Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crist names onetime rival to DCF's top post

TALLAHASSEE — George Sheldon, a veteran public official who championed liberal causes as a Tampa legislator three decades ago, was named Tuesday by Gov. Charlie Crist to take over Florida's Department of Children and Families.

The 61-year-old lawyer and Democrat served as assistant DCF secretary for operations under his mentor, Bob Butterworth, and became interim secretary when Butterworth resigned in August.

"George understands the people business," Crist said.

Sheldon will earn $120,640 a year overseeing an agency that protects children from abuse, distributes food stamps to needy families and seeks private adoptions of foster children. The agency has 13,000 employees and a $3-billion budget, which Sheldon said requires a need for more efficiency.

"This job, I think, really is about children who need to pull themselves up," Sheldon said. "It's about that family in need who needs food stamps."

Sheldon advocates tackling alcohol and drug abuse, poverty and unemployment to address family problems that can lead to child abuse and domestic violence.

Sheldon sidestepped the question of whether Florida should rescind its controversial, decades-old law that prevents gay couples from adopting.

"That's a policy decision that the Legislature needs to deal with," he said. "I'm really just executing the statutes."

Andrea Moore, a South Florida lawyer and child welfare advocate, called Sheldon's selection "an exceptionally good choice. … He also has the experience now to know what else needs to be fixed and the respect of all who work with him to get it done."

Long before it was politically acceptable in Florida, Sheldon supported lighter penalties for first-time marijuana users. He also built a record as an environmentalist and lobbied for conservation causes in the 1980s.

Sheldon was a deputy state attorney general when Butterworth was state attorney general, and an associate dean at St. Thomas University law school in Miami when Butterworth was dean.

George LeMieux, Crist's former chief of staff, said Sheldon "gets things done. He's responsive."

A Wildwood, N.J., native, Sheldon began his career as a college intern to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. After college, he was an aide to then-Sen. Reubin Askew of Pensacola, who was elected governor in 1970.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at

Crist names onetime rival to DCF's top post 09/30/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 5:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  2. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  3. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year


    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  4. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'


    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. []
  5. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]