By Melanie Padgett Powers
WHEN OMAR FRANCO was hired by Becker & Poliakoff to create and lead a Washington, D.C., office for the firm’s lobbying practice in 2011, he knew he wanted a collaborative team that could bring a variety of backgrounds and opinions. But he also relied on his longtime Florida ties to seek out the best leaders he knew with Capitol Hill experience.
Franco, who is Cuban-American, first hired Clarence
Williams, who is African-American. The two had become
respected colleagues when they were chiefs of staff for
Florida state legislators. Both later worked for Florida
congressmen on Capitol Hill. Next came Amanda Wood,
a white woman, who also started out in Florida before
becoming a legislative director on Capitol Hill. Last
summer, the group added John Ariale, a white man, who
served as a chief of staff for a Florida congressman.
Florida and Capitol Hill connect the team, but their
race, ethnicity and gender differences offer a variety of
viewpoints to their clients, which include businesses,
trade and professional associations, local governments
and advocacy groups. Their diverse makeup engenders
a diversity of thought, which
leads to innovative and suc-
cessful client solutions.
It’s important to “surround
yourself with quality individuals who bring different
perspectives to the table,” Ariale said. He appreciates
being able to brainstorm with the other three lobbyists
and reach a point of view he might not have otherwise
considered, which can lead to more creative approaches for his clients.
“I’ve never worked in such a collaborative place in
my life,” Wood said. “This is a team in the truest sense
of the word.”
Embracing a mix
of minority leadership
of thought and