Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday tapped a longtime state lawmaker and current member of his administration to take on a more local role at the Walton County Commission.
Brad Drake, a Republican who served 12 years in the Florida House until 2022, will fill the empty District 3 seat in the Panhandle county. Drake replaces Mike Barker, who resigned in February to serve as interim city manager of DeFuniak Springs. The appointment comes even though there’s a Republican running for the post.
Until this appointment, Drake was the director of rural and community affairs for the Florida Department of Transportation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Florida.
During his most recent stint in the Florida House, representing House District 5, Drake’s priorities ranged from targeting ballot-initiative spending to increasing internet access for Floridians in rural areas. Republican Rep. Shane Abbott was elected to succeed Drake after he termed out in 2022.
Walton County, in response to Hurricane Idalia, sent emergency personnel to affected areas. The county was fortunately west of the Category 4-storm’s path last week. Beaches in the county opened five hours after Idalia made landfall.
Florida laws empower the Governor to fill vacancies on county commissions when the incumbent does not complete their term. The replacement finishes the term. Barker, the former incumbent, had a term set till 2024, meaning Drake will not be up for re-election until then. The Walton County Supervisor of Elections website shows that Rob Hamilton, a Republican, filed to run for the same seat in April.
District 3 encompasses the following Walton communities: Alpine Heights, Children’s Home, Cluster Springs, Dixon, DeFuniak Springs NW, Ealum, Liberty, Mossy Head, New Harmony, Piney Grove, and Sand Hill.
Florida statutes provide for the Governor to make an appointment for elected positions if less than 28 months remains in the vacated position’s term.