DeSantis ally in talks to become Disney World government’s district administrator

REEDY CREEK 2 (Large) (1)
'He's a man who is dedicated to public service.'

The new state-appointed members of Disney World’s governing board are cleaning house and eyeing a new face to become the special district’s next administrator.

Glen Gilzean, CEO of the Central Florida Urban League and a DeSantis ally, is interested in the job and will start negotiating his contract with the special district. Martin Garcia, who chairs the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, mentioned the move at Wednesday’s meeting.

That means John Classe, who has run the day-to-day operations of Disney World’s government since 2016, is on his way out as top executive following the state’s takeover of the district’s board. Classe is interested in getting another job within the district, leaders said Wednesday, although the board did not provide further details about which job.

As CEO of Central Florida Urban League fighting to end generational poverty, Gilzean was named Orlando Business Journal’s CEO of the Year in 2019.

Gilzean, a Republican, was tapped to be on DeSantis’ working group to reopen Florida in 2020 during the pandemic. 

Previously, Gilzean was vice president of Step Up For Students, which gives vouchers for students to use for their school of choice.

He has also served on the Pinellas County School Board and Florida A&M University Board of Trustees.

Gilzean did not make any public comments at Wednesday’s meeting.

“If you know anything about public policy in Florida. you’re familiar with this candidate,” Garcia said Wednesday. “He’s a man who is dedicated to public service and has done more than anybody I know to help the underserved in the state of Florida. He is bright. He is of the highest character.”

Garcia said he will start negotiating with Gilzean and plans to bring a contract for the board to vote on at the next meeting.

Other board members agreed to meet with Gilzean individually.

Classe’s career at Reedy Creek began in 2015 when he was hired as a deputy district administrator, according to a 2016 Orlando Sentinel story published when Classe was promoted to administrator that year.

Previously, Classe’s background was as a real-estate development executive.

“He has overseen the development of a variety of large-scale, master-planned communities, retail centers, themed entertainment and resorts,” the Sentinel story said.

“Classe worked as a vice president at Crescent Communities LLC, Atkins, and PBS&J. He was also a vice president at Pritzker Real Estate Group, where he managed the strategic direction for all planning, design and construction of Baldwin Park in Orlando.”

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 .


  • PeterH

    April 26, 2023 at 4:08 pm

    Does Glen Gilzean‘s salary start before or after the resolution of Disney’s lawsuit charging DeSantis et al with illegal business interference?

  • Deanna Antczak

    April 27, 2023 at 8:09 am

    Personally I don’t understand where government has a right to intervene in private businesses n take over their boards.. this is authoritarian to the nine.

  • Diane yates

    May 2, 2023 at 10:59 am

    Ron Desantis is an authoritarian Trump junior. Florida voters néed to pay attention AND vote him OUT. He is fighting with a Mouse

Comments are closed.


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