Florida Network Past Chairman Chris Dudley Named Lobbyist of the Year

Influence Magazine has named the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services Immediate Past Chairman Chris Dudley “Lobbyist of the Year” as part of their 2016 Golden Rotunda Awards, designed to recognize the best of the best in the lobbying profession.

Being the managing partner of the state’s biggest lobbying firm is sort of like quarterbacking a perennial Super Bowl champion. It would be easy for people to regard Chris Dudley like a Tom Brady: with a mixture of public respect and private resentment and revilement. The best lobbyist on Adams Street, though, is also a helluva nice guy.

“I credit his mother. She raised a son with a good heart, a servant’s heart,” said friend Brandi Brown, who until recently was scheduling director for former Gov. Jeb Bush’s now-suspended presidential campaign. “As a lobbyist, he wins the right way, with decency and class and honesty.”

Like many, Dudley’s entrance into lobbying came through politics and government. The Fort Myers native recalls knocking on doors in the 1980s with his dad, former state Sen. Fred Dudley. As a preteen, he got a special invitation from then-Gov. Bob Graham for a quick chat and tour of the governor’s office after his father was sworn in.

After graduating from the University of South Florida, he worked as a legislative aide in the Fort Myers district office of former state Rep. Greg Gay, was Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Legislative Director and Special Assistant to former Florida Education Commissioner and then Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan before serving as Assistant to the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff to Bush.

“Jeb called me his ‘Hondo Havilcek,’” Dudley said, referring to the Boston Celtics’ “great sixth man” of the 1970s. “I got to do a little of everything … a hodgepodge of whatever needed to get done.”

He joined Southern Strategy Group in 2000, where he counts Bush confidante Sally Bradshaw and former lobbyist, lawmaker and conservative icon John Thrasher, now Florida State University president, as mentors.

With help from others, he had a string of hits this past Legislative Session. He secured $9 million for new construction at Palm Beach State College, and $20 million for the University of Central Florida’s downtown campus. He also guided passage of a bill that will allows Jacksonville to put a referendum before voters to extend the city’s infrastructure sales tax and use the money to pay down its $2.6 billion unfunded local pension liability.

“We met with all 160 members of the Legislature,” said Dudley, who teamed up with Brian Ballard and Jacksonville-based Marty Fiorentino to move the legislation. “It wasn’t an easy sell,” he said, noting that future House Speakers Richard Corcoran, Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls all voted against it. “This wasn’t their most favored path to figure this out.”

“I’ve gotten to learn from the best (on) how to engage members, articulate both sides of an issue but focus on your side, and push that ball over the goal line,” he said. When asked for a flaw, he adds, “Like most people who are competitive, I spend way too much time thinking about the losses.” Not that anyone can tell.

“He invented the school of lobbying that says you don’t have to burn bridges, that you can be wildly successful and be an honorable guy,” said fellow lobbyist Gus Corbella. Dudley is godfather to Corbella’s 13-year-old son Miles. “Chris personifies the expression, ‘Nice guys don’t finish last— they last forever.’

Article from Influence Magazine. Read the full article here.