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Politics

Capital Movers: Rick McAllister

May 24, 2010 - 6:00pm

From the Florida Retail Federation headquarters on Adams Street in Tallahassee, Rick McAllister oversees efforts to ensure retailers in the state can keep their doors open.

Seated in front of a bookcase containing signed footballs from the Florida Gators and Louisiana State University Tigers, McAllister keeps an eye on the decisions by the state Legislature and governor that could impact the Federations 8,500 company members.

McAllister took a break from his job one morning to speak to Sunshine State News about his job and his life.

What is your job? President and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation

Age? 63

Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born in Shreveport, La., grew up in Alexandria, La., stayed there until I was 40 years old. Got tired of the political shenanigans in the great state of Louisiana and moved to Florida. Now, I live in Tallahassee.

Where did you go to college?
I don't have a college degree. I went to four different universities. Louisiana State University is the one I claim, since I have two sons who graduated from there, and I grew up watching the Fighting Tigers.

What did you do before starting this job?
I spent most of my career in retailing. I owned a couple of retail stores in Louisiana, started when I was 25. Sold electronics and appliances. My last retailing job was chief operating officer of a fairly large convenience store company in Panama City.

When I left there, I started an independent consulting firm for retailers and associations that I ran for 10 years out of Tampa. Then I was recruited by the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association to be their president for three or fours years.

Then I was recruited by the Florida Retail Federation to take over its CEO position in 2004.

What is the biggest success youve had in this job? For a decade, we've ben trying to buy Galley Halls, our historic building that sits across from the Capitol. And this year , we finally did it. We've been here 20 years, but we've been here as a tenant.

Im also proud of the fact that we have continued to grow our advocacy skill and results for our members and have expanded into the Florida Public Service Commission in the last five years. We have literally saved retailers tens and hundreds of millions of dollars because of the work weve done.

What is the biggest disaster youve ever faced? In recent years, one of our biggest disappointments was the gun issue. When, after three years, the National Rifle Association, after a three-year fight, managed to convince the Legislature that it was OK to usurp businesses property rights and force them to allow employees to bring guns on the property.

We took it to court and we got a clarification that says the Second Amendment does not trump property rights, but the Legislature has the right to do it. And thats what they did.

What was the best advice youve ever received about how to do your job, and who gave it?
One great piece is never get ahead of your members. It's important to move at the same pace your members are moving. Alan Whidby, a friend from the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, gave me that advice.

Who is the person you most admire, dead or alive? I'm a big admirer of our founding fathers. Like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. Those people who risked everything they had to give us a a republic at a time when they could have all gone home.

What was your most embarrassing moment in the capital? I'm sure there's been some, but nothing that stands out.

What are your interests outside of work? I like to play golf and fish. I play golf where I live, Golden Eagle Country Club -- although I have been fortunate enough to play at some of the greatest locations in the world. The Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews in Scotland is one of the nicest locations in the world.

And I go fishing with my friend at St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail State Park, the flats out there.

Reach Alex Tiegen at atiegen@sunshinestatenews or (561) 329-5389.

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