Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Rick Scott picks former state official, lobbyist as next elections chief

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday named Ken Detzner, a lobbyist and former state official, to be Florida's new secretary of state — a post he briefly held nearly a decade ago under former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Detzner, 59, will succeed Kurt Browning, who announced this month he was resigning and returning to his Dade City home. Browning will oversee the Jan. 31 presidential primary election before making way for Detzner, who was Bush's interim secretary of state for part of 2003.

"It's very important that we have a smooth transition," Scott said Wednesday. "Ken will do that. He has experience."

Detzner will be paid $140,000 a year, the same salary Browning received. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

"I'm excited. This is one of the most exciting job in state government," Detzner said.

Detzner's previous stint at the agency, while brief, was marked by one notable controversy.

He loyally supported Bush's controversial proposal to shut down the $10 million state library and donate its large collection of rare historical and obscure documents to a private university, Nova Southeastern in Fort Lauderdale. The plan was scrapped in the face of vehement opposition from library advocates across the state, but Detzner defended the cost-cutting move.

This time, Detzner takes charge of the agency at a time when four key sections of a new state election law are stuck in the courts and cannot take effect in five counties: Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry. The changes affect early voting, voter registration and provisional ballots, and any voting law changes in those five counties require federal approval to make sure they don't discriminate against minority voters.

Detzner, a Republican, worked for former Attorney General Jim Smith and was a lobbyist for the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, a trade group for the beer industry. He said he was visiting the Governor's Office recently on behalf of another client that was interested in holding a "workday" for Scott when he was asked to apply for the job.

"I said, 'Give me 24 hours,'" Detzner recalled. He pledged to be transparent and open in all dealings. "Very important to be fair and open and honest to every party that's involved there."

In addition to overseeing elections, the Department of State oversees state cultural affairs and historic preservation programs, Florida corporations and libraries. The agency has 436 employees and has a $82.2 million budget.

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