Even though they are often at odds with industry lobbyists, some environmental group representatives say they'll miss Wade Hopping, who died today from complications from a stroke and esophageal cancer. He was 77.
Hopping's law firm represents many of the state's largest companies and industry groups, often putting him at odds with environmentalists on wildlife, climate, land-use and other regulatory issues.
Even so, "He was what one would always call a worthy adversary," veteran environmental lobbyist David Gluckman said.
“I'll miss working with him," said Eric Draper, deputy director of Audubon of Florida.
Hopping, a Republican, was a legal aide to Gov. Claude Kirk in 1968 when Kirk appointed him as the youngest Justice in the history of the Florida Supreme Court. Hopping was defeated for election to a full term on the court. He managed a Jacksonville law firm's Tallahassee office before forming his own law partnership in 1979.
Clients represented by the Hopping Green & Sams firm and its 52 lawyers include the Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the Florida Home Builders Association, the Association of Florida Community Developers, Florida Power & Light Co., Progress Energy Florida, Waste Management Inc. the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
"(I) never really agreed with him on much but he always was a gentleman," said Kurt Spitzer, another environmental lobbyist.
Gluckman said Hopping's industry clients had little environmental consciousness in the 1970s when they began their lobbying careers on opposing sides. But Gluckman said Hopping guided his clients towards more moderate positions on the environment that the public demanded.
"There were a number of times -- in the general environmental community -- he was portrayed as the bad guy," said Gluckman, who retired in 2006. "That was often from people who saw him and not the people he represented and could not differentiate between the two. We all had our places."
Draper said Hopping was interested in an outcome, not just picking a fight.
"We have a lot of lobbyists -- newer, younger people -- who represent the industry on environmental issues who could care less about the effect of what they do," Draper said. "They're just interested in winning and making money. With Wade, there was always a sense of public service about him."
Gov. Charlie Crist told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that he was saddened by the news of Hopping's death and called him a "great public servant." The governor ordered that flags be flown at half-mast until Thursday in a tribute to the former Supreme Court justice.
"Wade Hopping was a brilliant man," he said. "I consider him a dear friend."
(Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)