Former Times reporter, lawyer Neil Skene will join George Sheldon in Illinois
Long-time Florida journalist, attorney and author Neil Skene is heading back to state government where he will again work side-by-side with a familiar Florida political figure, George Sheldon -- this time in Illinois.
Skene starts work April 25 as deputy chief of staff to Sheldon, a former state child welfare director in Florida who now runs the Illinois Department of Children and Families. Skene will oversee government affairs, communications and advocacy efforts, dividing his time between Chicago and the state capital of Springfield.
"I'm packing now," Skene said Monday from Tallahassee.
Sheldon was hired by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican who's mired in a long-standing budget standoff with the Democratic controlled state Legislature. "It's a very unsettled time, politically and financially, in Illinois," Skene said.
Skene's hiring was first reported by the Florida Politics news site. Sheldon is a former Democratic state legislator from Tampa who was a top assistant to former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who ran Florida's Department of Children and Families under then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Sheldon succeeded Butterworth at the helm of DCF, where Skene served as a legal adviser. Sheldon was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for state attorney general in 2014, losing to Republican Pam Bondi.
Skene said he's eager to help Illinois adopt some of the same child welfare goals he and Sheldon supported in Tallahassee. "The idea is to preserve families," Skene said. "I think it will be exciting." Here's an op-ed Skene wrote for the Tallahassee Democrat in 2011 in which he outlined his philosophy of how government should work.
Skene, 64, recently completed work on the third volume of a book on the history of the Florida Supreme Court. He's a former Tallahassee bureau chief for the then-St. Petersburg Times and was the last editor of The Evening Independent, the Times' afternoon sister publication that closed in 1986 and was famous for giving readers free copies on days the sun didn't shine in St. Petersburg.