Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried tapped Miami attorney and former congressional candidate Mary Barzee Flores last week to serve as the new deputy commissioner for Consumer Affairs.
Barzee, a pro-gun control advocate, and critic of the National Rifle Association, will oversee the consumer services aspects of the department, which include the concealed weapons permitting and licensing program.
“I’m honored to join an administration focused on protecting consumer rights and the interests, safety, and security of all Floridians,” Flores told the Tampa Bay Times last week.
Barzee brings a wealth of judicial and legal experience into her new role as deputy commissioner. She attended law school at the University of Miami, before going on to work in private practice as an attorney. Shortly after, she joined the federal Office of the Public Defender in Miami, where she served for 12 years.
In 2002, Barzee ran for an open seat for circuit court judge and won after her opponent dropped out of the election to run for the House. In 2011 she left the bench for private practice with the Miami law firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff and Sitterson. In 2016, she was hand-picked by President Barack Obama to be a nominee for district court judge in the Southern District of Florida, but Sen. Marco Rubio blocked the nomination, accusing her of not disclosing support from the ACLU and Emily’s List, an abortion rights group.
This past election cycle, Flores ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Rubio ally U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in Congressional District 25, which includes most of northwestern Miami-Dade and extends across the Everglades.
During her campaign, Barzee stressed her support for gun control and opposition to the National Rifle Association.
“I am 100 percent committed to taking on the NRA and enacting policies to end our country’s epidemic of senseless gun violence that for too long has left our most vulnerable communities to suffer in silence,” she said on her campaign website.
Grea Bevis, the director of the Division of Licensing, resigned effective Jan. 11. A 2013 lawsuit from a former supervisor in former Commissioner Adam Putnam's department alleged Bevis and another supervisor told her she “worked for the NRA” and pointed to “gross misconduct.”
The lawsuit came about after a Tampa Bay Times report found that Putnam's office revoked 291 concealed weapons permits from people who should have been disqualified after an employee failed to review the results of a national background check for more than a year.
This ultimately proved to a factor in Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign for the Republican nomination that was ultimately won by the current governor, Ron DeSantis in the 2018 primary election.
Commissioner Fried and her new deputy commissioner look to clean up the mess from the previous administration while pushing for stronger gun control regulations to make Florida a safer state.