Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

Steve MacNamara’

Florida Department of Revenue exec director Lisa Vickers leaving

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Department of Revenue executive director Lisa Vickers resigned from her post today, effective July 1.

Vickers has been on the job since 2007, when she was appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet. The revenue department collects and distributes child support payments, collects and administers state taxes – including sales tax – and oversees property taxes. A copy of her resignation letter was not immediately available.

Last year, Vickers’s agency collected more than $32 billion in state taxes and processed more than $1.5 billion in child support payments.

Vickers, who answers to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet, submitted her resignation in the wake of a shake-up in Scott’s inner circle. The governor’s chief of staff Steve MacNamara resigned over the weekend after media reports questioned his awarding of no-bid contracts to close associates while he worked for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. Former associates also accused him of being an overly controlling presence in the governor’s office. MacNamara had intended to leave in the fall.

MacNamara out as Scott chief-of-staff, Hollingsworth in

Saturday, May 12th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott’s chief-of-staff, Steve MacNamara, resigned Saturday after a brief meeting with the governor, concluding that ”media attention” focused on him had begun to “interfere with the day-t0-day operations of this office.”

MacNamara will leave July 1. Scott announced the veteran capital insider will be replaced by Adam Hollingsworth, who leads the right-of-way division for Flagler Development Group.

Hollingsworth is a former chief-of-staff to ex-Mayor John Peyton of Jacksonville. He left the mayor’s office to work for the Florida Republican Party in advance of Scott’s election, and also served on the incoming governor’s transition team.

“I’m grateful for Steve’s invaluable assistance in helping advance my agenda to strengthen education, create jobs and lower the cost of living for Floridians,” Scott said in a statement Saturday, while praising MacNamara for guiding a generally successful agenda for the governor through the Legislature this spring.

Scott added, “I believe Steve has had a tremendous impact on me and Ann as well as my administration and our state. I respect his efforts and ideas.”

MacNamara’s departure comes at least a few months ahead of his planned exit, but was hastened by media reports questioning his awarding no-bid contracts — one worth $5.5 million — to close associates while he worked for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. Former associates also accused him of being an overly controlling presence in the governor’s office.

Last week, a complaint against MacNamara also was filed with the state’s Commission on Ethics, accusing him of using governor’s office staff to assist him in inquiring about a college presidency opening in Montana. MacNamara and his wife own property in Montana, and influenced Scott and his wife, Ann, to buy near them. 

MacNamara left the Senate presidency job last June to join Scott, taking over as the new administration’s approval ratings tanked with Floridians, angered by deep budget cuts worsened by the governor’s difficulties connecting with the public.

MacNamara immediately attempted to soften the governor’s image — with Scott most days going without a necktie, suddenly visiting editorial boards he had shunned, and adopting a more cooperative approach with the Legislature.

Scott’s approval ratings remain lousy among Floridians, according to polls. But in his resignation letter, MacNamara pointed with pride toward his work helping Scott repair his first-year image.

“It is my belief that I have helped Floridians begin to know the real Rick Scott,” MacNamara wrote Saturday. “A man who listens to them, who tries to understand their issues and concerns, and works diligently to solve their problems.”

Before joining the governor’s office last June,  MacNamara directed wholesale housecleaning in the Senate administration, forcing out a number of longtime staff directors.  Some of the contracts MacNamara steered to associates and friends were part of his effort to improve the efficiency and transparency of Haridopolos’ office, qualities he also said he brought to Scott’s administration.

But MacNamara also drew controversy. Several Scott agency heads left over the past year, later citing MacNamara’s hands-on approach as interfering with their ability to lead, sometimes over seemingly petty matters.

 Doug Darling, chief of the Department of Economic Opportunity, a key agency for the job-promoting Scott, abruptly quit in January after MacNamara countermanded his order denying the state’s film commissioner a trip to the Sundance Film Festival.

MacNamara earned $189,000 as chief-of-staff.

He previously was chief-of-staff to former House Speaker John Thrasher, and served as an agency head under former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez. MacNamara is a tenured professor in communications at Florida State University, but helped shape Scott’s views of higher education as being rife with waste and overpaid administrators.

Although he didn’t comment directly on the accusations that have lately hounded him, MacNamara closed his two-page resignation letter by hinting that he was the target of those losing out on government contracts under the belt-tightening Scott. He also suggested that Scott would continue to defy these critics.

“As you continue to cut government waste,” MacNamara wrote, “those vendors of goods and services will work diligently to twist the story and bring about public pressure to stop these cost savings. Good luck with that!”

Rick Scott campaigns to win hearts of Floridians

Monday, August 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Is Rick Scott the most hated nice guy in Florida?

