Ron DeSantis vetting chief of staff candidates, including some familiar names

DeSantis Transition 5 (2)

At least four people are in the running to become Ron DeSantis‘ chief of staff: Kathy Mears, Scott Ross, Scott Parkinson, and Shane Strum, according to sources familiar with the interview process.

DeSantis “has discussed the position with all four,” one source said during an interview in Orlando where dozens of Adams Streeters are meeting for a handful of post-election conferences, though “he still plans to talk to more.”

Absent from the list is Susie Wiles, the veteran Jacksonville political operative who took the helm of Donald Trump’s Florida campaign, and more recently assumed the chair of DeSantis’ campaign for Governor during the final stretch.

Wiles is expected to return to her position as managing partner in Ballard Partners‘ Jacksonville office after the inauguration, a source familiar with Wiles’ thinking told Florida Politics.

The chief of staff position would be Wiles’ for the taking and while she is determined to assist the Governor-elect build out a capable executive branch, she’s looking forward to being back int he private sector.

Here’s a little background on the four contenders being discussed:

— Mears, chief legislative affairs officer for Florida State University, previously served as chief of staff to two consecutive Florida House speakers, Will Weatherford (2012-14) and Steve Crisafulli (2014-16).

Mears also has been a top advisor to former Senate Presidents Ken Pruitt and Tom Lee, was deputy chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, served as campaign communications director to Congressman Daniel Webster, and was a vice president at On 3 Public Relations in Tallahassee.

— Ross, an early DeSantis supporter and top lobbyist at Capital City Consulting, was Deputy Secretary at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, serving as the chief regulator for gaming, alcoholic beverages and tobacco, hotels and restaurants, condominiums, timeshares, and mobile homes.

He also was Director of Government Relations for “one of the world’s largest gaming and entertainment companies,” as well as Executive Director of the Florida Student Association, an association compromised of more than 300,000 members across the state of Florida.

— Strum is senior vice president for South Florida’s Memorial Healthcare System.

Before that, he was vice chancellor of business development for Keiser University and was a transition adviser to Gov. Rick Scott. Strum also was chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist.

— Parkinson was DeSantis’ congressional chief of staff and also has been Deputy Legislative Director to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

He also was Executive Director of the Republican Study Committee, a “caucus of conservative members of the Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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