April 17, 2014

Rod Petrey - Floridian of the Year

Under Rod Petrey, the Collins Center for Public Policy has never been a traditional think tank. In 2010, Petrey took the center to new heights while leaving its mark on two of the year's thorniest issues.

Mike Vogel | 1/1/2011

Rod Petrey
[Photo: Brian Smith]
Both Florida Trend's Floridian of the Year, Rod Petrey, and the organization he heads, the Collins Center for Public Policy, are obscure names for most Floridians. He has run the think tank since 1992, after former Gov. LeRoy Collins, for whom the center is named, called to plead with him to head it. Collins, terminally ill at the time, told Petrey, "You're my friend. You've got to do something to make this work."

Over the years, Petrey has defined the center's mission as becoming a "think tank with muddy boots." In addition to producing data and reports, it organizes and actively manages programs dealing with issues that the state can't or won't address in a timely way.

During his tenure, Petrey and the center have taken on — usually quietly — long-running Florida issues like sustainability, health and criminal justice. Until two years ago, the center funded its work on

$3 million to $4 million a year Petrey raised from foundations and other donors.

What makes Petrey our Floridian of the Year in 2010 is his and the center's muddy boots on two of the year's most difficult issues for Florida: Oil drilling and the wave of foreclosures that has inundated Florida's courts.

In both arenas, Petrey steered courses that served the state, its citizens and businesses well. In a highly politicized year, he took a practical, even-keel approach that kept the center focused on service and out of politics. In the process, he produced a breakout financial year for his organization that should serve it — and Florida — well in the years to come.

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