Glenn Sutphin selected to run Department of Veterans Affairs
Glenn Sutphin Jr. was the unanimous and predictable choice of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet Tuesday to be the new executive director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sutphin, 67, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has been the agency's interim director since March when Mike Prendergast resigned to run for sheriff of Citrus County. A total of 310 people applied for the job, but Scott made clear that Sutphin was his top pick and no Cabinet member suggested anyone else be interviewed. The appointment is Scott's as a recommendation, subject to Cabinet approval.
The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs was created by voters in a constitutional amendment in 1988. The agency's mission includes overseeing construction of seven nursing homes for veterans and coordinating services for Florida's more than 2 million veterans, one of the state's most important and visible political constituencies. In a public job interview Tuesday, Sutphin told Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater that the state needs to build more nursing homes and to continue to restore armories.
The affable, white-haired Sutphin, known for his crisp demeanor and frequent use of "sir" and ma'am," worked for two decades at the Florida Army National Guard before joining the state agency in 1999. A familiar figure in the halls of the state Capitol during legislative sessions, he has been the agency's legislative affairs director since 1999, explaining and at times defending the agency's spending priorities. Sutphin's salary at FDVA is $150,000 a year, and he said he has visited most of the agency's locations around the state.
"I still have to get down to Pembroke Pines," he said.
Even though it's a longstanding priority of state officials to make Florida the nation's most veteran-friendly state, Sutphin said many veterans aren't aware of the government benefits available to them. He said he'll ask the Legislature for money to hire 10 more people to expand outreach efforts to veterans.
"You have to constantly interface and communicate with people," Sutphin told his bosses. "I don't mean email. I mean getting out there and eyeballing them."
Following the vote, Scott issued this statement: "With more than 30 years of military service as a U.S. Army officer in the Florida National Guard and nearly 20 years of experience at the Department of Military Affairs, Lt. Col. Sutphin is extremely qualified for this position. He has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to his fellow veterans, and I am confident he will continue to honorably serve our state and the many veterans who proudly call Florida home."