DOT Application Process Closes, Outsider or Insider

By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida
By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, January 24, 2011 --

The only state lawmaker under consideration to be Gov. Rick Scott’s secretary of transportation said Monday that he would not mind if the new governor follows his recent trend of tapping agency heads who come straight out of the business world – and not from the state Capitol.

“I think it brings a different perspective,” Rep. Rich Glorioso told the News Service of Florida Monday. “I’ve always been of the theory you hire from without, not from within. Otherwise you don’t get the new ideas. You get good people, but you don’t get that breadth of knowledge, because what they know is from within.”

Glorioso, R-Plant City, is one of 45 applicants who submitted their information to the Florida Transportation Commission before Friday, when the panel stopped accepting applications for the DOT post. The FTC vets potential transportation secretaries for Florida governors, unlike the selection process for most state agency heads, who are generally simply chosen by the governor.

Glorioso, who had chaired the House Transportation and Economic Appropriations Committee the last two years, said Monday he had not heard anything from Scott or the transportation commission since turning in his application Dec. 10. He added that he has “always operated with a ‘the job I’m in’ mentality” and was focusing on his new position in the Legislature as chairman of the House subcommittee that writes the criminal justice budget.

Other candidates in the running to be Scott’s DOT Secretary include the current and former heads of the Idaho, Vermont and Minnesota Departments of Transportation. Three other applicants have experience with the Oregon, Puerto Rico and Wisconsin transportation departments, though they did not lead them.

In many of his appointments so far though, Scott has shown a preference for candidates who come directly from the business world to state government, much like he did when he won his first ever bid for elected office last year. Scott’s recent choices for Environmental Protection, the Department of Management Services and Community Affairs all came directly from the private sector. Additionally, his choice to lead the Department of Children and Families is a retired global managing director of sales for Accenture Health and Public Service.

However, the new governor did tap former Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who was widely-regarded as effective, to return to his old post. And his choice to lead the Department of Corrections, Ed Buss, held that job in Indiana.

Longtime government officials who in the past have often had an inside track at top state government positions, may no longer be automatically leading candidates.

“If he has that mentality, I don’t have a problem with it,” Glorioso said. “I want him to pick the best person for that job. Personally, I think I’m the best person, but that’s his decision, that’s not my decision.”

The process for choosing a new secretary of transportation is unique. Outside of the judiciary and the Public Service Commission, not many other gubernatorial appointees are vetted for the governor by a commission set in state law.

A frequent critic of the current DOT in the Legislature whose name had been floated for the secretary post, Sen. Paula Dockery, told the News Service Monday that Scott should not necessarily look for just a business background for the transportation post.

“I think what he really needs is somebody who is familiar with Florida on this particular secretary position,” Dockery, R-Lakeland, said. “I haven’t looked at (the final list of candidates)… but I just want it to be somebody who is going to make decisions based on what makes for a good return on investment or what makes for good transportation for the people who are already there, and not somebody who is going allow political decisions to be made that lead to these projects not being cost effective.

“I just hope that whoever is put in as transportation secretary shares that belief that we work for the taxpayers and we need to make sure that all these projects make sense and not pay back to wealthy developers and wealthy special interests,” Dockery also said.

Officials with the transportation commission said Monday that the list of candidates for the DOT post will be narrowed Jan. 28 and those that who survive will be interviewed Feb. 11. A shortlist of three candidates will then be given to the governor.

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