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Scott picks shipbuilding executive to head environmental protection agency

Instead of picking someone from inside the agency, as his predecessor did, Gov.-elect Rick Scott on Monday selected a Jacksonville shipbuilding executive and sometime lobbyist as his top environmental regulator.

Herschel Vinyard Jr., 46, director of business operation for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, will become the newest secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. His appointment must be confirmed by the state Senate.

Vinyard, who could not be reached for comment, is also a former chairman of the Shipbuilders Council of America, the trade association of the U.S. shipyard industry, and serves on the Jacksonville Port Authority.

His selection won a rave from Barney Bishop of the pro-business Associated Industries of Florida, and a shrug from Neil Armingeon of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, an environmental organization.

"I'm almost at the point now where I'm not sure it matters who runs the agency, since the Scott administration plans to deregulate everything in Florida," Armingeon said.

There may not even be a DEP after this year. Scott's transition team has recommended he roll DEP in with two other state agencies, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Community Affairs, to save money and stimulate the economy by cutting regulations.

For as long as there is a DEP, though, Vinyard will be a good fit, predicted Bishop, because he's "a rock-solid businessperson." His port authority service means he understands why some regulations are important "and some are just kind of going overboard," Bishop said.

In a news release, Scott praised the shipbuilding executive as someone with "a love for our great state's natural resources and a passion for job creation."

Vinyard's credentials include serving as an advisory committee member for the northeast Florida chapter of the Trust for Public Land. Linda Braddock King, widow of longtime state Sen. Jim King, also serves on that committee. "I think he will excel in anything he gets involved in. Herschel is a special, special man," she said.

DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said the agency Vinyard will now lead has not found any pollution violations or pursued any enforcement actions against his shipbuilding company in the past five years. Armingeon said he's aware of only a couple of minor pollution violations by BAE or the Jacksonville-based company it bought out last year, Atlantic Marine Holding.

Vinyard replaces Mimi Drew, who had worked for the agency since 1977. She took over the $123,000-a-year job in September.

Monday was also the last day on the job for Deborah Getzoff, after 11 years leading the Tampa district office of the DEP. She and the rest of the DEP's top administrators had submitted their resignations.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Scott picks shipbuilding executive to head environmental protection agency 01/03/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 3, 2011 9:15pm]
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