BRADENTON, Fla. — After 30 years at Bryant Miller Olive PA, Randy Hanna will step down Nov. 1 from the Florida-based law firm to become chancellor of the state college system.
Hanna, whose appointment was announced Friday by Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, will oversee the state’s 28 colleges. Most of the colleges offer two-year degrees and certification in such fields as nursing, while some offer four-year bachelor’s degrees.
Robinson cited Hanna’s extensive involvement in higher education, including his prior service as chairman of the boards for community colleges and the Florida College System Foundation, and his membership on the Tallahassee Community College governing board. He is currently a member of the University of West Florida board.
The offer to become chancellor, a full-time job that pays $220,000 a year, came after Hanna decided recently to step down as Bryant Miller’s managing shareholder after 14 years in that post, he said Tuesday. Hanna said he would miss working with clients and colleagues in public finance, though he expects his background as a bond attorney will be helpful in his position as chancellor.
“A large part of this job is working with the Legislature to help determine the best funding levels and to help meet space needs,” he said. “These are things I have been involved in my entire career.”
At Bryant, Hanna said he worked on “some of the smallest to some of the largest transactions in the state” in almost every sector. “There are several that stand out,” he said. “Clearly, my participation in the Strand, Cedar Grove, and Parker cases was a highlight.”
Hanna was lead counsel in those three cases, which involved challenges to Florida’s tax-increment financing law.
In Strand, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that TIF bonds must be approved by voters in a referendum. That ruling, which disrupted TIF bond issuance in Florida for over a year, would have overturned decades of state law if the court had not ultimately reversed its decision in 2008.
Arguing before the Florida Supreme Court on the Everglades Restoration case was also a highlight of his career, according to Hanna. “But it was just as meaningful to help a small community finance their first water tower,” he said.
With so many changes in the muni market the past few years, and more potentially on the horizon, he said the pace of being a bond attorney “has gotten much faster since I started as a lawyer.”
“We need to be careful about that,” Hanna advised. “I have a long-time partner, Elise Judelle, the first female bond lawyer in Florida, who constantly reminds us that every time we open a file we should re-read the law. That needs to continue to be stressed not only to the youngest lawyers, but also to those of us who have practiced for many years.”
During Hanna’s tenure as managing shareholder, Bryant Miller grew from 10 attorneys and consultants to 50, and added four new offices to the existing three. He also expanded services beyond the public finance practice that began when the firm was established in 1970. They include state and local government, affordable housing, energy and utilities, environment, labor and employment, property, public-private partnerships, public policy, government consulting, corporate trust, litigation, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights.
Grace Dunlap, an attorney in the firm’s Tampa office, recently was named to replace Hanna as managing shareholder. He “will be missed by everyone at the firm,” she said. “But we know that he will work hard to make the higher educational opportunities in our state more successful.”
Hanna represented clients throughout the country, including more than 150 Florida counties and municipalities, working on complex infrastructure, higher education, utilities, affordable housing and private transportation facilities.
He graduated from the University of Florida, earned a law degree at Florida State and an MBA at Emory University.
Nationwide this year, Bryant Miller is ranked 30th as bond counsel and 12th as disclosure counsel, according to Thomson Reuters. In Florida, so far this year the firm is ranked third as bond counsel and first as disclosure counsel.