Pushed or pulled? AIF legend Barney Bishop steps down from influential Florida business group
Wake up and good morning. One of Florida's biggest players in shaping (and lobbying) state business policy -- Barney Bishop of Associated Industries of Florida in Tallahassee -- is stepping down at the end of this year. It's a major milestone in state business history to see this outsized, outspoken figure, who made more than $400,000, call it a day as AIF chief and raises a big question. Who can fill those shoes representing the group's pro-business agenda ahead? AIF provides a different take, at times, on the state's business direction from the other Big Kahuna in Tallahassee, namely the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
In recent months, I best knew Bishop as a surprising advocate for the high speed rail line once planned between Tampa and Orlando which was killed off by a lack of state support by new Florida Gov. Rick Scott. In 2009, I wrote here about Bishop's take-no-prisoners tone in his calls for higher insurance rates in the state and (pre-BP oil spill) the need for drilling off Florida's coast.
News of Bishop's planned departure at the end of this year is a bit sketchy so far, but there are clearly some intrigue afoot.
Says the Palm Beach Post story: "Bishop had been under rising pressure from AIF’s board of directors and his resignation precedes a scheduled meeting next week where his future with the organization was expected to be discussed." The same report suggests Bishop got into hot water with some of his (unnamed) board members "after he caused a stir by declaring that the 'number one job of our board (is) to defeat Bill Nelson' in the upcoming contest for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. Still another issue is pure economics, the story says. "But in an age of business consolidation, some lobbyists have questioned how long the (Florida) Chamber and AIF, which have many overlapping members, issues and candidate endorsements, can endure as separate entities." Read the story here.
Here's what Bishop had to say in a statement:
“Once the legislative session ended, I started thinking about what my goals were both at AIF and in my personal life. I realized I had achieved my goals of rebuilding AIF and the organization was in a very good place. Working at AIF has been the highlight of my career and a challenge I feel proud to have met head on.
“There are other things in life – other passions – that I wanted to pursue. Now is that time. I have always been a serial entrepreneur having previously started two companies. I may start a third company or join another. Public speaking and political commentary have also been other passions of mine. People appreciate my willingness to shoot straight and tell it like it is. I look forward to pursuing these opportunities in the future and I am keeping my options open. Right now, my focus remains on AIF and I have announced this decision now to ensure a smooth and seamless transition to the organization’s next president and CEO.”
Bishop will continue his relationship with AIF in 2012 with a consulting agreement that will begin on Jan. 1. Read the full AIF release here.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times