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Swiftmud picks engineer as new executive director

TAMPA —- The new executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District is a 50-year-old engineer from Jupiter who has never worked for a Florida government agency before.

Taking the job means taking a pay cut.

The board of the agency commonly known as Swiftmud, which oversees the water supply in a 16-county area, decided late Monday to hire Blake Guillory, vice president of the engineering firm of Brown & Caldwell.

Guillory told them he'd take the job, but details of his contract remain to be worked out, said Swiftmud chairman Paul Senft.

The board picked him over the other finalist out of 51 applicants, David Chardavoyne, whom Swiftmud officials recently learned had sued two previous employers for breach of contract.

In selecting its finalists the Swiftmud board rejected three of the agency's deputy executive directors who had also applied for the job.

"With the changes we're faced that are coming down from the governor's office ... it was essential to have someone from the outside," explained board member Neil Combee.

Combee said he and other board members were impressed with Guillory's knowledge of Florida water issues. He is in charge of Brown & Caldwell offices throughout the state, and his family owns a 200-acre farm in DeSoto County.

It helped, too, that Guillory had met with Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard and gotten his blessing, Combee said.

Guillory will be replacing Dave Moore, a longtime Swiftmud employee who was promoted to executive director in 2003. Moore, who announced his resignation in May, was making $194,000.

In his application, Guillory told the Swiftmud board he was making $175,000 a year at Brown & Caldwell. Last week, Gov. Rick Scott told all five of the state's water management districts he wants their executive directors' salaries capped at $165,000 and called for more budget cuts.

Guillory, who has master's degrees in business and engineering from the University of South Florida, wrote in an e-mail to the Times last week that he had no quarrel with Scott's goals. He noted that with four deputy directors, 71 employees in information technology, and hundreds more in administration, the agency "seems significantly out of balance."

Chardavoyne has experience running a water agency in San Antonio, Texas. However, in addition to suing two employers, he left the Texas job under an agreement that paid him $412,000 in exchange for a promise not to sue. And a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against him and the Texas utility resulted in a $635,000 settlement.

Chardavoyne contended that "any seasoned senior executive who has a full career in terms of experience will run into lawsuits," he said. But Guillory, who has spent 20 years as a consultant to Florida city and county governments and the three largest water management districts, said he has never been sued nor has he sued anyone else.

Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@sptimes.com.

Swiftmud picks engineer as new executive director 08/30/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 9:59pm]
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