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Rick Scott's top policy adviser resigns amid shakeup

TALLAHASSEE — The shakeup in Gov. Rick Scott's office continued Tuesday when he accepted the resignation of his top policy adviser.

Mary Anne Carter's departure comes a day after Scott reassigned his chief of staff to one of the state's smallest agencies and ahead of an expected announcement that Steve MacNamara will be named his new chief of staff.

MacNamara, 58, has a long career in Florida politics, which would give Scott an experienced veteran with intricate knowledge of the legislative process.

It would also be an abrupt change of direction for Scott, a political newcomer who relied largely on contacts from his Conservatives for Patients Rights advocacy group as he took on Florida's political establishment during the election season and into his first six months in office.

Carter, a Tennessee political operative, ran the CPR group for two years before joining Scott's campaign. Carter said she will return home after her last day on June 30.

"I'll stay in close touch with the governor and continue to help any way I can," Carter said. "But I'm going to do other things as well and spend as much time with my family as I can."

Carter promised to serve six months with Scott, but briefly considered staying longer. A shakeup in Scott's office, however, likely would have reduced her role overseeing all budget, policy and communication matters.

MacNamara could bring more changes to Scott's office. He oversaw the dismissal of several staff veterans after taking similar roles in the Legislature.

In recent days Scott's office has also lost lower-profile staffers, including Caroline Wiles, Andy Le and Fritz Brogan.

MacNamara's background includes a number of thistles. But he's also navigated the town's political scene like few others.

The state Ethics Commission once found probable cause that MacNamara illegally lobbied for a cement company while working for then-House Speaker John Thrasher, but the complaint was eventually dismissed.

MacNamara is now the top staffer for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who was embarrassed by a late-session meltdown this year that led to the defeat of several bills pushed by Senate leaders.

And MacNamara was a key player in fighting Scott's method to crack down on pill mills: stopping doctors from dispensing drugs in-house. Ultimately, Scott's office, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Attorney General Pam Bondi pressured Haridopolos to move the legislation.

Meanwhile, his resume reads like a Who's Who of Tallahassee.

He's chief of staff for Haridopolos, was chief of staff for Thrasher, lobbied for JP Morgan Securities, Anheuser-Busch and Florida Association of Health Plans, ran a state agency for former Gov. Bob Martinez and is on his third unpaid leave from a six-figure salary at Florida State University, where he's a tenured communications professor.

He earns $175,000 per year in his dual role as staff chief and top attorney in Haridopolos' office. Mike Prendergast, Scott's current chief of staff who will be officially installed Wednesday as head of the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs, was paid $150,000.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who is expected to succeed Haridopolos as Senate president, said MacNamara is "one of the most experienced and skillful advisers and policy wonks I've ever met."

"Steve would bring some adult supervision to any team," Gaetz said.

Times/Herald reporters Mary Ellen Klas and Marc Caputo contributed to this report. Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Rick Scott's top policy adviser resigns amid shakeup 06/21/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 12:15am]
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