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Governor names long list of loyalists to Constitution Revision Commission

Florida Constitution Florida MemoryRounding out his list of appointees to the powerful Constitution Revision Commission Friday, Gov. Rick Scott tapped members of his inner circle and current and former appointees.

Those who have worked for the governor who now will serve on the panel with the power to put proposals directly before voters next year include his former general counsel Tim Cerio and his political consultant and data guru Brecht Heuchan as well as the state's education commissioner Pam Stewart and Nicole Washington, the governor's former education budget head.

Scott earlier this week named businessman Carlos Beruff to chair the 37-member commission which will be dominated by Scott's 15 appointees. The body will operate much like a Legislature as it screens ideas, debates the future of Florida, and decides how to reach compromise on putting issues on the 2018 November ballot.

To that end, the governor named only two people with legislative experience -- PSC Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, a former state representative from Panama City and an early Scott supporter, and former Sarasota state Sen. Lisa Carlton - although several of his appointees have lobbying experience. He also named former state legislator John Stargel, now a circuit court judge, as an alternate. 

In addition to Stewart of Tallahassee and Washington of Miami Beach, the governor named people who have worked in education or have sat on university boards of trustees. Among them: Belinda Keiser of Keiser College, Jose "Pepe" Armas, a physician from Miami, Marva Johnson, Winter Garden businesswoman who chairs the Florida Board of Education, Darlene Jordan, head of a Palm Beach non-profit and a member of the university Board of Governors.

Senate President Joe Negron, who last week announced his appointees, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, each have nine appointments to the commission that meets every 20 years to revise the state constitution. Each of the presiding officers has said they hope to use the unique commission to revise how education works in Florida by increasing "school choice."

Negron also named two people with legislative experience: former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and former Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga has made his three appointments to the panel, and included former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. Attorney General Pam Bondi is also automatically a member of the commission. 

Although many of the governor's appointees have worked for him or were his early political supporters, once appointed they do not report to him and do not have to be confirmed by the state Senate. 

From the governor's press release:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of 14 members to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) in accordance with Article XI, Section II of the Florida Constitution. The Governor appointed Carlos Beruff as Chairman of the Commission on Wednesday. The 37–member Commission convenes every 20 years to review Florida’s Constitution and propose potential changes to be approved by Florida voters.

Governor Scott said, “I am incredibly honored today to appoint 14 members from across Florida to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. These members stood out as exemplary choices for this historic Commission whose diverse backgrounds and experience in education, business and policy will ensure we continue to champion policies that make Florida the best place for families for generations to come.”

Dr. Jose “Pepe” Armas – Miami

Dr. Jose “Pepe” Armas is a distinguished physician and healthcare executive whose focus on patient-centered care has defined his career. Dr. Armas currently serves as the Chairman of MCCI Group, which he founded in 1998, a leading physician healthcare group in the Southeastern United States. In 2011, Governor Rick Scott appointed Dr. Armas to the Florida International University Board of Trustees, a position the Governor reappointed him to in 2016.

Dr. Armas is a member of the National Advisory Board of Health Research Resources, Inc., the Humana Utilization Committee, the Board of Statewide Florida Independent Physicians Association, the American Medical Association, Southern Medical Association, and the American College of Physician Executives. He also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board and is a member of the Interview Committee of Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and on the Advisory Board for the School of Nursing and Healthcare of Georgetown University.

Dr. Armas graduated medical school with Honors from Catholic University in Santiago, Dominican Republic. He also completed post-graduate training at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach and St. Barnabas Hospital affiliated with Cornell University in New York.

Lisa Carlton – Sarasota

Lisa Carlton is an eighth generation Floridian and the co-owner and manager of the Mabry Carlton Ranch, Inc. in Sarasota County. She spent much of her life in public service to the people of Florida including most recently as a Florida State Senator. After graduating from law school, Senator Carlton practiced law in Sarasota County for several years before entering the realm of public service. In 1994 Senator Carlton was elected to represent the 70thDistrict of the Florida House of Representatives. After two terms in the Florida House, then Representative Carlton became Senator Carlton when she was elected to represent the 23rd District of the Florida Senate in 1998. In 2002, Senator Carlton was elected in the 24th District of the Florida Senate where she served until 2008.

