Maggie D. Mooney-Mooney-Portale knows she has big shoes to fill.
Last week the town chose Portale to replace 23-year town attorney David Persson, whom the city of Venice chose as its town attorney Jan. 22. Portale is still discussing her start date with the town.
Although she’s keenly aware she was chosen, in part, because the Longboat Key Town Commission knows she can tap into Persson’s knowledge when needed (because she’s an attorney with the same law firm, Sarasota-based Hankin, Persson, McClenathen, Cohen & Darnell), she intends to form a bond with commissioners and make her own mark.
“My hope is to sit down with each commissioner,” Portale said. “They interviewed me, and now I would like to interview them to get a sense of who they are and what their objectives are.”
Born and raised in Coconut Grove, Portale received a bachelor’s degree in communications at Florida State University. During her time in Tallahassee, she worked full time for a lobbyist who represented many national and local corporations.
“I always thought I wanted to be a lobbyist, until I went to law school,” Portale said.
Portale received her law degree in 2002 from the University of Florida and completed an internship with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection while in school.
Upon graduation, she worked for two years with an insurance defense law firm, handling litigation.
“I handled employee-discrimination cases, car crashes, injuries and everything in between,” Portale said. “It was good experience, but I quickly learned it wasn’t for me.”
Before joining Hankin, Persson, McClenathen, Cohen & Darnell in January, Portale worked at the national law firm of Lewis, Longman & Walker for almost nine years, became a partner and opened the firm’s Bradenton office.
In law school, Portale’s specialization was environmental/land use, and when Lewis, Longman & Walker, an environmental and land-use boutique law firm, was looking for an associate to help open its Bradenton office, Portale said “the stars aligned.” Portale worked for the firm during the height of the building boom.
“Manatee County was exploding with development issues,” said Portale, who worked on a myriad of land-use challenges developers face.
“My specialty became more government-focused,” Portale said. “The more local government I did, the more I realized I really liked it.”
Portale accepted an offer in January from Hankin, Persson, McClenathen, Cohen & Darnell to further her government specialty, which led to her submitting her name to work as the town’s attorney.
Portale’s practice focuses on governmental law, special taxing districts, land use, administrative law and litigation.
She also serves as general and special counsel for special districts, including the Southern Manatee, North River and Parrish fire districts. Portale has also worked in the past as counsel for the Manatee County Port Authority. She helped with litigation concerning a dredging project at Port Manatee.
Portale says she expects “a good portion of her practice” will now be spent working for the town of Longboat Key.
“It’s such an interesting town with a lot of active folks,” Portale said. “I look forward to learning all about it and serving the town in any way I can.”