Merritt Martin, 32

1 Posted by - September 29, 2014 - 2014, Tampa 2014

State Legislative Affairs Director, Moffitt Cancer Center

Merritt Martin always knew she wanted to be in politics. The fascination started when her dad pulled her out of school in third grade to watch Gov. Lawton Chiles’s inauguration.

But Martin isn’t interested in running for office. “With term limits, there are so many people that come and go,” Martin says. “I want to be here more than eight years.”

In college and grad school she volunteered for several campaigns. Upon graduation she worked for the American Cancer Society, running a campaign for a cigarette tax. After that, she helped run Fla. Rep. Bill Heller’s campaign for re-election. When she heard about the opening at Moffitt for a legislative affairs director, she recognized a fitting combination of her American Cancer Society experience with her experience at the Legislature.

The position has been her perfect match. Last year she was able to help raise $50 million for Moffitt. Martin says it’s a matter of educating politicians on how big Moffitt is, especially because Tallahassee has new faces every few years. Moffitt is the third-largest cancer center in the country, and the fastest growing with the aging population, Martin says. Moffitt also trains more oncologists in Florida than any other institution.

Martin jokes that she can’t get away from the University of South Florida campus. She received her bachelor’s in political science and her master’s in public administration from the school, and now works on campus at Moffitt.

“I’m definitely not done with Moffitt,” Martin says. There are around 30 acres on campus that need a couple more buildings, she adds.

Martin hopes to bring funding for research to match the level of care in Texas. “When I started here, the research pot was zero,” she says. “That money is going to save lives.”

— Traci McMillan Beach

Q&A

City of residence: Tampa

Birthplace: Lakeland

Years on the Gulf Coast: 14

Marital status/children: Married. Daughter, Logan (4 months)

Alma mater: University of South Florida

Best place to network: Oxford Exchange, Mise en Place

Coolest business experience: During the 2012 legislative session, our team was successful in securing enough additional funding to build a new outpatient facility. That summer we were able to celebrate with a ground breaking ceremony. It was amazing to see hard work pay off into something so tangible that will help thousands of patients and create hundreds of jobs.

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Own your mistakes before anyone even realizes you made them.

One website that makes your job easier: Lobbytools

One community group you’re most involved with: University of South Florida Alumni Board, Executive Committee

Favorite off-hours activity: Spending time with my daughter and husband.

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: My grandfathers in their prime. They were both amazingly accomplished in very different ways. I would have loved to have met as they served as a state representative and a World War II pilot.

Best award you ever received: Young Professional of the Year (2011 Best in Business Awards)

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Climbing an active volcano in Guatemala.

What’s at the top of your bucket list: More travel, an African safari and Thailand are definitely on the list.

What new skill would you like to learn: another language, any other language!

Who would play you in a movie about your life: When I was little, I would hear daily that I looked just like Drew Barrymore in ET…. Still happens once and a while.

If I had a magic wand I’d: add at least 10 more hours to every day

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