Growing up on the Mabry Carlton Ranch, Senator Carlton saw firsthand the challenges of operating a family business as she watched her parents manage a 17,000 acre cattle and citrus ranch – the same ranch she helps manage today.

Currently, Senator Carlton is a member of the Board of Directors for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and is a founding a member of the Florida Historic Capitol Foundation. Senator Carlton received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stetson University and a Juris Doctor from Mercer University School of Law.

Timothy Cerio – Tallahassee

Timothy Cerio is an accomplished attorney practicing at his own law firm in Tallahassee. Along with being a former shareholder with the GrayRobinson law firm, Mr. Cerio has previously served as General Counsel to Governor Rick Scott from 2015 to 2016 and Chief of Staff and General Counsel at the Florida Department of Health from 2005 to 2007. In 2013, Mr. Cerio was appointed by Governor Scott to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the First District Court of Appeal.

Mr. Cerio received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida where he was a member of Florida Blue Key. Mr. Cerio has remained active with his alma mater serving as president of the University of Florida Alumni Association and UF College of Law Alumni Council.

Emery Gainey – Tallahassee

Emery Gainey has devoted his career to law enforcement in Florida. Mr. Gainey is a member of the Attorney General’s senior executive management team and currently serves as the Director of Law Enforcement, Victim Services & Criminal Justice Programs and is the liaison between federal, state and local law enforcement administrators and the Attorney General. Mr. Gainey plays a key role in the development, implementation and execution of the Attorney General’s criminal justice related initiatives.

On May 20, 2016, Governor Rick Scott appointed Mr. Gainey to serve as Sheriff of Marion County, where he served until January 3, 2017, before returning to the Attorney General’s Office.

Prior to joining the Attorney General's Office in 2007, Mr. Gainey served with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years, holding several key positions during his tenure including Chief Deputy, Division Commander of the Uniform Patrol and Homeland Security Commander.

Mr. Gainey is a member of the Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, FBI National Academy Associates, Florida Chapter, and serves on numerous community boards and professional organizations.

Mr. Gainey is a graduate of the University of Florida and the FBI National Academy.

Brecht Heuchan – Tallahassee

Brecht Heuchan is the Founder and CEO of ContributionLink, LLC, a leading political intelligence, data analytics and fundraising company which serves many of America’s most sophisticated corporations, trade associations and campaigns.

Mr. Heuchan also owns The Labrador Company, a Florida based political and government affairs firm that since its start in 2001, has represented a wide array of clients from small non-profits to some of the largest and most respected industry leaders in the world.

Throughout his career, Mr. Heuchan has gained extensive legislative, governmental and policy experience and used that knowledge in service to Governor Rick Scott and nearly a dozen Florida Senate Presidents and Speakers of the Florida House in a variety of staff and consulting capacities. In 1997, Mr. Heuchan was tasked by Speaker Daniel Webster to coordinate the Speaker’s Constitution Revision Commission appointees. He also monitored the work of the 97-98 CRC on the Speaker’s behalf, giving him a deep understanding and familiarity of the CRC process.

Mr. Heuchan received a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University.

Marva Johnson – Winter Garden

Marva Johnson is an accomplished member of Florida’s business community and leader in Florida education. Mrs. Johnson, the Regional Vice President of State Government Affairs for Charter Communications currently serves as the chair of the Florida State Board of Education. Previously, Mrs. Johnson served as a member of the Florida Virtual School Board and Advisory Board for Rollins College’s Crummer Center for Leadership Development.

Mrs. Johnson received her Bachelor of Science in business administration from Georgetown University before receiving a Master of Business Administration from Emory University’s Goizuetta Business School and a Juris Doctor from the Georgia State University College of Law.

