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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 7, 2014 8 years ago

Mr. Fixit

If your business needs help navigating the channels of state government, Dudley Goodlette will point you in the right direction.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

If Dudley Goodlette were to run for office again, he'd have no problems raising money.

More than 300 of the most influential people in Naples paid $175 each to attend Hodges University's Humanitarian of the Year award honoring him at a luncheon Feb. 6 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples.

As evidenced by the crowd gathered to cheer for him at the Ritz, Goodlette's star power hasn't ebbed since leaving his post as state representative in 2006 because of term limits. Friends and clients routinely call him on his cell phone seeking advice on the mysterious ways of Tallahassee. They've nicknamed him “Mr. Fixit.”

Goodlette, 65, is more humble. “I'm a traffic cop,” he says.

An attorney by training, Goodlette's fixit reputation was cemented when he was named Florida House of Representative's chief of staff to Speaker Larry Cretul in 2009 in the aftermath of the resignation of Speaker Ray Sansom. Goodlette was credited with restoring order to the legislative body and the state's Republican ranks.

Shortly after he was termed out from the Legislature in 2006, Goodlette was appointed special counsel on rules and procedures to the chairman of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. The powerful commission, which meets just once every 20 years and is the only one of its kind, has the mandate to put issues on the statewide ballot.

In another fix, Goodlette served as Edison State College's interim president from 2011 to 2012 after it was embroiled in administrative snafus that nearly cost the school its accreditation. “I'm retired into doing community stuff,” he says.

Goodlette isn't a registered lobbyist, but everyone in the region knows his name opens doors. “I learned as a young man that your reputation is your stock and trade,” Goodlette told the gathering at the Ritz.

Recently, for example, Goodlette advised a large landowner with complex water-policy issues that will be a major issue for this legislative session. “I put them in touch with a lobbyist who is well-versed on the issue,” he says.

Although he was born in Hazard, Ky., Goodlette moved with his parents to Naples in 1954 when his father was hired to launch a radio station. After earning his law degree at the University of Florida, he returned to Naples to practice land-use and zoning law.

Goodlette's advice to business owners concerned about machinations in Tallahassee is to find the right legislator who can be effective at blunting existing bills by amending them. Often, that means starting with the head of your area's legislative delegation.

Hiring a lobbyist is a good idea, particularly for a larger firm that may be adversely impacted by legislation. “I always respected the role of the lobbyist,” Goodlette says, though he says the larger lobbying firms such as Southern Strategy Group are generally more effective than smaller ones.

The shotgun approach of mass emails isn't effective, he counsels. The time to start worrying about legislative impacts on your business is four to six months before the session when legislators start crafting their bills.

“It depends on the quality of the member you're reaching out to,” he says. “It can be very confusing and disconcerting.”

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