Florida open government watchdog group names new president

The job entails being a part-time lobbyist, part-time expert on the Florida Sunshine Law.
The Florida Capitol. Scott Keeler
The Florida Capitol. Scott Keeler [ Times (2019) ]
Published Oct. 18, 2019|Updated Oct. 18, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s most prominent open government group, the First Amendment Foundation, announced its new president Friday after its longtime leader, Barbara Petersen, said she would be retiring from the job earlier this year.

Pamela Marsh, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, will take up the role on December 1, according to the foundation.

The First Amendment Foundation is a Tallahassee-based nonprofit that advocates for open government and lobbies the state Legislature to increase public access to government meetings and records. Both the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald are members of the organization.

In a statement included in the announcement, Marsh said she was “honored and excited” to take up the new role. Petersen had served as president since 1995.

Pamela Marsh
Pamela Marsh [ [First Amendment Foundation] ]

“Perhaps now more than ever, the mission of the Foundation is critical to Florida communities and to a thriving democracy,” Marsh said. "I look forward to continuing the highly regarded work and reputation already established by the First Amendment Foundation.”

In her role as U.S. attorney, Marsh was the lead federal prosecutor for 23 northern counties in Florida and was the first woman appointed to the position, according to the foundation.

Being president of the foundation requires being a part-time lobbyist and part-time expert in public records law, among other responsibilities.

The Florida Sunshine Law is considered the gold standard of open government laws in the country, allowing expansive access to the public to government records and meetings. However, each year the Legislature passes more exemptions to the law. The current count is about 1,130.

In the announcement, Petersen said that Marsh is the “perfect choice” who will take the foundation “into its next phase.”