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Movers & Shakers: Changes at AIF, DEO

Big changes at DEO

As Jessie Panuccio takes over as head of Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity this week, DEO will see some other interesting changes. 

On Jan. 8, Chad Poppell will begin as the chief of staff and Monica Russell will begin as chief communications officer, according to a news release.

Poppell most recently was director of employee services at the municipally owned electric and water utility in Jacksonville and before that worked as chief of human resources for the city of Jacksonville. Russell was previously a partner at North Public Relations. She worked previously worked at DEO’s predecessor, the Agency for Workforce Innovation. 

Also at DEO, Bill Wilson has been named director of legislative affairs and Theresa “Cissy” Proctor has been named deputy director of legislative affairs. “With the addition of Bill and Cissy to the staff, I am confident that DEO will have knowledgeable and effective legislative representation,” Panuccio said. 

Wilson joins DEO after seven years with the Florida House of Representatives. Proctor joins DEO from the law firm of Bryant Miller Olive, PA, where she has a legal and government consulting practice. Wilson begins his new role at January 17, and Proctor begins January 14.

Diaz elected Miami-Dade chairman 

Nelson Diaz was elected chairman of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party. Diaz is an attorney and shareholder for Becker & Poliakoff.

Diaz has been active in Republican politics in Florida for over 15 years, and previously served as chief legislative aide to the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and now U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. 

“Nelson has been a valuable supporter of mine and of the Republican cause since he was too young to even vote. I enthusiastically support him for Chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party,” Rubio said. 

Florida State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, entered Diaz's name in the nomination for chairmanship, according to a press release. 

Rubio announces staff hires

Rubio announced two new hires joining his Washington office staff. Alberto Martinez is deputy chief of staff and Brooke Sammon as deputy press secretary.

“I'm proud to welcome Albert and Brooke to our team and am excited about the entire staff we have in place for the productive and important year ahead,” Rubio said in a news release.

Martinez is a long serving adviser to Rubio. Most recently, Martinez served as a senior advisor to Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC and the Romney for President campaign. He also served as communications director for the Republican majority during Rubio's term as speaker and as a senior adviser to Rubio’s Senate campaign.

Prior to his work with Rubio, Martinez served as deputy speechwriter for former Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida communications director for former President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004. 

Sammon is returning to Capitol Hill after serving as the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, of Illinois, and U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, of Georgia. Last year, she worked on the Romney for President campaign, where she worked with Rubio as he traveled the country on behalf of the Republican ticket. 

AIF beefs up Washington staff

Having completed his first year as president of Associated Industries of Florida, former congressman and Florida House Speaker Tom Feeneyannounced that AIF will be taking on a more pronounced role in Washington DC.

“What happens on Capitol Hill has an immeasurable impact on Florida employers. AIF’s core mission is to not only advocate on behalf of Florida businesses here in the Sunshine State, but also in the federal halls of power. Beginning this year, we will take a much more active and regular role in Washington, D.C.,” Feeney said in a news release.

The 2013 AIF governmental affairs team will be led by Brewster Bevis, newly named as AIF’s senior vice president of state and federal affairs.

AIF’s General Counsel Tamela Perdue will expand her leadership among AIF’s various councils and coalitions and oversee additional policy development initiatives with the AIF leadership team and membership. 

Additionally, Ryan Tyson, vice president of political operations, will continue to oversee AIF’s recently expanded political operations, including coordinating AIF members’ participation in issue advocacy and electioneering activities. Melissa Luke, a recent political science graduate of Florida State University, also joins the AIF advocacy team as the governmental affairs coordinator.

Jon Costello, Gov. Rick Scott’s former legislative affairs director, now with Rutledge Ecenia, P.A., will serve as AIF’s interim state legislative affairs director and will focus on AIF’s economic development and manufacturing priorities.

In addition to Costello, AIF has added Charlie Dudley and his associates at Floridian Partners, Teye Reeves, Jorge Chamizo and Ken Grangerto the AIF ranks. Doug Mann of Littlejohn and Associates will handle all environmental and agricultural issues for AIF, including the coordination of AIF’s Numeric Nutrient Criteria Taskforce.

Former State Representative Don Brown will focus on property insurance, legal reform and workers’ compensation issues. Tracy and Frank Mayernick also join AIF’s lobby corps and will handle legal reform and assist with health care issues.

Jose L. Gonzalez, who has served as AIF’s vice president of governmental affairs since 2007, will be departing to join as a director of Anheuser-Busch.

New leadership at Blind Services

Florida's Division of Blind Services also has a new leader.

Aleisa McKinlay is now the interim director, in addition to her responsibilities as director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. McKinlay will work both jobs on an interim basis and get a 10 percent salary increase until a permanent director is named. 

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is likely to make the decision after he takes over Jan. 14. The Division of Blind Services is a part of the Department of Education.

McKinlay takes over for Joyce Hildreth, who was ousted after she approved a plan for an employee to resign and come back the next day as a contractor—for double the pay. 

Movers and Shakers is a weekly roundup of political personnel changes. Send tips to or 850-323-0353.