DeSantis appoints Disney district chief as Orange elections supervisor

Glen Gilzean, a Republican, has been a frequent appointee by Florida governors.
Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board administrator Glen Gilzean was appointed Monday to head the Orange elections office.
Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board administrator Glen Gilzean was appointed Monday to head the Orange elections office. [ JOE BURBANK | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published March 4|Updated March 4

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Glen Gilzean, the administrator of the district overseeing Walt Disney World, to succeed Bill Cowles as Orange County election supervisor on Monday.

Gilzean, 41, a Republican and former president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, was chosen by a DeSantis-appointed board last year to oversee the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District after the state’s takeover of the formerly Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Gilzean makes $400,000 in that position. The Orange supervisor’s salary is $205,000.

Gilzean’s appointment lasts only until the winner of the election in November takes office in January 2025. Gilzean is currently not listed as a candidate.

Six candidates have filed to run for the Orange supervisor position, which oversees the fifth-largest county elections office in Florida.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, criticized the governor for this choice.

“This is another DeSantis ally being appointed to a position that they are not qualified for,” she said. “We are going to have to work incredibly hard in Orange County to ensure the integrity of our elections.”

Gilzean was also chairperson of the Florida Commission of Ethics from 2019 to 2023, when he resigned months after taking the tourism board position after a report revealed it was against state law for a public employee to serve on the ethics board.

He also served on the Reopen Florida task force overseeing the state’s emergence from COVID shutdowns in 2020 and currently is chairperson of the state’s African American History Task Force.

Eskamani was also pessimistic about who would replace Gilzean at the Disney district.

“I doubt it’ll be any better with whoever comes next, but Reedy Creek is a mini-city and business and Glen clearly did not manage it well,” said. “And it’s key to the long-term success of the state’s economy.”

Gilzean will oversee multiple elections this year, including the Florida GOP presidential primary.

Gilzean will also run the August primaries and the November general election.

Cowles, a Democrat, said in February 2023 that he would not seek reelection and retire at the end of his term next year. In December, however, he announced he would step down 11 months early on Jan. 31.

“It just felt like the right time,” Cowles said then, adding he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Since Cowles left on Jan. 31, the office has been run cooperatively by four department heads.

Staff writer Jeffrey Schweers contributed to this report.