TALLAHASSEE — Six weeks after he quit as Gov. Charlie Crist's U.S. Senate campaign manager, Eric Eikenberg's brief period of unemployment is over.
Eikenberg has landed a high-profile job as a lobbyist for Tampa-based Holland & Knight — a sign that the law firm is looking to strengthen its lobbying presence in the state capital.
He starts work Monday in Tallahassee as senior policy adviser and co-leader of the firm's Florida government advocacy team working with former Gov. Bob Martinez of Tampa. Eikenberg is not a lawyer, but it has been common for law firms with big lobbying practices to hire nonlawyers with political connections as key decisionmakers.
"We're extremely fortunate to get Eric to join us," said the firm's managing partner, Steve Sonberg. "It's extremely important geographically for us to be strong in Florida, and I think Eric adds enormous strength to the firm overall and particularly in the government area."
Holland & Knight's clients in the state capital include the city of Tampa, the Hillsborough County School District, Waste Management, PCS Phosphate, CCE Entertainment, Dave & Buster's and the National Safety Commission. Holland & Knight also has clients in Washington, D.C., including the National Indian Gaming Association, Florida Power & Light and Dow Chemical.
As a former chief of staff to Crist, Eikenberg is barred by the state Constitution from lobbying his former employer, the Governor's Office, through November 2011. But he can legally lobby state agencies that were under his direction during a two-year tenure in the Governor's Office.
Eikenberg, 34, a Coral Springs native and graduate of American University, was making $15,000 a month as Crist's campaign manager. He quit shortly after Crist announced he would leave the Republican Party and seek Florida's open U.S. Senate seat as a nonpartisan candidate.
His salary at Holland & Knight was not disclosed.
"I look forward to working with the team in Tallahassee, the lawyers and policy advisers, to make the firm a go-to place in the state capital," Eikenberg said.
Eikenberg said he bonded with Holland & Knight partners in Washington when he worked as chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw of Fort Lauderdale. He said he also was close to the late Tillie Fowler, a former Jacksonville-area U.S. representative who also worked for Holland & Knight.
Eikenberg said he maintains good relations with Sen. Mike Haridopolos and Rep. Dean Cannon, the likely incoming leaders of the Legislature in November and said he gets along with Democrats, too. "I'm grateful for their support," he said.
Holland & Knight also employs former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, the Tampa Democrat whom Crist defeated in the 2006 race for governor. Davis is a partner in the firm's public policy and regulation group.
"He's a good man," Eikenberg said of Davis. "I look forward to joining him in this effort."
Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.