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Nancy Smith

Appointment Oversight? What's That? Happy Honeymoon, Gov. DeSantis

January 28, 2019 - 8:00am

You knew Gov. Ron DeSantis' thank-you paybacks were coming. 

Every new Florida governor we've seen in the last 40 years -- and probably longer than that -- repaid his loyal campaign staff and supporters with jobs in his administration. It's a normal, if immoral right of passage in Tallahassee. You just hold your breath and hope he won't appoint too many square pegs to round holes.

But this year it strikes me as especially egregious.

DeSantis, remember, is the hero mainstream media celebrate for yanking 46 "lame," last-minute Rick Scott appointments.

Maybe some of the Scott critics should shudder to think who DeSantis is going to put in their place.  

I Beg to DifferLook at the pile of mismatches the governor has installed in critical state agencies so far. I'm going to cite just a handful  (which doesn't even include recently departed Secretary of State Mike Ertel)

Chad Poppell. He's our new secretary of the 10,000-plus-employee Department of Children and Families (DCF). Zero experience protecting children, zero promoting strong families or advancing personal or family recovery. But he did quit as secretary of the Department of Management Services in 2017 to lobby state government for campaign donor IBM. DCF apparently did get a number of large contracts from IBM recently ... 

Chad Poppell


Danny Burgess. He's the governor's 32-year-old executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. Elected to the Zephyrhills City Council in 2005, while he was still in college, Burgess has always pursued elected office. Right out of law school he was commissioned in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve as a first lieutenant and continues to serve with the rank of captain. But he has absolutely no administrative experience. Perhaps not a political appointment, but certainly a questionable one. Veterans who have served beyond the Reserves, in a theater of war, are telling me, "We don't get it."

Danny Burgess


Jordan Wiggins. Who knew the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had a new deputy chief of staff until Friday, when Tampa Bay Times environmental writer Craig Pittman introduced us. Wiggins, 33, has never worked for a wildlife agency before, or for any other state agency. But he did raise a lot of money to help get DeSantis elected and after that he helped run his inauguration, which earned him a rewards card. Pittman reminds us, on Jan. 10 DeSantis "emphasized his interest in ensuring the use of sound science at the state’s environmental agencies" -- to which Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club responded, “The appointment of somebody who doesn’t have any wildlife experience (Wiggins) would make one wonder whether DeSantis was being genuine.” You think?

Jordan Wiggins


And there are any number of downcard appointments that have nothing to do with qualifications, but in all honesty, the state is unlikely to crumble if they fail. Still, I can't help drawing your attention to the governor's director of appointments, Makenzi Mahler, age 23. She was deputy finance director for the DeSantis-Nuñez campaign, another rewards card entitlement. Dial up her Facebook page. It's an application for a job.

Makenzi Mahler


I'm hoping Mahler will grow into the job. She has a way to go. Last week she telephoned Melanie Peterson, formerly of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, asking what Peterson's intentions were, would she resign from the SFWMD board early or continue to serve out her term? She was clueless Peterson was long gone. 

"It wasn't much of a conversation," Peterson told me. "I informed her I had already resigned to Governor Scott (effective Jan. 1)."

"A governor who sends little girls to do his business doesn't give me much confidence," she said. "At least I served a governor who called people directly like a real man."

I admit, I really do need to look more thoroughly at DeSantis' picks so far. DCF secretary, executive director of Veterans Affairs, deputy chief of staff for Fish and Wildlife -- these are mighty big slots. Seems to me the governor has tried to mate a Great Dane with a Yorkie. If Rick Scott had appointed these people, the media would have crushed him like a grape. 

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 


Good work, Nancy. But I've got to interject that De Santis is not a widely-known Florida fixture. I'm getting the story, but he had to make some appointments - and they are not permanent 4-year jobs. Let's watch what happens over his first year. "There is nothing so constant as CHANGE".

Thank you, Nancy. No one else on the Right would have the guts to tell us what we hate but need to hear.

Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle! Well, DeSantis did run for the job proclaiming himself to be a TrumpNut. So, maybe he's staffing his inner-circle trying to match the same level of expertise, competence, and forethought that Trump did! (Thus far, seven of Herr Drumpf's inner circle indicted or on the way to the hoosegow ... with, undoubtedly, more to come!)

"The "spikey-gel-haired-crowd-from-nursery-too-'Mount Olympus'-without-enough-experience-nor-common-sense-to-cross-a-street-without-constant-Adult-Supervision-! WE CITIZENS, conversely, are "in the hands of cell-phone wielding idiots", who "break down" at every percieved obstacle appearing before them in their "percieved ascension to greatness"... "WOE BE UNTO US !"

Nancy, Its a little early to deliver the blows. I would give it a little time. Governor Scott has some serious mis steps when he first came into office - bringing in outsiders that has zero clue how Florida government worked, especially that Lawyer from DC who didnt even know that certain agency heads needed cabinet confirmation. I tend to agree that these appointments are political, but its not like Rick Scott has rocket scientists in these positions. During the last 6 months of the Scott administration, nobody even knew what the cabinet director did - they sure didnt hold many cabinet meetings. These are positions for young people to learn and grow. While I tend to agree with some of your comments, I think you should give it a little time. As for the criticism of Poppel, he was known as a solid DMS secretary.

Come on, Nancy! this article is a joke. If one of these individuals "falls down on the job," well, then by all means, write the story that they fell down on the job and perhaps it had something to do with a lack of experience. Attacking Danny Burgess' appointment - are you kidding me? you really are losing it. And while Chad Poppell may not pass the Nancy test, he was an incredibly capable Secretary at DMS. With all of the many jobs that that agency performs, they need a strong administrator (finally) and they will get that in Poppell. Stop stalking people on Facebook and do your job, which last time I checked, is not being Governor. You don't get to appoint people to positions, and candidly, nobody is asking for your advice. You do get to judge them on their performance - stick to that!

Nancy is just running her liberal mouth because her precious little socialist Gillium didnt get in. She already has DDS as well as TDS. I hold no value to her opinion

What is DDS and TDS?

guess timmy doesn't read smith much. she is not one of ours. did everything she could to get desantis elected. now she's stuck with his sorry behind.

Timmy! PAY ATTENTION! Miss Nancy is a very long-time, very dedicated, very committed rightwingnut! Calling her "liberal" and a supporter of "socialist Gillum" is about as bassackwardly uninformed as anybody could possibly be. (Unless, of course, you were just trying to be totally supercilious here?)

Nancy is doing because Big Surgar pays her salary.

Learn to spell before you spit out your political bias.

Rick Scott was controlled by Big Sugar. Look at the record.

That's why Scott was persecuted by the media from the day he took office, was it? Because he was controlled by Big Sugar? Were you around in 2011? Nancy, you make a great point. Every time Rick Scott appointed lame-o's, the media beat him bloody. As they should have. But they stay out of the way for Honeymoon Ron. Why?

Deal with it Big Sugar no longer controls him the way they did with Rick Scott

Trick Rick should not have appointed anybody Nancy. He should have had more respect for Ron De Santis

Naw,...Rick was right in pre-empting Gullim; JUST IN THE UNLIKELY CASE Andrew pulled off a f**k**g MIRACLE !

Nancy is just running her liberal mouth because her precious little socialist Gillium didnt get in. She already has DDS as well as TDS. I hold no value to her opinion

I think Nancy Smith should not judge the appointments, but judge the results. If DeSantis fails then you can kvetch, but to condemn without results is irresponsible. When making appointments you go by your knowledge of the candidate, and less on "hearsay" of people you don't know. I bet when you hire people you use your personal knowledge and instincts over a "resume" that is a literary achievement.

Excellent response to this article. Let him do his job.

Well, appears the "whack-a-moles" & "trolls" are ALL "out of their holes" trying to defend the indefensible: ""Stay the Course" Nancy, you are "sowing the First Amendment row" that your media-contemporaries have all but abandoned... [Kudos to YOU !]

Comments are now closed.

nancy smith


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