Atwater Sworn in as CFO

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Jan. 4 , 2011 --

Jeff Atwater became the state’s newest chief financial officer on Tuesday and pledged to take a hard look at the agencies he oversees while fighting fraud in the industries he regulates.

In between a military flyover, songs by Lee Greenwood and a 21-gun artillery salute, Atwater was one of three Republicans sworn in for positions on what will now be an all GOP Cabinet, overshadowed by the main event, the swearing-in of Gov. Rick Scott.

Taking the oath of office administered by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, Atwater becomes the state’s third CFO, a position created in 1998 as part of a constitutional revision.

The former Senate President handily defeated Democratic challenger Loranne Ausley in November by a 57-39 percent margin.

A community banker and fifth-generation Floridian, Atwater said Tuesday he looks forward to reviewing his agency’s own regulatory scheme as part of Scott’s review of existing rules, saying whatever can be done to reduce government interference with businesses without sacrificing consumer safety should be.

Atwater said he’d immediately go after fraud in the health care industry that is costing the state in terms of higher Medicaid costs.

“That is going to be a major focus right away,” Atwater said Tuesday.

The North Palm Beach Republican on Monday named his Senate chief of staff, Robert “Budd” Kneip, to assume the same post in the CFO’s office. Atwater also appointed PK Jameson, a longtime top legislative staffer as general counsel.

House Speaker Dean Cannon said he looked forward to working with Atwater, Scott and other Cabinet members to advance a common policy agenda. The Legislature, the entire Cabinet and the governor’s office are in full Republican control.

“Together we can work to foster a business-friendly environment that empowers Florida businesses to create the jobs that provide Floridians the opportunity to prosper,” Cannon said in a statement.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R Merritt Island, who succeeded Atwater as head of the 40-member chamber, said he’s confident that Atwater will work in concert with lawmakers as they try to streamline regulation and make Florida a more business friendly place.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Haridopolos said of Atwater’s tenure. “The new CFO appreciates our philosophy that we have to live within our means.”


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