MIRAMAR, Fla. – Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has something to say about the stickers of her face that are prominently affixed to gas station pumps throughout the state: "It's working."
Fried, during a news conference Thursday to discuss the growing risk of gas pump skimmer fraud in South Florida, addressed the controversy surrounding her decision to modify the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services certification stickers.
"They're seeing that there's somebody who is accountable to what is happening at the gas station pumps," Fried said.
Whenever Fried's office conducts a gas pump inspection, a certification sticker is affixed to it. Unlike her Republican predecessor, Adam Putnam, who used the department's logo, Fried is using her smiling face.
Fried said the intent behind the sticker is "making sure that the consumer is aware that there's somebody there who is watching out for their best interests."
"That has always been our priority and that will continue to be our priority," she said.
Fried said the attention that the decal has received is proof that the strategy is working.
"Most people in the state of Florida didn't even know that there was a sticker on the gas station pumps until this change happened," Fried said.
But the change has prompted backlash from the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, which included language in a budget implementation bill that requires the stickers to have "only a combination of lettering, numbering, words or the department logo."
"Our legal team is looking into it, but we're assessing it to see if, in fact, something has to be done for the future," Fried said.
Nevertheless, her office has purchased the stickers with her face on them for "almost the entire state already."
Fried said that, since the implementation bill takes effect July 1, the stickers are "connected to future purchases."
The 41-year-old attorney from Fort Lauderdale is the lone Democrat in the Florida Cabinet. She narrowly defeated Republican nominee Matt Caldwell in the November election and is the first woman elected to the position.