In 2014, Mrs. Johnson received the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council’s Champion for Digital Equality Award in recognition of her leadership and advocacy in helping bridge the digital divide in education for low-income families. 


Darlene Jordan – Palm Beach

Darlene Jordan is the Executive Director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports education, health and youth services, and the arts. In April 2016, Governor Scott appointed Mrs. Jordan to the Board of Governors of the State University System.

Mrs. Jordan is a member of Fordham's Board of Directors and Co-Chair of Fordham's successful $500 million Campaign which supports new facilities, more student scholarships, more endowed faculty chairs and more funding for academic endeavors throughout Fordham’s colleges and schools. She currently serves on Fordham's ExecutiveCommittee and is Chair of the Development and University Relations Committee and Co-Chair of the Financial Aid Campaign. Mrs. Jordan is also Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. She serves as a Member of the Harvard Business School Board of Dean's Advisors and is a trustee of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, Oxbridge Academy and Rosarian Academy.

Mrs. Jordan is a former Assistant Attorney General for the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, where she served in the Insurance Fraud Division from 1996 to 1999. Previously, she was an Assistant District Attorney in the Norfolk District Attorney's office, from 1991 through 1996.

Mrs. Jordan received her Bachelor of Arts from Fordham University and her Juris Doctor from Suffolk University School of Law. She has been a member of the Massachusetts Bar since 1992 and the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts since 1993.


Fred Karlinsky – Weston

A nationally recognized authority on national insurance regulatory and compliance issues, Fred Karlinsky is Co-Chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Insurance Regulatory and Transactions Practice Group.

Mr. Karlinsky is experienced in transactional law, executive and legislative governmental affairs, administrative law and corporate representation. Recognized as one of the top insurance lawyers by Chambers and Partners, Mr. Karlinsky represents insurers, reinsurers, producers and other insurance interests throughout the U.S. and internationally in a wide variety of business, operational, regulatory, transactional and governmental matters.

In addition to his role with Greenberg Traurig, Mr. Karlinsky has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Florida State University College of Law since 2008, where he teaches a course on Insurance Law and Risk Management. He is also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator. Mr. Karlinsky was appointed by Governor Rick Scott to the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission in 2011 and served as the vice chairman and chairman. He currently serves as Governor Scott’s appointee on the Florida Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

This year, Mr. Karlinsky served as the co-chair to the 17th Annual Florida Celebration of Reading event. Funds raised from the annual Florida Celebration of Reading help support programs of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. 

Mr. Karlinsky received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami and a Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law.

Belinda Keiser – Parkland

Belinda Keiser has devoted her career to advancing Florida’s economic and workforce development, global competitiveness, education and healthcare. In addition to serving on various governmental boards, Mrs. Keiser has been the vice chancellor of Keiser University for more than 20 years and is an advocate for students’ accessibility to higher education and workforce talent development.

Mrs. Keiser has served as an an Ex-Officio member of the Florida Council of 100, member of the Board of Florida’s Chamber of Commerce and on the Florida Government Efficiency Task Force. Previously, she served on the Workforce Florida Inc. Board of Directors from 2005 to 2010, including serving as its past chair. Currently, Mrs. Keiser is serving as a reappointed member of the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission of Broward County and as an appointee of Governor Rick Scott to the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors.

In 2016, Mrs. Keiser was presented with the Congressional Record in Recognition of Women’s History Month by Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Speaker Paul Ryan for her work in the areas of education, public service and philanthropy.

Mrs. Keiser received a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, a certificate in paralegal studies from Keiser University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University.


Frank Kruppenbacher – Orlando

Frank Kruppenbacher is an accomplished attorney who has spent much of the past 10 years serving his community and the state through positions on various boards and commissions. Over the past three decades, Mr. Kruppenbacher has gained invaluable experience in the public sector serving on the Florida Commission on Ethics, Florida Commission on Sales Tax Reform, Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Ethics & Campaign Finance Reform Taskforce, Orange County Oversight Committee, Orange County Charter Commission, Central Florida Zoological Board, Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Orange County Sheriff Department Oversight Board.

