Guest Column
Here’s why New College is lucky to have Richard Corcoran in charge | Column
I had the privilege of working for Richard as his communications director when he was speaker of the Florida House. Let me tell you about the man I know.
Richard Corcoran is interim president of New College of Florida in Sarasota.
Richard Corcoran is interim president of New College of Florida in Sarasota. [ DANIEL A. VARELA | Miami Herald ]
Published March 4

New College of Florida is lucky to have Richard Corcoran as interim president. You read that right. Faculty, students, donors, parents, and citizens of Southwest Florida will all be pleasantly surprised — contrary to the hyperbolic histrionics of some students and faculty — when Richard Corcoran transforms New College into a force to be reckoned with.

I had the privilege of working for Richard as his communications director when he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Even then, the media, and some of the entrenched interests in Tallahassee, were lamenting his speakership before he was even sworn in.

Fred Piccolo
Fred Piccolo [ Twitter ]

But, as Richard tends to do, he shocked the system from day one.

Under his leadership, the Florida House passed the most open and transparent budget rules in the history of the state — even in the face of the threat of lawsuits from the Florida Senate.

With a clear understanding that he answered to the taxpayers of Florida and not the powers that be on either side of the aisle, Richard instituted rules that required all member earmarks be standalone bills, viewable by the public online, and accompanied by a comprehensive list of disclosures. He also required that all lobbyists register the issues or bills they are lobbying for and make that information available online to the public in real time.

He altered the rules to prevent members of the House from engaging in business deals with lobbyists. On top of that, he passed rules that prohibit former legislators from lobbying their colleagues for six years after they leave the House, and banned legislators from flying on a jet owned or provided by a lobbyist.

Richard also led the charge against corporate welfare, putting an end to 24 tax credits and tax loopholes. His budgets eliminated tens of millions of dollars of waste and abuse at VISIT Florida. He ended the practice of allowing companies to sneak appropriations into university budgets and stopped multimillion dollar sports franchises from using the taxpayer as an ATM.

Richard led the Florida House in formally apologizing for the tragedy, miscarriage of justice and institutional racism in the case of the Groveland Four and apologized to the Dozier Boys for years of abuse, neglect and torture. In addition, the House passed funding for memorials and further examination of remains.

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He did all this and more despite the naysayers, backseat drivers and push from the press that seemed to believe in caricatures over character — those who would rather scream the loudest than work the hardest and those who defend the status quo when their status and their quo are threatened.

Make no mistake. If you are a student who wants a classical liberal arts education, you can count on Richard Corcoran, who is passionate about philosophy studies and higher education.

If you are a faculty member who wants to teach all sides of an issue, but have been stifled by woke cancel culture, Richard Corcoran will be your champion. And if you are a leader in the community who wants to build a university everyone can be proud of, you can do no better than Richard Corcoran.

Give him a chance. Your future will thank you.

Fred Piccolo Jr. received his undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida and his law degree from the Stetson University College of Law. He was communications director for Richard Corcoran when he was speaker of the Florida House, as well as Gov. Ron DeSantis. He also served as executive vice chancellor of colleges for the Florida Department of Education.