Rick Scott's Open Government Chief Carolyn Timmann Stepping Down at Year's End
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"I want to run for clerk of the circuit court back home in Martin County," Timmann said. "It's the job I've always wanted and it seems to me all of my training has been leading me to that seat."
Timmann, 52, has worked in the state Capitol since 1992, serving as chief legislative assistant to Tom Warner in the House of Representatives (1992-1999); special assistant to Warner as solicitor general under Attorney General Charlie Crist (1999-2006); coordinator of the activities of 150 citizens and officials in the transition office of Gov.-Elect Charlie Crist (2006); and serving in the executive office of Crist under the weighty title of executive deputy chief of staff over military affairs, veterans affairs, commission on disabilities, Volunteer Florida and public private partnerships (2007-2010).
Timmann told Sunshine State News, "I'm not leaving the governor's office so much as I'm trying to win a job that doesn't come open very often."
Marsha Stiller Ewing, the popular clerk of the circuit court in Martin County, has held the office virtually unopposed for 26 years. She announced in May she will not seek her eighth full term.
Said Timmann, "I have been happy in the office of open government since the day I started, and I believe I play an important role."
She admitted there have been changes and adjustments, particularly since the days she interacted with the department under Crist. Crist's management style was loose and generally undemanding. As governor, he was unencumbered by an overly challenging press, leaving the open government office to sort out media requests mostly for appointments applications and the governor's calendar.
Scott's leadership team, however, came in from the outside, from the private sector, facing a hostile press that neither trusted the new governor nor thought him worthy of occupying the governor's mansion. For the first half of Scott's first year, while Mike Prendergast was chief of staff, Timmann stayed within the flow of the governor's office. But when Steve MacNamara replaced Prendergast, her office first was placed under a deputy, then a month later under the governor's general counsel.
MacNamara runs a tight ship, opting to control information that comes out of the governor's office. Timmann, for example, who largely serves the media, is allowed to talk to reporters on background but is not available to be quoted. So is the office of the general counsel.
Certainly Timman's role has been a busy one. Since Jan. 4, the executive office of the governor has received 1,196 public records requests. She said these varied in scope from requests for individual documents or lists, to very broad, complex searches for electronic and printed materials.
Said Timmann, "Since I came into the office here in Governor Scott's administration, we've logged an average 100 requests for documents made per month to the executive office of the governor. That compares with an average 19 per month for public records -- or a total of 899 requests between 2007 and 2010 -- representing all the years Charlie Crist was governor."
According to office records, the numbers in the office of communications and/or open government break down as follows:
- Media requests received: 707.
- Media requests completed: 678.
- Media requests in process: 29.
- Of these requests, 96 percent have been completed.
In addition, the office of open government separately processed 489 requests for documents from nonmedia. These requests, Timmann explained, came from individuals, law firms, legislative offices and businesses:
- Nonmedia requests received: 489.
- Nonmedia requests completed: 479.
- Nonmedia requests in process: 10.
- Of these requests, 98 percent have been completed.
She said none of these statistics described above include the numerous direct referrals to other government agencies and requests for information the communications and open government offices receive on a regular basis.
Described by colleagues in the Capitol as loyal, meticulous, accommodating and a no-shortcuts detail person, Timmann is spending much of her time these days rounding up the last of the reports from Scott's transition teams.
Timmann over the years has overcome heavy personal odds, the most trying of which was the death of her husband in 2006.
Robert Timmann, 49, a former Martin County sheriff's detective, was among four American civilians and eight U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq in the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter. The crash occurred one week after he had been home for Christmas vacation, enjoying the holiday with Carolyn and his two children, Shannon, 19, and Morgan, 15.
He had been training Iraqi law enforcement officers as an international police liaison for Irving, Texas-based DynCorp International.
"I still have trouble thinking about it," Carolyn Timmann said Monday. "What helped us most of all was the incredible outpouring of love and support we got from all of our friends back home in Martin County. That meant more than I can possibly express."
Following her husband's death, while working in Crist's office, Timmann initiated and oversaw Fallen Soldier and National Guard Combat Service recognition projects to honor Florida's deployed service members and fallen heroes.
Timmann was born in Connecticut, grew up and went to high school in Ohio, then began a course of study in veterinary medicine at the University of Georgia. Because her parents moved to Stuart, Fla., she lost her eligibility for the program. Ultimately, she received her bachelor's degree at the University of Florida. Following the death of her husband, she had to cut short work on her master's degree at Florida State University.
In October she obtained a certificate from FSU in public records management.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.