Ken Tucker has brought stability to the Florida Department of Corrections, but he might not be around much longer. The fifth man to run the prison system in the past six years is angling for a new job.
On the job for less than a year as chief of the nation's third-largest prison system, Tucker has told his senior staff and Gov. Rick Scott's office that he may leave as soon as October. He has applied for the directorship of an anti-drug initiative between the federal and state governments called the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), and has made his intentions very clear to senior staff in the agency and to Scott's people.
"He did apply for the position, and he spoke with the governor's office first," said Tucker's spokeswoman, Ann Howard.
Tucker's long career in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement may make him a logical fit for the new position: HIDTA works with FDLE in Northeast Florida on drug cases -- the kind Tucker worked on regularly earlier in his career. In addition, Tucker's roots are in that part of the state (he's a native of Bunnell and worked as a cop in Daytona Beach) and he and his wife are looking forward to living there once again, Howard said.
Tucker would have been gone by next spring anyway: His retirement in the state's DROP program is March 2013. Leaving sooner rather than later would give the governor's office time to groom a new prisons chief before the next legislative session begins next March.
Tucker, 58, would be the eighth high-level agency head to depart since Scott took office 19 months ago. The national HIDTA director, Michael Gottlieb, works in the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the White House.
Even though he had no experience in corrections, Tucker was hired from FDLE to take over last August after Scott and his former chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, decided to dismiss Ed Buss, who had been highly recruited from Indiana but who soon ran afoul of the governor's office.
-- Steve Bousquet