Gov. DeSantis names new Disney World government board members

Disney world
Gov. Ron DeSantis named the five board members who will control Disney World's government board as he signed the Reedy Creek measure.

New rulers have taken over Cinderella Castle.

Gov. Ron DeSantis named the five board members who will control Disney World’s government board during a press conference at Lake Buena Vista as he signed the new Reedy Creek measure. The legislation strips Disney of its ability to pick its own board members and instead gives that power to the Governor.

“Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said. “There’s a new Sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”

The new board members are:

Martin Garcia, a lawyer from Tampa whose business, Pinehill Capital, donated $50,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC.

Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota County School Board member and one of the original founders of the advocacy group Moms for Liberty. Her husband is Christian Ziegler, who just won the race for state Chair of the Republican Party of Florida. The Florida GOP has given $1.75 million to DeSantis’ campaign and millions worth of in-kind aid to his campaign. Bridget Ziegler donated $42 to DeSantis’ campaign, while her husband gave $177. Her husband also gave $75 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC.

Mike Sasso, a Seminole County lawyer who donated $370 to the DeSantis campaign and $400 to Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC.

Brian Aungst Jr., a Clearwater lawyer.

Ron Peri,  Chairman and CEO of The Gathering USA, a Christian ministry for men that’s located in Orlando.

The job of the five unpaid board members is to control Disney World’s government, which handles millions of dollars in contracts to build the roads, run the utilities and provide emergency services on the resort’s giant 25,000 acres.

DeSantis’ news conference became an opportunity for the Governor and others to bash Disney — from its movie contents to the theme parks’ response to the pandemic and opening after SeaWorld Orlando. DeSantis also accused Disney of not paying its fair share in taxes.

Representatives for Disney World did not respond for comment Monday.

The bill also renames the Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

Florida lawmakers went to war against Disney to punish the company for speaking out against the “Parental Rights in Education” legislation, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics.

Republicans vowed to strip Disney World of its special taxing district. Disney can essentially control its own infrastructure without having to go to the local Central Florida municipalities for approval, like its competitors SeaWorld and Universal Orlando must do. The new bill doesn’t go so far as to dismantle Reedy Creek, but it does change the board’s selection and renames the district.

Democrats acknowledged the Reedy Creek setup gives an unfair advantage to Disney, but argued the bill swings too far in the opposite direction by giving the Governor complete control. 

Some, like Rep. Anna Eskamani, also argued the bill didn’t punish Disney enough since it did not take away Disney’s long-held tax incentives.

Eskamani also unsuccessfully pushed for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and other Central Florida elected leaders to be automatically added to the board to ensure a local voice in the process.

On Monday, she said DeSantis’ picks for the board were “extreme and political donors.” She pointed to a $50,000 contribution Garcia’s company made to DeSantis.

She added, “It’s absolutely wild to see a self-proclaimed capitalist like DeSantis celebrate the government takeover of a private board which is exactly what the Governor did today.”

Back when the Walt Disney Company was looking to build a Magic Kingdom out east, Florida lawmakers offered Disney the ability to control its infrastructure by having its own government district if The Mouse came to the Sunshine State. That led to the creation of Reedy Creek from a 1967 law.


Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • Dr. Franklin Waters

    February 27, 2023 at 10:59 am

    I thought Conservatives hate big government?
    This right here is about as big an overreach of government as you can get, and was clearly illegal according to the First Amendment.

    But I’m pretty certain that Disney threw DeSantis into the Briar Patch over this issue. That’s why they didn’t really fight it just yet.

    DeSantis will absolutely come out of other side of this looking like an idiot. Might even cost him the presidency.

    • Jay Smif

      February 27, 2023 at 11:28 am

      DeSantis’ definition of “freedom” is “you’re free to enjoy the freedoms that I personally approve of, otherwise I will use the power of Big Government to CRIMINALIZE what I think is wrong or dislike.”

      It’s fascism, plain and simple.

      • Dems are ALL groomers

        February 27, 2023 at 5:17 pm

        You mean sorta like you scum leftist tried to do to “Pay Day Lenders” and attorneys who worked for Trump and Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Tesla and My Pillow…the list goes on and on. But you groomers gonna whine no matter what.

