

“I speak to a lot of civics classes and I always tell the students that every industry, every occupation and every walk of life has a lobbyist. It’s entirely likely your parents’ jobs depend on a lobbyist,” he said.

Fiorentino said he has seen a lot of changes during his political career that began when he was chairman of George H.W. Bush’s Florida campaign. The former special counsel to the CSX Corporation, vice president of communications and public affairs for CSX Transportation and assistant to the president of CSX Technologies has also witnessed changes in how business relates to government.

“I had the opportunity to manage the lobbyists at CSX, so I’ve seen it from both sides. Government continues to get bigger and more complex. It has gotten to the point corporations have to hire representation to access the government,” said Fiorentino.

In addition to facilitating access to the right government agency or official, Fiorentino said lobbying in the 21st century has another aspect.

“We also deal with issues and ideas in order to make sure our client’s message is clear and salient to the process.”

In the past year, Fiorentino has new office space, a new staff and a new name, so what’s next?

“We’re just at the point we have a logo and a brochure and a Web site but I would like to expand the business around the state,” said Fiorentino.

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