A spokeswoman for Governor Rick Scott downplays speculation over who might get the job as Florida’s CFO saying any speculation would be premature since there is no list of candidates for the job. Communications Director Jackie Schutz says “there is no timeline on a process and there is not a specific list of candidates” for choosing a successor to current CFO Jeff Atwater.
Atwater is set to step-down following the current legislative session, which is now scheduled to end at the beginning of next week. He is leaving to become the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and CFO of Florida Atlantic University.
While the Governor’s Office denies that there is a leading candidate for the job, or that there are any candidates at all, three names are frequently mentioned as possible successors to Atwater. In addition to Lenny Curry, Manatee County developer Pat Neal is considered to be another possible candidate. Also mentioned, but considered to be more of a long-shot, is state Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, and State Senator Jack Latvala, among others.
Earlier on Wednesday, it was announced that Curry’s chief of staff in the Mayor’s Office, Kerri Stewart, was resigning to take a job offer that she said was too good to turn down. Her resignation caused some to question whether her decision to leave was an indication that her boss might soon be leaving.
The 46-year-old Curry, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, drew praise from fiscal conservatives when he successfully pushed through a pension reform plan that basically ends pensions for new Jacksonville city employees. It’s an idea that fiscal conservatives would like to see adopted at the state level.
Curry has come under fire from social conservatives for his decision to allow an anti-discrimination ordinance providing protections to the LGBTQ community. Critics claim the ordinance allows men to use women’s showers and restroom facilities in some non-profit organizations that provide residential facilities.
Curry did not respond to a request for comment.
Pat Neal is seen as a political outsider with a proven track record in the private business sector. His development company has built about 12,000 homes in 80 Gulf Coast Communities. When asked today, Neal brushed aside speculation he could be Florida’s next CFO.
“This is the Governor’s decision to fill the upcoming vacancy for CFO,” said the 68-year-old Neal. “I am confident he will make the best decision for Florida.”
State Representative Joe Gruters is another well-known ally of the governor, and has frequently been mentioned as a possible choice for the job. Gruters says he stands ready to help whomever the governor chooses for the job to win reelection during the 2018 cycle.
“The governor has created over a million jobs and he will make the right decision on this one,” Gruters said. “All the names being mentioned are quality people who will serve the Governor and Florida well.”
The decision is ultimately Governor Scott’s. He could choose to pick any of those who are considered to be in the running, or he could go a completely different direction.