The Republican governor has been caricatured as Voldemort, Skeletor and worse. A bumper sticker seen recently in Tallahassee read “Rick Scott: The Anti-Christ.”

Only 35 percent of Florida voters approve of how he’s doing his job and slightly less like him as a person, according to poll results released last week. Not even a majority of Republicans said they liked him as a person, although 60 percent of them said they liked his policies.

Yet, those who meet him say that, one-on-one, he’s unfailingly polite and soft-spoken. He cracks jokes and asks about their families and their health.

His staff is convinced that if Floridians got to know their boss better, they would like him, even if they don’t agree with his policies.

Read the full story here.

Scott to meet with ed boards

Monday, August 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

More than half a year into his administration, Gov. Rick Scott hosted his first coffee-and-doughnuts session with Capitol reporters and, in a reversal of his previous policy, will start making the rounds of the state’s newspaper editorial boards.

Scott, who never ran for public office before last year, refused to meet with the editorial writers during his campaign for governor.

Scott’s new strategy comes after a recent shake-up in his inner office in which Tallahassee political veteran Steve MacNamara replaced Mary Anne Carter, a relative unknown in Florida, as Scott’s chief of staff.

Since MacNamara came on board late last month, Scott appeared at an annual meeting of newspaper executives and had an off-the-record chat with The Miami Herald ed board.

In another signal of détente with the media, Scott hosted a coffee-and-doughnuts session with Capitol reporters this morning, his first since taking office in January.

MacNamara explained the new approach.

“His mother and my mother do the same thing every morning,” MacNamara said. “Go outside and get the newspaper.”

Tea party icon Scott spends a slice of nearly every morning appearing on predominantly conservative radio talk shows, speaking to his base.

But MacNamara said the governor has realized he’s got to spread his message around.

“He’s either going to be defined by newspapers or he’s going to define himself,” MacNamara said.

His first sit-down with an editorial board will be with The Tallahassee Democrat, the governor’s new hometown paper, MacNamara said.

Haridopolos’ spokesman legs it to Lottery

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The Capitol’s summertime job shuffling continues — with Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ spokesman David Bishop legging it next week for a job with the state Lottery Department.

No successor has been named yet by the Senate boss — whose office last month lost its chief-of-staff, Steve MacNamara, to Gov. Rick Scott. New Haridopolos chief Craig Meyer is also tasked with filling a couple Senate committee staff directors’ posts.

Bishop, a veteran lobbyist, political adviser and former TV reporter, will be a deputy secretary at the Lottery, overseeing marketing, communications and advertising. His $114,000 salary tops his Senate spokesman pay by $2,000.

Bishop joined Haridopolos’ office last September. The Senate president is headed for his final spring as a state lawmaker and is among a four-pack of Republican contenders seeking the party’s nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Balancing the role of lawmaker and statewide candidate is a tough juggling act. But Bishop said his departure was on his own terms for a job that is interesting, and provides some potential for longevity.

“We’ve done a great job of keeping the campaign and the official duties of Senate president separate,” Bishop said. “That’s not an issue at all. I’m leaving on my own timeline.”

More Scott shuffling: Hughes to GOP

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Brian HughesRick Scott’s deputy communications director, is the latest gubernatorial staffer to make a career change – heading to the Florida Republican Party as its spokesman.

Hughes will take over from Trey Stapleton, who worked on Scott’s campaign. Stapleton is heading to Washington, D.C., and Hughes will become the new RPOF spokesman within the next two weeks, as the party gears up to serve as host for next summer’s Republican National Convention, in Tampa.

Hughes teamed with Scott communications director Brian Burgess to form what around the Capitol became known as the “two Brians,” a pair of aggressive defenders and promoters of the governor’s agenda. But with Scott marking his six-months in office on July 4, the governor’s office has lately undergone some door-swinging.

Scott chief-of-staff Mike Prendergast exited to the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs and top adviser Mary Anne Carter headed to her Tennessee home and a still-to-be-made-public 2012 political campaign. New chief-of-staff Steve MacNamara hasn’t said it, but clearly among his duties will be trying to improve Scott’s barnacle-scraping poll numbers.

Scott, Haridopolos name new chiefs

Friday, June 24th, 2011 by John Kennedy

A shuffle at the highest reaches of state government began Friday, with Gov. Rick Scott naming a veteran legislative insider as his chief-of-staff and Senate President Mike Haridopolos also choosing a well-known Capitol name to manage his office.

As expected, Scott chose Steve MacNamara to succeed retired Army Col. Mike Prendergast as his chief-of-staff, plucking MacNamara from Haridopolos’ office, where he served in a similar capacity. Prendergast, who had been working for the first time in state government, earlier this week was named executive director of Florida’s Veterans’ Affairs Department.

