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Ken Lawson tapped to head DEO under Ron DeSantis

Ken Lawson, a veteran of Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration, will next lead the Department of Economic Opportunity when Ron DeSantis becomes Governor.

That’s according to sources inside the transition team who spoke with Florida Politics on Thursday. (The hire was confirmed later in the day by an official news release.)

Lawson is now president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism agency, and was Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation before that.

When Scott called for an overhaul of how VISIT FLORIDA does business, he decided Lawson — a former federal prosecutor and Marine Corps captain — was the right man for the job.

“Ken Lawson had demonstrated his leadership ability since serving his country in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate General,” DeSantis said in a statement; the Governor-elect was a Navy JAG.

“I have no doubt Ken will continue his tradition of outstanding leadership at the Department of Economic Opportunity and help the state continue to be an economic powerhouse, bringing new businesses to Florida and creating jobs for Floridians.”

Lawson has been a Scott loyalist, and has “has held numerous regulatory positions within the private sector and federal government,” according to one bio.

He has been Assistant Secretary of Enforcement for the U.S. Department of Treasury, and Assistant Chief Counsel for Field Operations at the Transportation Security Administration. 

Lawson also was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.

“In the private sector, he spent two years with Booz Allen Hamilton as a consultant, including a year as Chief of Party for the Financial Crimes Prevention Project in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he directed international anti-money laundering, anticorruption, and counterterrorist financing projects,” according to the bio.

Lawson stepped in after Scott called on then-VISIT FLORIDA CEO Will Seccombe to quit, continuing a purge at the organization that saw two other top executives fired.

That was from the fallout over how it handled a secret marketing contract, lambasted and investigated by then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran, worth up to $1 million with Miami rapper superstar Pitbull.

The Department of Economic Opportunity, or DEO, is the state’s jobs-creating agency, handling “workforce programs, community development opportunities, and economic development initiatives and programs.”

Its current executive director, Scott appointee Cissy Proctor, turned in her resignation earlier this month, to be effective on Scott’s last day in office. That’s Jan. 8 when DeSantis is sworn in as his successor. Proctor was paid a salary of $142,000 a year. She has run the Department of Economic Opportunity since December 2015.

State agency heads working directly under Scott were advised Tuesday by Susie Wiles, who is overseeing DeSantis’ transition team, to prepare resignation letters that take effect before the new governor’s Jan. 8 inauguration.

“We look forward to working with DEO Executive Director, Ken Lawson, to ensure Florida has a great climate that sets a level playing field for all businesses and avoids picking winners and losers in the marketplace,” said Americans For Prosperity — Florida Deputy State Director Skylar Zander.

Written By

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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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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