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Gov. Rick Scott reassigns chief of staff Mike Prendergast to Veterans' Affairs

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Monday reassigned his chief of staff to the state Department of Veterans' Affairs, signaling an internal shakeup of the freshman governor's executive office.

Mike Prendergast, 56, was an unusual choice for the top job in the governor's inner circle and his ouster after less than six months indicates the experiment did not work.

Prendergast spent three decades in the military but had no state government experience. The Tampa native's brief foray into politics was a failed 2010 campaign for U.S. House.

In Scott's office, Prendergast oversaw mostly emergency management issues while Scott delegated budget, legislative and communications issues to his chief policy adviser, Mary Anne Carter.

Scott praised Prendergast in a statement and will recommend he keep his $150,000 annual salary, a 25 percent increase from the previous Veterans' Affairs Director Bob Milligan.

Milligan was appointed after LeRoy Collins Jr. was killed in a bicycle accident in Tampa. Milligan resigned as interim director on Thursday, and Scott and the Cabinet appointed Earl Daniel, the department's chief of staff, as a temporary replacement.

The news release from Scott's office did not name Prendergast's replacement, though the change had been rumored in Tallahassee for weeks. When reporters asked him about changes on Thursday, Scott did little to tamp down the speculation.

"I continue every day to assess the people who work with me and what my needs are,'' Scott said.

One possible successor is Steve MacNamara, the chief of staff for Senate President Mike Haridopolos. Scott acknowledged he has spoken with MacNamara but did not tip his hand. "I talk to lots of people about different things,'' Scott said.

Another option could be Scott's legislative affairs director, Hayden Dempsey. Dempsey declined to comment on the possibility, saying he would help Scott however he could.

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com or 850-224-2048. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCBender.

Gov. Rick Scott reassigns chief of staff Mike Prendergast to Veterans' Affairs 06/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 12:51am]

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