LeMieux leaving; Eikenberg takes charge
"The maestro" is moving on. After guiding Gov. Charlie Crist through his first year in office, George LeMieux will resign as chief of staff at year's end and return to the practice of law. His replacement (pictured below) is Eric Eikenberg, 31, a deputy chief of staff and a close friend of LeMieux's, who spent four years as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw Jr. of Fort Lauderdale.
"Everything has its time," LeMieux said Wednesday afternoon. "I've spent five wonderful years serving this governor." Taking the job was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he said, but the demands were like having 20 years compressed into one. He has a wife and three young children at home, including a 4-month-old.
LeMieux and Crist have been inseparable for five years. LeMieux went from deputy attorney general to chief of staff when Crist was Florida AG to managing Crist's campaign governor to overseeing the transition to being top dog in the governor's office.
It was LeMieux who decided Crist should not join President Bush at a rally in Pensacola on the day before the 2006 election, a decision that angered Karl Rove. He was instrumental in every major political and staffing decision and was the key state negotiator on the Seminole Tribe gambling compact being challenged in court by the Legislature.
Now LeMieux, 38, will have his pick of careers, and may return to his old law firm of Gunster Yoakley & Stewart. There's speculation he'll maintain ties to state government as an unpaid liaison to Crist, and he'll remain in Tallahassee so he can "be available" to the administration.
"I think and hope that the governor will want my advice and counsel after I leave," LeMieux said. "I do not have an anticipation that I will have a formal position." Asked if Crist asked him to stay, LeMieux smiled and said nothing.
On Thursday, LeMieux and Crist will hit the road again, this time to New York City where Crist will be speaking at a Lehman Brothers function on climate change and attend a Donald Trump-sponsored fundraiser in support of the "VoteYesOn1" campaign for the Jan. 29 property tax referendum.