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Scott picks five top staffers, with Tampa Army vet as chief of staff

TALLAHASSEE — Governor-elect Rick Scott on Tuesday named a one-time congressional candidate from the Tampa Bay area as his chief of staff.

Mike Prendergast, an Apollo Beach Republican and retired Army colonel who in November lost his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, will head Scott's administrative team.

"I'm both honored and excited to be asked by Gov.–elect Scott to help execute his agenda and help create jobs," Prendergast said in a prepared statement.

"There is no higher priority than getting Florida back to work and I'm looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and doing just that on behalf of the governor and all Floridians," he said.

Scott also announced four other appointments to his leadership team, saying they mark "the end of business as usual in Florida's Capitol."

Still, he selected two former lobbyists as legislative directors.

Scott tapped Hayden Dempsey as special counsel to the governor to oversee his legislative agenda. Dempsey, a lawyer and lobbyist at Greenberg Traurig, represented 13 clients before the Legislature last year, including many health care interests. He formerly worked as deputy counsel to Gov. Jeb. Bush.

Jon Costello, a lobbyist from the law firm of Rutledge, Ecenia & Purnell, P.A., will direct Scott's legislative affairs. Costello represented 18 clients last year before the Legislature, including HCA, several health care companies and the City of Miami Beach. Gary Rutledge, head of the firm, is a long-time friend of Scott and was one of HCA's lobbyists when Scott headed the hospital chain.

Brian Burgess, who worked on Scott's health care initiative and served on Scott's political campaign, will be his communications director.

And Scott chose Mary Anne Carter to fill the newly created role of chief adviser to the governor. Carter, who serves as executive director of the Scott transition team, previously headed the nonprofit Conservatives for Patients' Rights. Scott launched that organization in March 2009 to fight federal health care legislation. Carter also previously worked as the director of U.S. Senate relations for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

Prendergast is a graduate of Clearwater Central Catholic High School.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1978, and his 31-year military career included multiple combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired in October 2009.

Three months later, Prendergast launched his congressional campaign. He defeated three candidates in the Republican primary to face Castor in the general election, where he made a decent showing, winning 40 percent of the vote in a heavily Democratic district.

Prendergast campaigned hard against Castor, blasting her for supporting President Barack Obama's economic stimulus program and federal health care bill. He frequently challenged Castor to debate, but she refused.

He supported offshore oil drilling, and released a jobs plan that suggested cutting the size of the government workforce and freezing pay for government workers.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Scott picks five top staffers, with Tampa Army vet as chief of staff 12/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 9:20pm]

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