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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist's SF water board appointments include civil rights lawyer



A Miami attorney is among three people Gov. Charlie Crist named Monday to the board of the South Florida Water Management District.

Gladys Perez, who has worked for Crist as a civil rights and environmental counsel, will join a Treasure Coast real estate agent and manager for the agricultural giant Lykes Brothers as members of a board overseeing a powerful, often controversial, agency that manages the water supply for 16 counties and directs Everglades restoration.

Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer for the Everglades Foundation, praised the appointments and predicted they would bolster sometimes shaky board support for Crist's $536 million land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.

``It's my understanding these appointees all share the governor's vision,'' he said.

Significant financing obstacles and board votes remain before June 2010 closing date for the district to buy 72,800 acres of sugar fields and groves for Everglades restoration projects.

The governor also named Kevin Powers, 42, a real estate agent from Indiantown, and Joe Collins, 41, of Sebring, an engineering manager with Lykes Brothers. They can immediately take seats but face Senate confirmation.

Perez, 38, who opened her law office in Miami in December, said she was not given any political litmus tests. ``I imagine I was just somebody who had the background they wanted.''

Perez previously worked as an assistant attorney general when Crist held that post, focusing on civil rights. In the governor's office, she was assistant general counsel over environmental issues, tackling Everglades cases and the complex water rights dispute between Florida and Georgia over the Apalachicola River.

Perez said she intended to approach often-contentious board issues with ``fresh eyes.''

The Miami native will fill the seat of Miami attorney Paul Huck Jr. Huck resigned in April, citing a conflict because his firm was involved in a lawsuit against U.S. Sugar.

Curtis Morgan


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:53pm]


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