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Movers & Shakers: New hires at Governor's Office, FMA, Southern Strategies

Weatherford appoints appropriations chair

Incoming House speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, named Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, as his appropriations chair. This is Weatherford's first major committee assignment.

Here's an excerpt from the announcement.

"Seth's expertise and background as a small business owner, a former Lakeland City Commissioner and the previous Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee will prove to be invaluable as we manage our state's future budget priorities. Representative McKeel has demonstrated a commitment to putting the priorities of our state over his own interests and will serve the House well as we develop an appropriations plan in the coming months."

Keith Fitzgerald hires new communications director

Matt Harringer has left his job as a legislative assistant to Republican state Senator Paula Dockery to work as communications director for Sarasota congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald campaign recently ran into some hot water over partisan comments posted by their former spokesperson, Ana Maria Rosato, on her personal blog.

Fitzgerald is trailing in the polls against Republican incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.

“Vern Buchanan’s constituents are fed up with partisan politics and their corrupt congressman,” Harringer said. “Keith Fitzgerald is the best candidate to represent all of the district’s voters, Republican or Democrat. And I’ll be working hard to share that message.”

Sen. Mike Bennett's chief legislative aide moves to Southern Strategies

Legislative aide Cheryl Ennis has accepted a position with the Tallahassee office of lobbying firm Southern Strategies. 

Ennis is "terming out" with her boss Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, after 10 years of working for him. In her new position, Ennis expects to be handling the firm's bill flow, she said.

She will begin her new position December 1.

"I've loved my time with Sen. Bennett and if he wasn't going away I'd still be with him," she said. "But I'm looking forward to a new opportunity and challenge."

Door revolves at Gov. Rick Scott's communications office

Lane Wright, press secretary for Gov. Rick Scott, is moving to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Wright will be replaced by Deputy Press Secretary Jackie Schutz.

"Serving Governor Scott as his press secretary has been the greatest honor, and greatest thrill, of my professional life so far. I can’t believe how fortunate I have been. And I can’t express how grateful I am," Wright wrote in a note to colleagues.

The Governor's Office also hired Tom Yu, former director of research for the Republican National Committee, to work on research and writing for Scott.

Executive director steps down from Northwood Shared Resource Center

Ronald Stewart stepped down last week from his position as executive director of Northwood Shared Resource Center, which provides utility computing services for the state.

In a letter to trustees, Stewart was critical of the board, blaming them for a lack of support. He said he couldn't succeed in his role due to "competing agency agendas, unrealistic expectations, and a level of professionalism lacking in the past few months."

New hire at League of Southeastern Credit Unions

The League of Southeastern Credit Unions recently hired Jennifer Martin as its new director of legislative affairs in Florida, according to a release from the League.

Martin joined the League from the Florida Chamber where she was the government affairs coordinator. Her main duties will be representing the League before the Florida Legislature and executive branch, while also helping advocate for credit union issues at the federal level, the release states.

Previous legislative affairs director Jared Ross, was promoted in July to vice president of governmental affairs, overseeing the department’s efforts in both Florida and Alabama.

FMA hires Monte Stevens for newly created position

Florida Medical Association Executive Vice President Timothy J. Stapleton announced that Monte Stevens will be joining the FMA staff on Nov. 1 as director of payment advocacy.

Monte is the director of governmental affairs for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, a position he has held since 2008.

“Physicians are facing a tsunami of new rules and regulations as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the FMA is focused on helping our members navigate these changes," wrote Stapleton. "Monte has an expertise in insurance regulation and legislative affairs and we are excited to add his tremendous skills and talents to our outstanding team at the FMA."

Movers and Shakers is a weekly (sometimes!) roundup of Florida political personnel changes. Send tips to Brittany Alana Davis at or via Twitter @britt_alana.