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Movers and Shakers: Departures at State as Elder Affairs, Lottery get new hires

This week's edition of Movers and Shakers is packed. It's not a bad thing! Send your personnel news to

Shuffles at Dept. of State
Trey Stapleton made the first edition of Movers and Shakers Jan. 17 by becoming the agency's communications director. A month later, he has moved on to fill the same role at the Republican Party of Florida. Anthony Bonna, the agency's newly appointed legislative affairs director, is on the move too. The Georgetown University finance alumnus resigned from State for a new job as a senior financial management analyst at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Filling Bonna's place is W. Pierce Schuessler, a 2008 FSU political science grad who has worked as a budget manager at State since July. He previously worked in former Gov. Charlie Crist's office as a governmental analyst and briefly was a legislative specialist under former State legislative affairs director Rivers Buford.

Additions to Elder Affairs
Kevin Reilly, a 2008 UF grad and Rick Scott campaign staffer, started a new job as the agency's legislative affairs director today. Reilly previously worked for Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne, as a legislative assistant. Reilly is a former University of Florida student body president and joins a league of campaign staffers filling legislative affairs positions in Scott's administration.
The agency's press shop has a new communications director in Ashley Marshall. Marshall, a Baylor University grad, is a veteran of Scott's campaign. Before that, she worked as a press lead on President George W. Bush's advance team and as a speechwriter and special assistant for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tallahassee PR professional to run Lottery
Cynthia O'Connell, a longtime Tallahassee consulting professional and former UF trustee, is Scott's pick to lead the Florida Lottery. She had worked as the agency's director of research and promotions from September 1987 to July 1991. O'Connell will earn $140,000 annually.

PR professionals team up
John Van Gieson, of Van Gieson Media, and Alisa LaPolt Snow, of Snow Strategies, have formed a public relations partnership to help clients "educate policymakers," the pair announced last week. The former journalists will offer services in media relations, event planning, grassroots advocacy, social media, advertising and messaging.

Crist policy director joins Floridian Partners' Tallahassee office
Ken Granger, Crist's deputy chief of staff and policy director, joined the consulting and lobbying firm's Tallahassee office last week as an associate. Before joining Crist's office, the Florida State University alumnus worked as chief of staff at the Department of Management Services.

Outgoing state prosecutor joins Holland & Knight
William Shepherd joined the firm's national white collar defense team. The West Palm Beach native will work on investigation and enforcement, the firm announced. Shepherd spent seven years in the attorney general's office. Former Attorney General Bill McCollum promoted Shepherd to statewide prosecutor in 2007.

Former Holland & Knight employee gets Florida Association of Counties gig
Stephen James will be the association's environmental advocate. He replaces Diana Ferguson. James has experience at two Florida law firms (Holland & Knight and Akerman Senterfitt) and Tallahassee's WREN Group.
CFO office gets top law enforcement official
CFO Jeff Atwater picked Thomas Kirwin, an assistant U.S. attorney, to be deputy CFO over law enforcement, where he will have a "laser focus" on fighting insurance fraud, Atwater's office said. Kirwin will lead the agency's three law enforcement areas: Division of Insurance Fraud, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations and Office of Fiscal Integrity.

Chamber of Commerce nabs political director
Veteran Republican operative John Wehrung is the Florida Chamber of Commerce's new political director, working alongside another political pro, senior VP Marian Johnson.

Three-time gubernatorial campaign aide takes new Senate job
Arlene DiBenigno, a former campaign aide to Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Scott, began a new role in the Florida Senate as the chamber's director of minority outreach, a new position.

Media man heads for The Hill
Keith Laing, a News Service of Florida reporter and Howard University graduate, will cover transportation for The Hill, a Washington, D.C. newspaper.

Republican Party of Florida names more staffers
Mike Grissom, a campaign veteran of Bill McCollum, John McCain and Scott, will be the party's deputy executive director for political affairs. Pablo Diaz, who worked for Jeb Bush, will be deputy executive director for operations. Richard Swarttz, an RPOF employee since 2003, will be chief financial officer. Brian Swensen, another Scott campaign member, will be political director. And Deborah Ramsay Aleksander, who served as Atwater's chief financial officer during his CFO campaign, will remain as financial director.

Commercial law firm Becker & Poliakoff elect shareholders

Neil M. Schiller and Nelson D. Diaz are attorneys in the Florida-based firm's government law and lobbying practice. Now they are shareholders. Schiller works from several South Florida offices and ran successful campaigns there. He represents clients before city, county and state governments. Based in Coral Gables, Diaz is a former chief of staff of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and lobbies in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

News Service of Florida reports were used in this roundup.