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For chief financial officer

A Times Editorial
Published October 22, 2006


There is no race on the general election ballot with two stronger candidates than the one for Florida's chief financial officer. Outgoing Senate President Tom Lee, the Republican, was an effective advocate for sound financial planning in the Legislature and courageously stood up to the special interests. Former banking executive Alex Sink, the Democrat, has extensive financial experience and an exemplary record of public service. While either candidate would be a welcome addition to the state Cabinet, the edge goes to Sink for her strong business background, familiarity with the state and fresh approach she would bring to Tallahassee.

Sink, 58, spent more than two dozen years in banking and worked her way up. The Thonotosassa resident spent seven years in top management roles for NationsBank, where she headed the Florida operations and then the private banking division, and for Bank of America, where she headed the Florida operations again before retiring in 2000. She cites particular achievements in championing diversity, embracing a management style that included spending considerable time with employees in bank branches, and helping coordinate the bank's emergency response efforts after Hurricane Andrew. Her background in banking and managing large bureaucracies makes her ideally suited to become the CFO, who keeps track of the state's money and as a member of the Cabinet helps oversee the state pension fund.

Outside banking, Sink has been a leader in other areas as well. She chaired Leadership Florida, which is affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce; led Gov. Lawton Chiles' commission that recommended ways to make government more accountable; and served as vice chairwoman of Florida TaxWatch. That broad experience gives her a detailed knowledge of both the public and private sectors that is rarely found in a first-time candidate. Her party affiliation and her gender also would bring some diversity to the governor and Cabinet, which now is all Republican and all male.

Sink pledges to carefully scrutinize government contracts to ensure they are properly bid and to closely monitor the effectiveness of government services that have been privatized. The CFO also will play a key role in tackling the homeowners insurance crisis. Sink has reasonable suggestions to make it easier for insurers to tap into the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund for reinsurance, push for a regional solution by coastal states and encourage mitigation.

In the state Senate, Lee was a strong advocate for better state financial planning and pushed for a constitutional amendment that is on the ballot. The 44-year-old Valrico home builder led the fight to strengthen growth management laws and provide more money for roads. Most importantly, he stood up to the powerful lobbyists and forced his colleagues in the Legislature to pass a lobbying reform bill that requires lobbyists to disclose their fees and includes a ban on lawmakers accepting gifts and free meals. His valiant effort to eliminate the slush funds controlled by legislative leaders failed only because other lawmakers lacked his independence and willingness to forgo huge contributions from special interests.

But Lee wasn't perfect. The insurance bill passed by the Legislature had some positive provisions but came up woefully short in addressing the crisis and providing relief to homeowners. His last-minute decision to remove as majority leader a Miami senator who opposed the governor on school vouchers was unnecessary - although it brought Lee an endorsement from Gov. Jeb Bush.

Voters have two solid candidates to consider for chief financial officer, but one offers a bit broader experience and background. For chief financial officer, the Times recommends Alex Sink.

[Last modified October 22, 2006, 07:06:21]

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