Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday appointed five people to the South Florida Water Management District’s board, continuing his push to reshape the agency charged with protecting water supplies, guarding against flooding and leading Everglades restoration.
The new faces include a Tea Party activist as well as attorneys and an engineering consultant who have represented South Florida developers.
They come on board at a time when environmentalists warn that Scott’s proposed deep spending cuts at the district threaten to derail already-overdue Everglades restoration.
The new appointees will now help lead an anticipated change in direction – including hiring a new executive director along with spending cuts – for the state’s largest water management district, which touches 16 counties reaching from Orlando to the Keys.
"All I can say is hold onto your hats," said Charles Lee, of Audubon of Florida. "The district is going to need very creative leadership. … We are very concerned."
Scott’s initial appointees to the nine-member, volunteer board include:
Daniel DeLisi, 37, of Estero will represent southwestern Florida. He is a planning and engineering consultant whose term lasts until March 2015.
James Moran, 63 of West Palm Beach fills Palm Beach County’s long-standing vacancy on the district board. Moran, a Tea Party activist, is an attorney whose term lasts until March 2015.
Daniel O’Keefe, 43, of Windermere is a real estate attorney who will represent areas near Lake Okeechobee, including Glades, Okeechobee, Highlands, Polk, Orange and Osceola counties. His term ends March 2012.
Timothy Sargent, 41, of West Palm Beach is a chief financial officer for Huizenga Holdings Inc. His term lasts until March 2014.
Scott also chose to move current district board member Glenn Waldman, 51, of Weston from a multi-county seat on the board into Broward County’s vacancy on the district board. Waldman’s new term expires in March 2014.
The new leadership comes at a time when the district needs to hire an executive director and brace for what could become a 30 percent budget cut as Scott and the Legislature seek to take more control of district spending.
The potential for more than $100 million in spending cuts and the change in leadership have environmental groups sounding the alarm over the district’s ability to continue Everglades restoration.
Outgoing District Board member Eric Buermann said the proposed spending cuts threaten to bring the state’s Everglades restoration efforts to "a grinding halt."
The stormwater storage and treatment areas envisioned for protecting what remains of the Everglades’ unique environment are also vital to protecting South Florida’s water supply, Buermann said."Eventually there will be a realization that you have got to continue restoration," said Buermann, the former district chairman. "It’s something that has to be done. … It’s the water supply."