TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday appointed Jared Moskowitz and Torey Alston, two individuals who have served in top posts of his administration, to fill two soon-to-be vacant seats on the Broward County Commission.
Moskowitz, the former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and Alston, the Florida Department of Transportation’s chief of staff, will replace Broward Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, who resigned to run for Congress earlier this year. The seats were going to be vacant in January.
“I think both Torey and Jared are going to put the folks here in the community and their needs first,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale. “I don’t think they are going to use their positions to posture or to get involved in kind of useless political fights.”
Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat who served as a Parkland commissioner for six years before he was elected to the state House in 2012, was tapped by DeSantis in December 2018 to serve in the Republican governor’s administration. He led the state’s logistical response to the coronavirus pandemic and hurricanes up until April of this year, when he stepped down from his post to spend more time with his family in South Florida.
“When the governor appointed me to be the director, we went to work on day one to help the residents in the Panhandle recover from a Category 5,” Moskowitz said at the press conference on Tuesday. “And on day one, when I’m sworn in, I will go to work for the residents of District 8 in Broward County.”
Moskowitz’s term on the county commission will run through November 2022, the governor’s office said.
Alston, of Fort Lauderdale, has also served locally: three years as Broward County’s chief of staff, two stints with Miami-Dade Schools as executive director and economic equity and diversity compliance officer, and two years as an equal opportunity director with the city of Gainesville, according to his LinkedIn page.
“I know our community. I know our issues, and I will be a strong voice in the county commission,” Alston said. “As a husband, father, and proud business owner, to sum it all up, I know District 9 and District 9 knows me.”
Alston’s term will run through November 2024, the governor’s office said.
DeSantis noted that his decision to appoint Alston and Moskowitz to the commission — in a Democratic stronghold — was based, in part, because they have “demonstrated records of putting records above self” and an ability to work across the aisle.
“Local government stuff is very important. If you look around the country, these local governments have really gone off the rails, and a lot of it is when you have one-party rule,” DeSantis said. “This is a result of policies. This is a result of ideology trumping the needs of the community. And so these are very important decisions.”
When criticizing local governments, DeSantis did not directly talk about Broward County, though his administration has publicly sparred with the local officials during his time as governor. Most recently, the state and local school board members clashed over masking policies.
The governor’s office said seven people applied to be considered for the commission. The applicants’ names were not immediately available, but last week, WLRN reported state Reps. Anika Omphroy and Patricia Williams were among the people who asked DeSantis to pick them for the seats on the commission.
The jockeying for the seats began after Holness and Sharief resigned their county commission seats to qualify to run for Florida’s 20th Congressional District, to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a health care executive from Hollywood, won the November primary.
The congressional race also created some vacancies in Florida Legislature. Sen. Perry Thurston, and Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy, all Black Democrats, resigned to run for Congress.
In late October, DeSantis set the primary date for the three legislative seats for Jan. 11 and the general election for March 8. The timing means Democrats, who are in the minority in the Florida Legislature, will have fewer members in each chamber for next year’s 60-day legislative session, which starts Jan. 11 and ends March 11.