Bishop leaving AIF, with some questioning the future of the big corporate lobbyby John Kennedy | August 10th, 2011
One of the Capitol’s most potent business lobbies Wednesday was in search of a new leader.
Associated Industries of Florida President and CEO Barney Bishop resigned after seven years as the public face of the organization, effective at the end of the year. Bishop had been under rising pressure from AIF’s board of directors and his resignation precedes a scheduled meeting next week where his future with the organization was expected to be discussed.
“There are other things in life — other passions — that I wanted to pursue,” Bishop said. “Now is that time. I have always been a serial entrepreneur, having previously started two companies. I may start a third company or join another.”
Erika Alba, a Jacksonville lobbyist who chairs AIF’s board of directors, said, “Barney has accomplished great things at AIF by rebuilding our membership and enhancing our effectiveness in the halls of the Florida Capitol.”
Bishop, who earned more than $400,000 in the AIF post, drew some heat from board members in July, months after he caused a stir by declaring that the “number one job of our board (is) to defeat Bill Nelson.”
AIF’s board is not publicly disclosed by the organization. But a member acknowledged that Bishop’s comment may have got him crossways with some influential corporate backers of Florida’s senior U.S. senator, a Democrat.
But AIF, whose membership is eclipsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce as a business lobby, has always had outsized personalities at its helm. Preceding Bishop was Jon Shebel, a six-foot-six-inch, ex-Marine who led the organization for more than 30 years until his 2006 retirement.
AIF is also renowned for its annual pre-legislative session cocktail party, which draws thousands to the organization’s Georgian-styled headquarters a block from the Governor’s Mansion. But in an age of business consolidation, some lobbyists have questioned how long the Chamber and AIF, which have many overlapping members, issues and candidate endorsements, can endure as separate entities.
No successor to Bishop has been named.