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Movers and Shakers: New hires for Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida Medical Association

Movers and Shakers is back. Sorry for the delay. E-mail Katie Sanders at ksanders [at] sptimes [dot] com with your personnel updates for next week's round-up.

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Florida’s new Department of Economic Opportunity, led by Doug Darling, announced its leadership team on Monday. Cynthia Lorenzo, Agency for Workforce Innovation director, will be the new agency’s chief operating officer.

The department will be comprised of four divisions led by four directors. Michelle Dennard, legal counsel of the Office of Trade, Tourism and Economic Development, will oversee the Division of Strategic Business Development. Tom Beck will lead the Division of Community Development, a branch similar to the one he oversaw within the Department of Community Affairs. AWI assistant director Tom Clendenning will move to the Division of Workforce Services. And Kevin Thompson, AWI’s director of agency support services of nearly a decade, will be the agency’s chief financial officer.

Additional leadership positions include:

  • Michael Ayers as chief of staff. Ayers was chief of staff at AWI since 2010 and was the agency’s legislative director.
  • Debby Kearney as general counsel. Kearney was also general counsel at the Department of Community Affairs and Education.
  • James Mathews as inspector general. He has been in the same job at AWI since 2000.
  • Darrick D. McGhee as legislative and Cabinet affairs director. McGhee has been legislative affairs director for several agencies, including the departments of Education, Business and Progressional Regulation and Elderly Affairs.
  • Dean Izzo as Chief Information Officer. Izzo was CIO at the Department of Community Affairs.

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The Florida Medical Association announced it will keep Executive Vice President Tim Stapleton on for five more years, a position he has held since 2008. Stapleton’s extension came with two more personnel changes. Jeff Scott, formerly director of legal and government affairs, is now general counsel. And Rebecca O'Hara will leave her role as the director of legislative affairs and communications at the Florida League of Cities to be the association’s vice president of governmental affairs.

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JJ Whitson, formerly a communications consultant with Bascom Communications and Consulting, is Sen. John Thrasher’s new legislative assistant. Before he joined Bascom he was the finance director for the “No on Amendment 4” campaign and Thrasher’s 2009 campaign manager for his special election.

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FDLE Special Agent in Charge Jim Madden replaced Ken Tucker as FDLE’s assistant commissioner. Tucker was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as Department of Corrections secretary following the departure of Ed Buss. Madden will be in charge of FDLE’s seven regional operations centers and manage investigative and crime labs.

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Ryan Wiggins, formerly vice president of communications at Florida TaxWatch, became deputy communications director at the Department of Children and Families on Sept. 2.

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Mary E. Leslie joined the Department of Management Services as deputy director of communications about a month ago. She previously worked as public information officer for Leon County Board of County Commissioners and is was a reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat from 2006 to 2008.

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Alex Melendez, a Scott campaign staffer who landed a job at the Department of Corrections as a management analyst, left his job at DOC to join the Mitt Romney campaign in west Florida. Download Alex Melendez Letter of Resignation.


Beth Sutkowy Sweeny, former legislative aide to Sen. Ronda Storms, was named the new coordinator of governmental relations for the St. Johns County School District in August.

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Last but not least, St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald reporter Janet Zink is leaving the Capitol bureau to become communications director of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Her last day is Sept. 23. Zink has worked for the Times since 2002, when she started as a freelancer. Read more in this Times story.