Environment chief Herschel Vinyard, Gov. Rick Scott shaking up water management districts
Six months ago, Gov. Rick Scott's newly appointed Department of Environmental Protection secretary, Herschel Vinyard, sat down for lunch at Tallahassee's Governor's Club with four of his predecessors. They offered to answer any questions about the job.
Vinyard, a Jacksonville shipbuilding executive, made it clear he didn't know much about the state's environmental agency, but he did have one thing on his mind: the state's water management districts, which are nominally under the DEP but have long functioned independently of Tallahassee.
"He talked about the water districts, that that was something he wanted to take a hard look at," recalled Jake Varn, who served as the state's top environmental regulator from 1979 to 1981 under then-Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat.
"It was his first week in Tallahassee, and he was talking about all their money and their taxing authority," agreed Victoria Tschinkel, who headed the environmental agency for the remaining six years of Graham's term.
Now Scott and Vinyard have shaken up the water districts — cutting millions from their budgets, capping executive salaries, pushing for layoffs and freezing land buying — and Scott says that's only his first step.
The goal seems clear to Tschinkel: "The governor wants control over the water supply in Florida."