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DeSantis names new boss for Florida Veterans’ Affairs

James S. Hartsell, a Lake Wales native, has been the acting director since former Executive Director Danny Burgess stepped down last year to successfully run for a state Senate seat.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen during a news conference Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in the Everglades.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen during a news conference Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in the Everglades. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published May 4
Updated May 4

TALLAHASSEE — Retired Marine Corps Major Gen. James S. “Hammer” Hartsell was promoted Tuesday to executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs after a brief interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Cabinet.

Hartsell, a Lake Wales native, has been the acting director since former Executive Director Danny Burgess stepped down last year to successfully run for a state Senate seat.

“My goal is to make Florida the most sought-after veteran state in the nation,” Hartsell said.

Retired Marine Corps Major Gen. James S. Hartsell
Retired Marine Corps Major Gen. James S. Hartsell [ Florida Dept. of Veterans' Affairs ]

Hartsell joined the state agency as deputy executive director in April 2019. Hartsell enlisted in the Marine reserves in 1981 and was commissioned as an officer in 1983. He mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003, Iraqi Freedom II in 2004 and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2009.

Hartsell’s resume also includes 22 years in the health-care industry and time with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office following his retirement from the Marine Corps.

The state agency oversees seven state veterans’ homes and provides services to the 1.5 million veterans in the state.