There has been some lane shifting at the Florida Department of Transportation over the last few months.
Former Secretary Kevin Thibault took off earlier this year to become CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. That allowed Jared Perdue, Secretary of District Five, to land his spot at the helm of Florida’s transportation agency. Perdue Thursday introduced himself to the Florida Transportation Commission during a call-in meeting.
“When I started as a P.E. (professional engineering) trainee in District Three many, many years ago — our Panhandle district — I never really imagined myself sitting in this role, but here I am today,” Perdue told Commission members. “One of the biggest takeaways I have from my career at FDOT is the high quality of people that work here who are part of this agency, and also the high quality of people that are in our industry.”
Perdue said building his team will be a major priority.
“There are some key vacancies that have come up and it’s a really great opportunity for the new Secretary to build that team and fill some key roles,” Perdue said. “We already have a great team in place, but we’ll fill these vacancies and our team will get stronger.”
With Perdue leading the agency, his old District Five post is available. There’s also the Chief of Staff position. That’s currently filled by Chief of Modal Development Kenyatta Lee, who is doing double duty in both high-level roles. Other key roles, like director of construction, have also been vacated due to recent promotions. Commission members told Perdue they’d be sending some résumés his way.
Perdue said the size and diversity of the state will be a challenge. Data from the U.S. Census released this year showed Florida had the second-highest population growth in the nation from 2020 to 2021. And with rapidly rising rent and inflation rates, Florida is considered one of the least-affordable states in the country.
He said the challenges of growth are amplified by the state having wildly diverse transportation needs. FDOT oversees the state’s highways, streets, air, rail, sea, spaceports, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian routes. But Perdue said his experience in different districts has prepared him to handle those challenges.
Perdue started his career in District Three, which covers the Panhandle and has 1.4 million residents spread over 16 counties. District Five, his last post, covers Central Florida and includes nine counties, nearly 9,000 square miles, and 4 million residents who travel about 55.6 million vehicle miles every day.
“Every region of the state is very, very unique. Every community is very unique. Every community has its own set of challenges, its own dynamic, its own character and its own vision of where it wants to go in the future,” Perdue said. “That’s one of the things that makes Florida such a great state, is the ability for every community to have that unique character and have the freedom to grow and develop it.”
But Perdue said the thing that holds them together is the common desire to move transportation infrastructure forward.
“We have the ability, when we invest in transportation projects, to have a tremendously positive impact on every community,” he said. “That’s one of the things that will be focused on, really taking that community-centric approach and making sure all of our projects are embracing where communities want to go in the future.”