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Rick Scott names GOP heavyweight to Hillsborough aviation board

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday replaced one GOP loyalist with another on the board of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board, which oversees Tampa International Airport.  Scott tapped Tampa certified public accountant Robert Watkins to fill the vacancy left by longtime board chairman and GOP fundraiser Al Austin, who served 12 years on the board.

Watkins, 60, owns the firm of Robert Watkins & Co. He mostly concentrates on accounting, tax, management and consulting services for businesses and individuals. His wife, Nancy Watkins, also is a CPA and handles campaign finances for Republican candidates and political entities. She has served as treasurer for dozens of state and federal candidates’ campaigns and political action committees. Former clients include U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Gus Bilirakis and former U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Watkins' term began Friday and runs through June 30, 2015.

In an interview, Watkins called the airport "one of Florida’s jewels" and an important economic driver for Tampa Bay. Watkins is a private pilot with a multi-engine rating but says he rarely flies any longer. He is audit committee chair for the Republican National Convention 2012 host committee.