MacNamara, though, brings to the governor’s office a wealth of Capitol experience. With polls showing the governor’s popularity at a stunningly low levels and the state’s economy still sluggish, MacNamara will likely be tasked with initiating policies that help Scott elevate his political game — and support from Floridians.

“My goal is to make Florida the number one state in the country for job creation and I believe Steve MacNamara is the best choice to direct my team in that endeavor,” Scott said.  “His experience and political skill will be an asset to all Floridians as we continue to position Florida as an economic leader.”

MacNamara is a former chief-of-staff to then-House Speaker John Thrasher, and served as an agency head under former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez. He also earlier served as a Senate staffer on redistricting — the once-a-deacade process lawmakers began again this month — and is a tenured professor at Florida State University.

Succeeding MacNamara in Haridopolos’ office is Craig Meyer, another longtime Capitol staffer who, most recently, was director of the Senate’s budget committee as it worked to offset a nearly $3.8 billion budget shortfall.

Scott’s office lost two key players this week, with adviser Mary Anne Carter also announcing she was leaving the administration by the end of June.  It’s uncertain whether Carter’s position will be filled, but other changes could be coming within the executive office and Senate president’s shop.


Scott retools team amid poll numbers scraping bottom

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 by John Kennedy

With approval ratings scraping bottom and his name a virtual laugh line for Democrats, Gov. Rick Scott is retooling his leadership team, with a pair of top aides departing and a veteran government insider expected to join the administration.

Scott Chief-of-Staff Mike Prendergast, a retired Army colonel, was officially moved Wednesday to executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, taking with him his $150,000 salary and becoming one of the governor’s best-paid agency heads.

The move came a day after Mary Anne Carter, a top Scott adviser, announced she will leave at the end of the month. Carter guided Scott’s campaign last summer, helping the former health care executive win his first run for elected office — powered by spending $73 million of his own cash.

Meanwhile, Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ chief-of-staff, Steve MacNamara, is considered a likely successor to Prendergast. MacNamara served in a similar role in the House, led a state agency and is a tenured professor at Florida State University.

“Steve is a master of the business of politics and policy,” said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, in line to become Senate president next year. “He would be a real asset to this governor.”

While high-profile staff changes are not unusual, Scott’s recent predecessors, former Govs. Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, managed to get through at least the first year without an overhaul.

Scott, who will reach his six-month mark in office July 4, may feel some urgency to re-pivot because of recent polls.

Full story, here:

Prendergast moves from chief to Vets’ Affairs: ‘Mission Accomplished”

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott’s chief-of-staff, Mike Prendergast, was slid Wednesday into the post of executive director of the state’s Veterans Affairs Department, bringing with him his $150,000 salary.

Scott and the Cabinet approved the move during a teleconference that had Prendergast’s reassignment as the lone agenda item.

“I absolutely think it was a ‘mission accomplished’ opportunity,” Prendergast said. “The governor needed a chief-of-staff to come in and help him out as he transitioned, went from the inauguration, got through a great first session as a freshman governor. We learned a heckuva lot. We put a lot of systems in place. Now we’re ready to take our game up to the next level…”

Any missteps?

“I really don’t think so. I think we learned a lot, as you would expect to learn whenever you bring a great team of world class assets in, like the governor did, without a lot of insider status. We brought in some of the tactics, techniques and procedures that we learned in the private sector,” Prendergast said.

Prendergast’s successor hasn’t been named. But all indications are it will be Steve MacNamara, Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ chief-of-staff, and a veteran of state government.

Incoming Prez Haridopolos clears decks in Senate

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Before he’s officially taken over as Senate President, Sen. Mike Haridopolos gave the axe to several top-ranking senate staffers this week, according to Senate sources.

The list includes staff directors Bob McKee of the Finance and Tax committee, Ray Wilson of Governmental Oversight and Accountability; General counsel Jay Vail; chief information officer and director of information technology Curt Unruh; and Joe McVaney, deputy staff director with the budget committee.

“The Florida Senate appreciates all of its dedicated employees, but it is the incoming Senate President’s prerogative to make personnel changes, with a new administration. My goal is to have an efficient, well-organized Senate staff, and this is just the first step in doing so,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said in a statement.

The housecleaning takes place after Haridopolos hired Steve MacNamara, former chief of staff for former House Speaker John Thrasher, now a state senator and head of the Republican Party of Florida.

More heads are expected to roll before the November elections. Those leaving will be able to run out their annual leave and comp time, according to a source close to Senate President Jeff Atwater’s office. (more…)

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories