Sunday, July 15, 2018

A reliable Rick Scott ally, Pete Antonacci, named CEO of Enterprise Florida

Pete Antonacci, who last week made headlines when he advised scientists to stay in their lane rather than criticize his water agency's work on Everglades restoration, is getting a new job.

After less than two turbulent years as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, he's been tapped to take over Florida's beleaguered business-recruitment agency, Enterprise Florida.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:Everglades restoration project leader tells top scientists: Stay in your lane

Enterprise Florida's executive committee voted Wednesday to recommend Antonacci after Gov. Rick Scott called him "a good team player." A vote by the agency's full board is considered a formality.

Onetime lobbyist Antonacci, 68, has no prior experience at recruiting businesses, just as he had no prior experience at running a water agency overseeing flood control and the Everglades restoration project before Scott tapped him for that job.

He's been Scott's go-to guy. Scott previously appointed him to fill in as state attorney in Palm Beach County for a year. Before that, he served as Scott's general counsel.

During the recent legislative session, Enterprise Florida seemed marked for death. House Speaker Richard Corcoran targeted it for elimination, blasting it as "corporate welfare." Scott, a big fan of Enterprise Florida, fought back with TV ads claiming "the politicians in Tallahassee don't get it" In the end, each traded support for the other's priorities and both declared victory after a round of dealing in private.

The Legislature approved $16 million in funding for Enterprise Florida in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, down from $23.5 million.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:Rick Scott agrees to sign $83 billion state budget after reaching deal with Corcoran, Negron

Don't expect Antonacci to shy away from jumping into controversy. When he was the governor's general counsel, Antonaicci was involved in the still-mysterious firing of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Director Gerald Bailey.

As the head of the South Florida water agency, he announced last week that he was upset with the National Academies of Science advisory committee that's supposed to be working on Everglades restoration issues, ordering his staff to no longer cooperate with them.

With Antonacci now apparently heading to Tallahassee, what will happen next with the scientists and the long-delayed Everglades restoration program is unknown.

Craig Pittman can be reached at [email protected] Follow @CraigTimes

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