Rick Scott’s picks for wildlife commission have no wildlife expertise

BuckDaddyBuckDaddy Posts: 644 Officer
http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/wildlife/Rick-Scott-s-picks-for-wildlife-commission-have-no-wildlife-expertise_164564349


Gov. Rick Scott is remaking the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with a series of appointments who appear to have no expertise in managing wildlife.

His most recent pick, Gary Lester, is vice president of community relations at The Villages, developer of the largest gated retirement community in the world. Lester is also head of the school board at the Villages Charter School, and previously worked as a minister at Presbyterian churches in several states.

Lester, 59, did not respond to calls seeking comment on his appointment.

"Governor Scott appoints the most qualified candidates who he believes will faithfully serve Florida families with honesty and integrity," Scott’s deputy communications director, McKinley Lewis, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

Two people Scott picked for wildlife commission seats last month were Gary Nicklaus, 48, son of golfing great Jack Nicklaus; and Sonya Rood, 53, wife of developer and former Bermuda ambassador John Rood, who is also former chief financial officer of the Republican Party of Florida. Neither Nicklaus nor Rood could be reached for comment.

None of the three has previously been active in wildlife conservation.

"I don’t know those people," said Manley Fuller, longtime president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, who closely monitors the work of the commission.

A wildlife commissioner whom Scott did not re-appoint, cattle rancher Liesa Priddy, said running the agency now will be "a challenge, given the lack of expertise among the new commissioners plus the fact that there’s a new executive director, too.

Rood is the only one who appears to have any wildlife management experience, noting in her application that she enjoys bird hunting and has "been involved in the management of our family-owned hunting plantation." Her husband is a former chairman of the wildlife commission from back during the Jeb Bush administration, but he was married to someone else at the time.

Nicklaus, a former pro golfer who now designs golf courses, wrote in his application that his parents instilled in him a love of the outdoors, giving him "a passion to help preserve Florida’s natural resources for my children."

Gary Nicklaus’ father, early in the Scott administration, backed a proposal to build Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses in state parks. Two legislators filed bills to launch the "Nicklaus Trail," but the idea proved to be so incredibly unpopular that the legislators withdrew them after a week. Even fellow golfing legend Arnold Palmer said it sounded like a bad move.

Lester’s qualifications for being picked for the wildlife commission included his work as a minister, according to the governor’s spokesman.

"Reverend Lester has served Floridians in various roles for more than 30 years, including as a minister in the Presbyterian Church," Lewis said. "Reverend Lester is also an avid outdoorsman who greatly values Florida’s incredible natural treasures. The governor is confident that Gary will work each day to protect and manage our state’s wildlife on behalf of Florida families and visitors."

Lester stopped serving as a minister in 1999, when he went to work for the developer of The Villages.

Lester’s application for the wildlife commission job included, as references, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio; former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, who’s a lobbyist for The Villages; and Mark Morse, president and chief operating officer of The Villages.

Not mentioned in his application: His multiple campaign contributions to state and federal candidates, totaling more than $84,000. That includes $3,000 to Scott in 2014, $2,700 to Rubio in 2016 and $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in 2002.

Public records do not show that Gary Nicklaus has given any personal political contributions. But Rood has: $15,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2012, and $500 to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2013. Her husband is a longtime fundraiser for the GOP whose long list of contributions include $50,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in 2015 and $1,000 to the governor’s own Let’s Get to Work PAC.

The company that employs Lester offers another perk for some politicians. It has frequently thrown open the gates of the Central Florida mega-retirement mecca for Republican candidates, including Scott, to hold rallies among the retirees.

Lester, whom Scott also appointed to the Constitution Revision Commission, has been a frequent speaker at events in The Villages. For instance, he introduced Sarah Palin at a Villages campaign rally when she was running for vice president in 2008.

He gave a talk to a Tea Party group there in 2014 on the subject of freedom. Afterward, a member of the audience asked him his opinion of the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the Villages Tea Party web site, he replied: "Capitalism has done more to clean up the environment than any government agency, like the EPA."

