Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed the first three members of the Florida Gaming Control Commission — including its inaugural chair, lawyer Julie Brown, who is departing one high-level commission position for another.
DeSantis announced the appointments Wednesday. Brown is leaving her prior role as secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation after less than a year.
Michael Yaworsky, the chief of staff at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, will serve as the gaming commission’s first vice chair. Former Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Charles Drago, who more than 30 years in law enforcement, will also join.
In her new position — which, like those of her fellow appointees, is subject to Senate confirmation — Brown will lead a new, five-member government body responsible for exercising state regulatory and executive powers over gambling in Florida, including oversight of gaming compacts under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The gaming commission must include one member who has practiced law for the last decade, one member with a minimum of 10 years in law enforcement and criminal investigation and one member who is a certified public accountant.
Lawmakers created the Commission in May, when they authorized a 30-year compact granting the Seminole Tribe of Florida control over sports betting in the state, among other things.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich vacated the compact, ruling it violated the federal framework for gambling on tribal land. The Seminole Tribe appealed the ruling a day later.
Brown’s legal career and public service dates back more than a decade and includes 10 years on the Florida Public Service Commission, where she was responsible for ensuring Floridians reasonably and reliably received vital utilities, including electricity, natural gas, telephone, water and wastewater. From 2016 to 2018, she led the Commission as chair.
Also a licensed real estate broker and graduate of Leadership Florida, Brown earned her juris doctor from the University of Florida, where she also attained a bachelor of public relations. She has practiced law for more than 20 years.
Other past public service roles include a stint as president of the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County, chair of the Florida Legislature’s Study Committee on Investor-Owned Water and Wastewater Utility Systems and membership of the Florida Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and Tampa Architectural Review Commission.
Earlier this year, DeSantis described Brown as bringing “a unique blend of experience in the private and public sectors, as well as the legal field.”
Yaworsky’s past government roles in Florida include a five-month run as chief of staff at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and a pair of jobs in the Executive Office of the Governor between 2006 and 2010, according to his LinkedIn page.
A graduate of Florida State University and Samford University, where he earned his juris doctor in 2013, Yaworsky has also served the Greater Atlanta area as counsel to the Georgia Department of Insurance, Safety Fire Commissioner and Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore.
Drago spent 29 years with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, where he rose from police officer to assistant chief. In March 2004, he took over as chief of police for the city of Oviedo, a role he held for three years until former Gov. Charlie Crist tapped him for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in 2007.
Drago worked two jobs at that time, serving also as Crist’s deputy chief of staff.
Since 2011, Drago has owned and led Drago Professional Consultants, a police consulting business.
The appointments are effective Jan. 1, the deadline by which DeSantis must fill the gaming commission’s two other seats.
Each commissioner is to be paid $131,136 yearly.
December 23, 2021 at 9:39 pm
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