Mr. Kruppenbacher currently serves as the Chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. He was reappointed to the Aviation Authority by Governor Rick Scott in 2014.

Mr. Kruppenbacher attended Mount Saint Mary’s University in Maryland where he received his Bachelor of Arts. He subsequently received his Juris Doctor from New York Law School and attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education Program where he received a certificate in public engagement.


Dr. Gary Lester – The Villages

Dr. Gary Lester is the Vice President of The Villages for Community Relations and has spent 34 years as an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church. In his service to the Church, Dr. Lester pastored congregations in Texas, Arkansas and Ohio before moving to Florida in 1991.

Dr. Lester has served on numerous boards and advisory groups including the United States Military Academy Nominations Board and the Judicial Nominating Commission – Middle District of Florida.

Dr. Lester received a Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana Tech University and attended seminary at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Texas.


Jimmy Patronis – Panama City

A lifelong Floridian, Jimmy Patronis has dedicated his career to public service and his family business in Panama City. Mr. Patronis is currently a commissioner on the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), a position he was appointed to by Governor Rick Scott for a four-year term beginning January 2015. Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Patronis represented District 6 (Bay County) in the Florida House of Representatives.

Commissioner Patronis was appointed by Governors Jeb Bush and Lawton Chiles to the Florida Elections Commission and is also a past Chairman and Board Member of the Bay County-Panama City International Airport and Industrial District. A member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), Commissioner Patronis serves on NARUC’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment. He also serves on the Advisory Council for New Mexico State University’s Center for Public Utilities.

Commissioner Patronis received his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Florida State University. He is a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Bay County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Programs. 


Pam Stewart – Tallahassee

Florida Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Pam Stewart has dedicated her life to ensuring Florida’s students have access to a high quality education that enables them to reach their full potential and achieve their academic and career goals.

Commissioner Stewart has served 37 years in education, beginning her career as a school teacher. She spent the first 20 years of her career as a guidance counselor, testing and research specialist, assistant principal and principal at both the elementary and high school levels.

In 2004, she joined the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Public Schools as Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality, where her experience in the school environment informed her leadership and resulted in Florida being recognized as a national leader in recruitment, development and performance pay for teachers. Commissioner Stewart served as Deputy Superintendent for Academic Services in St. Johns County, during which time the district was the highest performing district in the state. In 2011, she returned to DOE, and in 2013, the State Board of Education appointed her as Commissioner of Education.

Commissioner Stewart holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education/early childhood from the University of South Florida and a Master of Education in counselor education from the University of Central Florida. She earned her certification in educational leadership at Stetson University.


Nicole Washington – Miami Beach

Nicole Washington is a leader in higher education with more than 10 years of experience teaching, performing educational research and advocating for educational policy. As the State Policy Consultant for the Lumina Foundation she has worked to expand access and success for students in higher education and collaborated with organizations such as the Institute on Higher Education Policy, Education Commission on the States and Jobs for the Future. In Florida, Ms. Washington has served as the Associate Director of Governmental Relations for the State University System Board of Governors, as well as the Budget Director for Education in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget (OPB).

Ms. Washington is a board member of Florida A&M University, the LeRoy Collins Institute and the Veterans Trust Board. She is also currently a member of Class VII of Connect Florida.

Ms. Washington graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Art degree and then attended Mercy College in New York earning a Master of Science in elementary education. Ms. Washington is also a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University where she earned a Master of Art in comparative education.

Alternate Members

Governor Scott has identified the following individuals to serve as alternates should one of the appointees not be able to fulfill their duties for the duration of the CRC:

  • Tom Kuntz, Chairman of the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida
  • Don Eslinger, former Sheriff of Seminole County
  • Judge John Stargel, Circuit Judge in the Tenth Judicial Circuit