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City lobbyist leaves firm he founded

A lawyer who campaigned for Mayor Pam Iorio and won a Washington lobbying contract after her election has split from the law firm he founded in 1981.

Richard Salem announced Saturday that he and partner T. Terrell Sessums, former speaker of the Florida House, were leaving the Tampa law firm Salem Saxon to form a practice with offices in Tampa, Washington, Orlando and San Jose, Costa Rica.

Iorio, a longtime friend of Salem's, tapped Salem Saxon to replace Hector Alcalde in June as the city's lobbyist in charge of getting federal grants for city projects.

Salem, 55, said Saturday that his new firm will retain that $60,000-a-year Tampa contract as well as the lobbying contracts with the Tampa, Orlando and Lakeland housing authorities. In all, Salem said, he will be taking about 20 clients from a pool of more than 100 at his former firm.

The split from the firm and the other named partner, Bernice Saxon, was amicable, Salem said.

"I'm not aware of any bad feelings," Salem said. "I guess she's fine with it. It hasn't been a painful split, but no change is easy."

Saxon could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The two firms will share certain clients, with Saxon's firm handling local concerns and Salem's firm representing national and global interests, he said.

The move was necessary to provide more efficient services to clients who were abroad or who wished to do business outside of the United States, Salem said. Many of the partners at Salem Saxon were reluctant to travel, he said, which made it difficult to meet the needs of those clients.

"What we do does require travel," Salem said. "There were partners who don't like to go away from their families that much, and travel has gotten more difficult since 9/11. Myself, I don't necessarily like travel, but I don't mind it either."

_ Michael Van Sickler can be reached at 269-5312 or