The former campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will head-up the staff of Agriculture Commission-elect Nikki Fried. Patrick Murphy, the chair of Fried’s transition team announce Friday morning that Matthew Van Name will serve as Fried’s chief of staff.
Van Name doesn’t have agricultural experience on his resume. He previously worked as Deputy State Director for For Our Future Fund where he helped manage multi-million-dollar independent expenditure budget and over 1,800 employees. He also served as Congressman Charlie Crist’s Campaign Manager in 2016 and as 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East’s political coordinator.
Fried’s staff appointments are critical as she prepares to enter an office that, in the past, has been held by men with ties to agriculture who were comfortable in cowboy boots and working on the farm.
A Broward County attorney and marijuana lobbyist, Fried lacks the agricultural background of her predecessors. Including current Commissioner Adam Putnam. She’s been working to win the trust of the state’s farming community.
“She’s obviously not a traditional agriculture commissioner who grew up on a farm,” Michael Sparks, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual told the Lakeland Ledger earlier this month.
“She’s willing to learn and reach out,” Sparks added. “I’m convinced she will represent us well.”
In addition to Van Name, Murphy announced that Shelby Scarpa will serve as deputy chief of staff, while Alan Edwards will assume the duties of deputy chief of staff of operations. Scheril Murray Powell was named as federal affairs director, and Emily Duda Buckley as legislative affairs director.
Of the group, Edwards, Powell and Buckley have experience with agricultural issues, with Edwards having worked for more than two decades with the department.
“I’m thrilled to announce this first round of hires for our administration as we work to build a Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that can deliver progress on the people of Florida’s priority issues,” stated Fried. “Matthew Van Name brings a breadth of management experience and a dynamic leadership style that will help put our Department in the best position to succeed.
Scarpa served as campaign manager for Fried’s campaign. She has worked for over a decade as a senior campaign and fundraising consultant to federal, state and local Democratic candidates across the country, including Murphy, a former Congressman, State Attorney and former State Senator Dave Aronberg, and Congressman Ron Klein.
Edwards brings years of experience with the department to the new administration. He served in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since 1993. Most recently he has worked in Commissioner Adam Putnam’s administration as a Deputy Commissioner.
Powell is an Agricultural and Cannabis Attorney based in Fort Lauderdale. While Buckley previously worked for Jones Walker, LLP, where she served as the government relations manager, who worked on a variety of policy areas including environmental, agriculture, education, technology, and more