CARLOS M. CRUZ has an extensive governmental relations practice. Carlos served as a legislative assistant for the pro-tempore of the Florida Senate. His years of service enabled him to become well versed on a variety of local, state and national policy issues. Following his tenure in the Florida Senate, Carlos served as executive assistant to a member of Florida’s elected Cabinet. As the youngest member of the Commissioner of Agriculture’s executive staff, Carlos enabled the department to communicate Florida’s agricultural importance in the new developing arenas of Latin America and other Caribbean nations.
As a former staffer in both the legislative and executive branches of Florida, Carlos has close relationships with legislators and staff.. In the private sector, Carlos worked for various law firms prior to founding Cruz & Co. in 1995.
Carlos was born in Miami and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Administration from Florida International University, where he was a founding member of the Florida NU Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. He received a Juris Doctorate from the Florida State College of Law located in the capital city of Tallahassee.
ROLY MARANTE possesses a deep understanding of Governmental Relations, Hispanic Affairs and communication strategies with special emphasis on the South Florida marketplace, its major employers, and transportation, governmental and economic development agencies. Currently, Roly serves as President of the Marante Strategy Group and as a Managing Partner at AD Nation, a public advocacy firm. He formerly served as Chief of Staff to District 6 Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa. In this capacity, Roly provided key counsel to the Commissioner and the district staff on legislation, media, scheduling and liaison to the Beacon Council – economic development agency, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and emergency and event management. In addition, he served as the BCC liaison to the state intergovernmental lobbying efforts in Tallahassee. He was in charge of the overall direction of the District 6 staff and responsible for administrating the County budget allocated to the office. He served as the main entry point for communication with the Commissioner. In addition, he served as the liaison to the Mayor, County Manager, Assistant County Managers and Department Directors for the Commissioner. During his second year of employment with Miami-Dade County, Roly was honored as runner-up in the County’s “Employee of the Year Program,” A unique distinction for an employee of the County with only two years of service out of a 29,000-member organization.
An alumnus of Florida State University and Florida International University, Marante served as Special Assistant to the Governor for a nine-county region of the state stretching from Osceola and Orange Counties, east to Volusia County and South to Martin County, encompassing over 3 million of Florida’s citizens. In this role, he served as liaison for the Governor’s Office for Statewide Hispanic Affairs. After working from 1997-2001 for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Marante then went on to become the Director of Public Affairs and Business Development for BVK/MEKA, a marketing communications and advertising agency that specializes in Hispanic communications.
His extensive experience in the area of General and Hispanic communications is complimented by his service as a former President & Chief Executive Officer of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce. He was a founding board member of the newly established Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he Chaired the Governmental Affairs Committee, and a former Vice Chairman of the Dade-Hialeah Community Development Corporation. Roly has participated in the Sister Cities program with Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Agadir, Morocco; and Santa Cruise de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain in addition to leading several trade missions abroad. He served as the lead facilitator in attracting a new airline, “Air Europa” to establish direct air service between the Canary Islands and Miami International Airport. He led the efforts to establish an “MOU” with CSX Railroad that enhances the quality of life for the residents of Miami-Dade County. Marante, has also served on the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Attendance Boundaries Committee and the Miami-Dade Monroe WAGES Coalition. He recently graduated the FBI – Miami, Citizens Academy and led an alumni advocacy visit to DC to visit with members of Congress. He is part of the first ever nominating committee for the 2012 Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Board of Directors Search committee.
Marante served as the statewide Hispanic campaign coordinator for the Jeb Bush for Governor Campaign in 1997-98. He was responsible for all statewide GOTV efforts, implementation of media strategy and served as the spokesperson for the statewide Hispanic effort during the campaign. Roly went on to serve as campaign manager for Herman Echevarria for Mayor of the City of Hialeah and later he served as Chief of Staff to Mr. Herman Echevarria, former Council President of the City of Hialeah. He has since successfully managed two re-election campaigns for County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa and served on several leadership roles in the successful campaigns of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Governor Rick Scott, U.S. Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart U.S. Representative David Rivera and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.
Roly Marante has been recognized by the Christian Community Service Agency, American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Junior Achievement, Que Pasa Orlando Magazine, Amigos for Kids, the YMCA and many local schools for his long-standing commitment and active participation in Community and Hispanic Affairs.
FRANCOIS ILLAS. Former Vice President of Corporate Development for Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), Francois Illas was responsible for pre-development project issues including land use, environmental, traffic and general governmental regulation, as well as property acquisition and seller issues.
Mr. Illas’ involvement while at FECI spanned many projects for FECI and its subsidiary companies including a $3 billion transportation and commercial real estate investment, which also represents the United States’ first privately owned and operated intercity passenger rail system connecting Miami and Orlando; Flagler Global Logistics, the largest industrial developer in Florida and an integrated logistics company; Parallel Infrastructure, a nationwide developer, owner and operator of telecommunication towers; and Flagler, a full-service real estate company focused on the commercial office sector.
In 2004 he opened his own consulting firm, Metropolitan Strategic Consulting, Inc., and focused on governmental and political consulting throughout Southeast Florida. His governmental practice specifically focused on procurement, regional and local legislative matters, land use and permits processing. His political practices was focused on regional and local candidates and issues campaigns specifically in the areas of campaign management, fundraising, statistical research, and media production/ placement for these campaigns.
Francois was appointed Chief of Staff by City of Miami Mayor Manuel A. Diaz in 2001 where he served until 2004. During his tenure with this administration he worked on some of the most impactful projects to be achieved by the City of Miami, including the agreement which realized the Port of Miami Tunnel with the Florida Department of Transportation and Miami-Dade County.
François has also worked for Miami-Dade County Public School System, the 4th largest school system in the United States, as the Chief of Staff to School Board Member and former Chairperson Perla Tabares-Hantman.
He brings extensive public relations and advertising experience from his work with the firm of BVK McDonald headquartered in Milwaukee. As a senior accountant executive for campaigns and government relations, he worked on such accounts as the 1998 Jeb Bush Campaign for Governor (Statewide Hispanic Media and Public Relations Campaign), the 1998 Referendum on Statehood for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and a host of other international, Federal, state, county and municipal elections during his years at BVK McDonald.
Francois served as the Campaign Manager for the 2000 Re-election Campaign of Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas. Following the successful re-election of Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, Francois joined the Office of the Mayor where he served as a Senior Advisor and Political Director.
François Illas attended Boston University and graduated from Florida International University. During his post graduate academic work at Florida International University, he completed his Scholars Certification at George Washington’s Graduate School of Campaign and Political Management.
He has served on the Miami Dade County Public Schools 21st Century Bond Committee, the Miami Dade County Charter Review Committee (2008) and City of Doral Charter Review Committee (2009 & 2010).
LAUREN BEDFORD primarily works with clients at the state level as they navigate the legislative process in Tallahassee.
Lauren previously worked state and local campaigns with the Republican Party of Florida, where she also interned for the Chairman of the Republican Party’s Chief of Staff. After her time at the party, Lauren promoted free market ideals with a national think tank and advocacy network.
In her free time Lauren serves as a Committee Woman with the Leon County Republican Executive Committee and a board member of the Stacey Webb Arts Foundation.
Lauren is a proud graduate of the Florida State University with a B.S. in Economics with minors in History and Political Science.