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Gov. Scott picks Tallahassee insider MacNamara as chief of staff

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott continued a weeklong shakeup in his office on Friday, naming Stephen R. MacNamara his new chief of staff.

While Scott is eager to boast about his legislative success and positive trends in the unemployment rate, the move signals an abrupt change for a governor who proudly wears the badge of political outsider: MacNamara is the quintessential Tallahassee insider.

MacNamara, 58, currently is chief of staff for Senate President Mike Haridopolos. He served in the same job when John Thrasher was House speaker.

Scott, who has built a reputation as a fiscal hawk, rewarded MacNamara with an annual salary of $189,000 per year, a 26 percent increase over Scott's former chief of staff and more than the top aides for governors in California, Texas or New York.

"My goal is to make Florida the No. 1 state in the country for job creation, and I believe Steve MacNamara is the best choice to direct my team in that endeavor," Scott in a statement.

MacNamara's selection is the biggest move in a week of changes for Scott's office.

Before announcing MacNamara, Scott accepted the resignation of top policy adviser Mary Anne Carter and reassigned his former chief of staff, Mike Prendergast, to the state Department of Veterans' Affairs. Scott and the Florida Cabinet kept Prendergast at his $150,000 salary, a 25 percent increase over the previous director.

Democrats criticized Scott, a Republican, for hiring MacNamara.

"Rick Scott simply doesn't understand what average Floridians are facing during these hard economic times, and he remains completely out of touch with our state," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said.

The move was applauded by other longtime operatives, like Associated Industries of Florida chief executive Barney Bishop and political public relations veteran Ron Sachs. "He's a professional mechanic of government," Sachs said. "Few people know how to pull the levers of government like Steve MacNamara."

MacNamara helped orchestrate the merger of 19 health maintenance organizations into the Florida Association of Health Plans in 2000 and is on his sixth leave of absence from a six-figure job as a tenured professor of communications at Florida State University.

A lawyer and former lobbyist, MacNamara has worked for politically connected firms Fowler, White and Boggs and Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar.

Haridopolos announced Friday that former Senate Budget Committee director Craig Meyer will become his new chief of staff.

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCBender.

Gov. Scott picks Tallahassee insider MacNamara as chief of staff 06/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 8:38pm]

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