Five days after Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the resignation of the board of the South Florida Water Management District, only two of the eight members currently serving on the board have actually resigned. The rest appear to be defiant of the governor’s request.
“I have no intentions of resigning,” board member Jaime Weisinger reaffirmed his position Tuesday . “I have made that clear to the media.” Weisinger represents a 10-county area of the district running from Orange to Collier County.
Another member of the SFWMD board also said Tuesday he has no plan to step down before his term expires.
“I have worked very hard, over the past 19 months, dealing with a vast amount of issues within the 16 counties of the district that I do not want to lose momentum on completing,” said another board member, Brandon Tucker, who.represents a six-county area in Southeast Florida.
“I look forward to continuing to serve out my term until March of 2021 and work with Governor DeSantis,” Tucker added. “We have a tremendous opportunity, because of his relationship with President Trump, to get the federal government back on track with regards to Everglades Restoration funding and that is the main issue impeding progress.”
The two members who have submitted their resignations are Carlos Diaz, who represented Broward County, and Dan O’Keefe, who represented Orange, Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee, Osceola and Polk counties.
In his letter to DeSantis, O’Keefe said he understood the governor’s desire for a change in the board.
“I compliment you for the spotlight and urgency you have directed to the issues of blue-green algae, red tide and releases from Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries,” O’Keefe wrote.
Efforts to reach the other board members by either phone or email went unanswered.
DeSantis’ request for the board’s resignations came Thursday as part of the governor’s unveiling of a new environmental policy that includes a $1 billion increase in funding over the next four years for the restoration of the Everglades and water quality protection.
The proposal also creates a task force that will explore ways to reduce the blue-green algae blooms that have plagued Florida’s waterways.
Environmental groups have been critical of the board for what they see as the board’s protection of the sugar industry. In November, members were criticized for agreeing to extend a lease with sugar farmers for land that is to be used for a reservoir designed to protect the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
In his letter to DeSantis, O’Keefe pointed out that did not vote for the extension.
The two resignations leave six members remaining on the board. The ninth member of the group announced her resignation at the beginning of the year. Of those remaining, the terms of four of those members are due to expire in March.
The water management district operates flood control structures and supervises water supplies for a 16-county area. It also works along with state and federal governments on the Everglades restoration project.