As commissioner, Lester is replacing Richard Hanas, a vice president of agricultural giant A. Duda & Sons, Inc. and a contributor to Republican candidates. But the other appointees replaced commissioners who had some first-hand experience dealing with wildlife.

Gary Nicklaus is replacing Ron "Alligator" Bergeron, a developer and rodeo champion from Davie who nearly lost two fingers while wrestling an alligator on his ranch. Bergeron grew up in the Everglades and continues to maintain a hunting camp there. Whenever visiting politicians or dignitaries want a tour of the River of Grass, Bergeron is usually the one piloting the airboat showing them around.

Rood, meanwhile, is replacing Priddy, an Immokalee rancher who has been deeply involved in discussions about private property and wildlife habitat. She has been particularly interested in human-panther interactions in that area, especially after a University of Florida study confirmed she was losing calves to hungry cats.

She said she was disappointed to learn from in a phone call from one of Scott’s aides that neither she nor Bergeron were being reappointed to the position. The timing made it worse.

"Mr. Bergeron and I found out on a Friday, when the next meeting started on a Tuesday," she said. Both had spent a lot of time preparing for the meeting without realizing they wouldn’t be in the job any more, she explained.

Last year Scott selected as a wildlife commissioner former Department of Environmental Protection secretary Mike Sole, who has a degree in marine biology. Sole, who in 2014 donated $3,000 to Scott’s election campaign, was at the time working for Florida Power & Light, one of the state’s biggest utilities and a major contributor to political campaigns. He now works for FPL’s owner, NextEra Energy.

Scott has one more vacancy on the wildlife commission to fill.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Craig Pittman at craig@tampabay.com. Follow @craigtimes.



THE JOB OF FLORIDA WILDLIFE COMMISSIONER

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is run by seven commissioners appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The commissioners serve five-year terms setting regulations, such as deciding boat speed zones to protect manatees and whether to hold a bear hunt. They work for free, but they are reimbursed for their expenses for attending the commission meetings, typically held at various resorts around the state, such as the World Golf Village near St. Augustine and Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key.
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Replies

  • BuckDaddyBuckDaddy Posts: 644 Officer
  • binellishtrbinellishtr Posts: 7,149 Admiral
    good pick hunting is deep in the villages, sometimes too deep but pro hunting..
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 6,778 Admiral
    good pick hunting is deep in the villages, sometimes too deep but pro hunting..

    Like when the Morse family got pinched up in Montana/Wyoming for poaching out of season?
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • binellishtrbinellishtr Posts: 7,149 Admiral
    good memory
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 6,778 Admiral
    good memory

    Not that there is a season for poaching...poorly worded!
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • bgeorgebgeorge Plant City FLPosts: 1,200 Officer
    Sometimes I wonder which is better? People with lots of history and hard set in their thoughts or someone new and unbiased that will look at their obligations and responsibilities, look at as much of a picture as they are privy to and make a decision that is in the best interest of the people and wildlife.
    The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. Hopefully the next man is not dropping his stones on the mountain you are trying to move.
  • bswivbswiv Posts: 6,784 Admiral
    bgeorge wrote: »
    Sometimes I wonder which is better? People with lots of history and hard set in their thoughts or someone new and unbiased that will look at their obligations and responsibilities, look at as much of a picture as they are privy to and make a decision that is in the best interest of the people and wildlife.

    Very true.

    Quality people know when they don't know and therefor listen more. If this is how they end up operating then it is more important than ever to be polite and well reasoned when speaking or lobbying for a course of action.

    Could well make us, the little guys more powerful if we behave that way.
  • duckmanJRduckmanJR Posts: 18,225 AG
    They might be great....
    There are many roads to travel
    Many things to do.
    Knots to be unraveled
    'fore the darkness falls on you
  • relicshunterrelicshunter Posts: 454 Deckhand
    Like when the Morse family got pinched up in Montana/Wyoming for poaching out of season?

    That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw Lester's name , was the Morse violations. Doesn't Lester or someone associated with the Villages have an fancy hunt club between Ocala forest and Marshal swamp wma. I remember something about FWC releasing one of the largest bear trapped by them at the club. I also remember some shady things about the land or tax status or state money paying private building also. I'll have to look for those again.
  • swampwalkerswampwalker Posts: 1,087 Officer

    Nicklaus might be a plus. I know his dad did some bow hunting often with the Wensel
    Brothers some years ago when he wasn't golfing and I believe his son was involved in bow hunting as well.

    The original - "Renaissance Redneck"
  • binellishtrbinellishtr Posts: 7,149 Admiral

    The entire family hunts

  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 6,778 Admiral

    We'll just have to see. and hope for the best.

    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • Big MakBig Mak Posts: 1,424 Officer

    Binellishtr and Niklaus are ex teammates. Maybe Binelli will have a hotline to the commish!

  • MRichardsonMRichardson Posts: 5,910 Admiral

    It really doesn't matter.
    Everything's for sale in FL. So having connections, brokering deals and playing politics is far more useful than knowing anything about what you think you're managing.

  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 6,778 Admiral

    @MRichardson said:
    It really doesn't matter.
    Everything's for sale in FL. So having connections, brokering deals and playing politics is far more useful than knowing anything about what you think you're managing.

    You're managing people. No matter what industry or field you're in. Usually it comes down to managing people.

    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • FloridaODFloridaOD Posts: 2,976 Captain
    edited February 12 #17

    _I was on a Rood property some time back. Place near the Jacksonville/Duval County-St Johns County line,adjacent to new subdivision development.(Former Rayonier Timber lands....)

    Another knock down Enviro Politics episode,this one relating to wetland development mitigation, a high profile and contentious,unpopular development proposal. A possible mitigation parcel adjacent to the Rood property. I signed in to the Lodge Guest register but I suspected I might not be entirely welcome.The subject mitigation property adjacent to the Rood property was one of a couple mitigation lands options throughout the area, and not the most appropriate no matter how keenly promoted.
    Mr. Rood was a well established fund raiser for politicians,titled a "Ranger" due to the high $$$ amounts.
    Upon entering the property I saw the biggest deer I have ever seen in the Northeast Florida woods.General Gun Deer Season was in full swing,I had been hunting a lot without seeing much and the big deer was memorable.......turns out the deer was a "Northern" deer........High Fence operation. There was a new pond being built,and a shooting range for youngsters and such.I recall thinking how pleased I had known and engaged with a wilder Florida,and how much was at stake in keeping that option available.

    I was at the Rood property with a leading state conservationist who stayed at the lodge overnight and hunted the next morning. While in the stand he called me on his cell to talk business.

    Hunters are present yet relatively uncommon in Florida :wink
  • BuckDaddyBuckDaddy Posts: 644 Officer

    @FloridaOD said:
    _I was on a Rood property some time back. Place near the Jacksonville/Duval County-St Johns County line,adjacent to new subdivision development.(Former Rayonier Timber lands....)

    How many moons ago was that ???

  • BuckDaddyBuckDaddy Posts: 644 Officer

    Latest FL FWCC appointee:

    Joshua Kellam, Vice President,
    31 years old:

    Josh has a broad background in the areas of management, construction, operations, site development, strategic planning, real estate development, renewable green energy initiatives and governmental affairs. He joined The ESG Companies in 2008 and now serves as Vice President. For the following affiliate companies, based in Florida, he also serves as President and CEO: Global Energy United, LLC, and Garcia Family Farm, LLC. Josh is a member of the Water Resource Analysis Coalition (WRAC) of South Florida Water Management District. A Virginia Beach native, Josh has established a home base in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

  • bgeorgebgeorge Plant City FLPosts: 1,200 Officer

    @BuckDaddy said:
    Latest FL FWCC appointee:

    Joshua Kellam, Vice President,
    31 years old:

    Josh has a broad background in the areas of management, construction, operations, site development, strategic planning, real estate development, renewable green energy initiatives and governmental affairs. He joined The ESG Companies in 2008 and now serves as Vice President. For the following affiliate companies, based in Florida, he also serves as President and CEO: Global Energy United, LLC, and Garcia Family Farm, LLC. Josh is a member of the Water Resource Analysis Coalition (WRAC) of South Florida Water Management District. A Virginia Beach native, Josh has established a home base in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

    He asked more questions and engaged more than other first time people on the commission.

    The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. Hopefully the next man is not dropping his stones on the mountain you are trying to move.
  • binellishtrbinellishtr Posts: 7,149 Admiral

    i like Josh, he called SFWMD out last meeting

  • N. CookN. Cook Posts: 1,791 Captain

    I serve with Josh on the SFWMD WRAC....he was a great addition to WRAC and I feel sure he will do well on the FWC Commission...Brings a "business" perspective to the table.

  • binellishtrbinellishtr Posts: 7,149 Admiral

    aah, give the swallow/sparrow more time whats another 20yrs single species managing it. Maybe Eddie can help make some changes

  • CyclistCyclist Posts: 21,693 AG
    edited February 13 #24

    @N. Cook said:
    I serve with Josh on the SFWMD WRAC....he was a great addition to WRAC and I feel sure he will do well on the FWC Commission...Brings a "business" perspective to the table.

    What does that have to do with ecosystem and wildlife management? Wasn't it the "business perspective" that ate up 70% of Florida wetlands and left about 2% of Florida in a natural condition?

    133cbf2b243368b1ddb2f591a1988076--beach-posters-florida-travel.jpg
  • binellishtrbinellishtr Posts: 7,149 Admiral

    How about because SFWMD has been sitting on a stupid bird designation and allowed it to decimate an entire ecosystem? Maybe a businessman can help shake the stick and hold some people accountable instead of guaranteeing the golden parachute....U see in business you are held accountable unlike a govt or state job most of the time. My guess is omeone will sit him down and explain how things work but I'm glad to have heard him speak his mind 1x

  • Walker DogWalker Dog Posts: 1,527 Captain

    Cyclist won't be happy until everything in Florida looks like it did when Columbus first stepped off the boat. To him, everything else is just the destruction left by the path of big business or little business as the case may be.

  • H20dadH20dad Posts: 497 Deckhand

    @Walker Dog said:
    Cyclist won't be happy until everything in Florida looks like it did when Columbus first stepped off the boat. To him, everything else is just the destruction left by the path of big business or little business as the case may be.

    Cyclist doesn’t believe in evolution and thinks we are aliens from another planet and not part of nature/ecosystem. Some say he has a holier than thou attitude, but I don’t see it.

  • FloridaODFloridaOD Posts: 2,976 Captain

    Hunter constituency and interest tied to development will continue to play out on many interesting fronts.

    Hunters are present yet relatively uncommon in Florida :wink
  • CyclistCyclist Posts: 21,693 AG
    edited February 19 #29

    @Walker Dog said:
    Cyclist won't be happy until everything in Florida looks like it did when Columbus first stepped off the boat. To him, everything else is just the destruction left by the path of big business or little business as the case may be.

    Facts is facts. Hard to stomach the business community when they say it's their right to alter or destroy the 2% of Florida that is not already detrimentally altered by mankind. And when they continue to argue that crapping in our nest is in our best interest. I mean what good is a clean water and air and natural places to hunt when you don't have a great job at your neighborhood fast food joint.

    133cbf2b243368b1ddb2f591a1988076--beach-posters-florida-travel.jpg
  • CyclistCyclist Posts: 21,693 AG
    edited February 19 #30

    dup

    133cbf2b243368b1ddb2f591a1988076--beach-posters-florida-travel.jpg
  • bgeorgebgeorge Plant City FLPosts: 1,200 Officer

    I believe that personal property land owners still have rights to develop just like the people who did not hold off. People left their land natural longer. If we want lands to stay natural we need to break the bank and purchase what land is important of get them into conservation easements.

    Maybe next time the constitutional amendment will be for new land acquisition only. Heck there is land we own that gets surplussed each year.

    The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. Hopefully the next man is not dropping his stones on the mountain you are trying to move.
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