Interim no more: Ron DeSantis makes Shawn Hamilton DEP Secretary
Shawn Hamilton is back. Image via Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Shawn Hamilton
He's served as interim Director since June.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has removed the “interim” qualifier before Shawn Hamilton’s title to officially make him Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

DeSantis’ office announced the appointment Tuesday. Hamilton has served since June as interim secretary after the departure of former DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein, who had served in the role for four years.

DeSantis’ office did not say in a press note announcing Hamilton’s appointment whether he will doubly serve as the state’s Chief Resilience Officer like Valenstein did before him. Florida Politics has requested and is awaiting clarification.

A few hours after the announcement, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried reiterated objections she expressed in mid-June, when DeSantis said he would skip a vote by the Florida Cabinet to approve the appointment. By circumventing that step, which is required by Florida Statutes, DeSantis was breaking the law, she said.

DeSantis during their argument in June pointed to contradictory language in the Florida Constitution, which he said empowers him to seek appointment approval by either the Cabinet or the Florida Senate, but not both.

As DEP Secretary, Hamilton will continue to lead nearly 3,000 full-time employees and 1,300 temporary and part-time workers across the agency’s 34 divisions. The agency has a $2.2 billion budget.

“Secretary Hamilton brings a strong, proven record of environmental stewardship and management of award-winning state parks and conservation lands,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I am confident in his ability to continue leading DEP and building on the foundations laid before him in our mission to protect and restore Florida’s environmental and natural resources.”

A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Hamilton has been with DEP for 13 years. From February 2020 to June 2021, he served as Deputy Secretary of Lands and Recreation, a department with a $391 million budget where he led 1,160 full-time employees overseeing Florida’s 12 million acres of public lands and 175 state parks, trails and historic sites.

Before that, he ran the DEP’s Northwest District for nine years, leading permitting, compliance and regulations enforcement.

He has also coordinated DEP’s environmental justice efforts and commanded several large-scale natural and industrial emergency relief efforts, including work on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, International Paper Mill explosion, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael, according to his DEP bio.

“We are excited to work with him,” said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg, one of several environmental organization leaders to provide comments praising Hamilton’s appointment. “There is no doubt that Secretary Hamilton will continue to carry out Governor DeSantis’ bold vision to restore America’s Everglades and better Florida’s environmental resources.”

Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director of Audubon Florida, spoke highly of working with Hamilton and expressed confidence he was more than up to the task of handling DEP’s wide-reaching operations.

“Not only does he bring long experience at regional and state levels of DEP, but his background spans DEP priorities from regulatory oversight to state land management,” she said. “DEP is a big agency with big responsibilities, and we’re glad to see someone with Shawn’s talents and experience chosen for the role.”

Captains for Clean Water co-founder and Executive Director Daniel Andrews, The Nature Conservancy in Florida Executive Director Temperince Morgan, Environmental Defense Fund Florida Director Dawn Shirreffs and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Eric Sutton, Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick, American Flood Coalition Executive Director Melissa Roberts, Florida Chief Science Officer Mark Rains, Florida Gulf Coast University Vester Field Station Director Michael Parsons and Kellie Ralston, southeast fisheries policy director for the American Sportfishing Association, heaped similar praise on Hamilton’s selection in prepared statements provided to the Governor’s office.

His predecessor, Valenstein, said Florida is “lucky to have a true public servant” charting DEP’s future course.

“His love for Florida’s natural resources and focus on resiliency is a perfect complement to the Governor’s bold agenda on the environment,” said Valenstein, now a Senior Adviser for the American Flood Coalition, a Presidential Fellow for the Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University and a member of the Florida Communities Trust Governing Board.

Hamilton said he is honored to serve in the role.

“I have seen first-hand the historic advancements that have been made, and the unprecedented resources that have been secured for the protection of the environment, especially under Governor DeSantis’ leadership,” he said. “I look forward to furthering the agency’s mission and advancing the Governor’s environmental priorities.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Tom

    September 1, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Great appointment, fine selection.
    It’s a two fer. Strong Governor on environment with Record accomplishments appoints a strong person with good credentials and overall Background. Happens to be a minority,
    Highly supported by all.

    Dumb to oppose but the fraud will.
    Waste of time on her part.
    Minority members of legislature and beyond should object to her.

  • Jace

    September 1, 2021 at 9:14 am

    Really??? Red Tide Ron is strong on the environment?

  • Tom

    September 1, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    Yes, oh ok so that’s his fault as is Covid in America. What an ignorant human.
    Are you dumb and stupid ?

    Your dam right
    He’s done more for environment to any Gov last 40 yrs.

Comments are closed.


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