        • Peggy

          February 28, 2023 at 10:05 am

          Imagine defending Pay Day Lenders.

  • Andrew Finn

    February 27, 2023 at 11:42 am

    Dictator Ron DeSatan has now proven himself as a complete and total MORON to the entire world. —- “Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end” declares our “Hitler Wannabe” as he (thinks) he punishes the Disney Corporation. Well, it will be a great day when “the idiot’s Governor Kingdom finally comes to an end” and this socialist clown’s reign of terror ends. And it will end, just like all the other dictators have gone into history. Too bad it won’t end today !!!!

  • DeSantis DeSucks

    February 27, 2023 at 11:46 am

    Sounds like a fun group *eye roll*

  • JD

    February 27, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    Abuse of power to punitively harm an corporation with an opposing view.

    Instead of bitching about it on a forum, let’s go canvasing and pin people down how this squares with their sense of fair? Where’s that free speech from government reprisal?

    If he can punish a corporation of Disney’s size for speaking their mind, what do you think he can do to the average Joe if you don’t agree with him? It will be a “Thank you sir! May I have another!”

    You all were warned.

    • Dems are ALL groomers

      February 27, 2023 at 5:12 pm

      And by “punish” Disney you mean take away their special privilege that NO OTHER COMPANY in Florida was granted. If you want to keep your special privilege, stay out of the Groomer Supporting Business.

      • JD

        February 27, 2023 at 6:08 pm

        Projecting there much? Afraid they’ll find your secrecy of being a Groomer? Usually the ones screaming it the loudest are the ones committing it.

        Disney’s special district isn’t unique ‘Groomer.

        And there was zero evidence of any educator doing what the law was meant to stop. Purely a culture war of an issue that did not exist at taxpayer expense.

        Try again ‘Groomer

      • Rob Desantos

        February 28, 2023 at 11:02 am

        There are hundreds of similar special districts, you mindless puppet.

        But thanks for the timely reminder that for today’s Republicans, every accusation is a confession. Groomer.

  • Rob Desantos

    February 27, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    Pretty big talk from a pretty short guy. Is there any doubt the governor is overcompensating for something?

    • Dems are ALL groomers

      February 27, 2023 at 5:10 pm

      Leave it to a groomer to speculate about another man’s junk.

      • Rob Desantos

        February 28, 2023 at 11:04 am

        You exemplify today’s Republicans, for whom every accusation is a confession.

  • Comrade DeSantis

    February 27, 2023 at 3:02 pm

    Conservatives are now OK with the government controlling a private business’s means of production.

    There’s a word for that style of government, but it escapes me.

    • Dems are ALL groomers

      February 27, 2023 at 5:09 pm

      Hey fool, that “private business” was given powers that no other private business in Florida had. All this does is put them back on the same grounds as every other business in FL. You either too dumb to know that, or you know and are just lying about it for partisan purposes.

      • Ron DeSantis is a Human Trafficker

        February 28, 2023 at 10:06 am

        The Villages has the same exact power.

  • Dems are ALL groomers

    February 27, 2023 at 5:07 pm

    F Around and Find Out has Ron DeSantis’ picture next to it in the dictionary. The days of leftist groomers running amok in Florida are OOOOOOOOOOOVER.

    • Rob Desantos

      February 28, 2023 at 11:05 am

      Oh yeah! It’s the Republican Groomers’ time to shine now, baby!

  • Edward Freeman

    February 27, 2023 at 7:57 pm

    More corruption, more power to the power hungry Governor and more ways to grift the public by DiSaster and his criminal cronies. Did anyone expect anything less. This is all they do. Shame on Florida.

    • Charles Ramsey

      February 28, 2023 at 12:58 pm

      I agree and sitting on the smirking side of things. I have not smiled yet but working on it as I thinking how much a fool is the Florida Govenor is.

  • Tallahassee Insider

    March 1, 2023 at 11:41 am

    It’s worth noting that he filled this board with people who donated to his campaigns. It’s Pay to Play, and the corruption continues to run deep with this Governor.

  • Andrew Finn

    March 3, 2023 at 2:48 pm

    I guess that Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Hussein, and Gaddafi were not available. Of course they weren’t big donors or butt kissers either, were they ?? Not DeSatan’s buddies either. Only idols.

Comments are closed.


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