Incoming governor Scott taps shipyard executive for Florida DEP post

Governor-elect Rick Scott on Monday named Jacksonville shipyard executive Herschel Vinyard Jr. to lead the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, calling him a man of “deep environmental knowledge and practical business experience.”

Vinyard, who also served as a member of Scott’s economic development transition team, recently served as director of business operation for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards. He also serves on the Jacksonville Port Authority board and on a DEP board that is establishing pollution reduction practices for the lower St. Johns River.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauded the appointment by saying that Vinyard would balance environmental protection and free enterprise. Meanwhile environmental groups provided mixed views on the appointment of an industry official to lead the department, which oversees regulation of wetlands, water and air quality and manages Florida’s state parks.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said Vinyard is a former law partner and “great friend” who has served Florida “with honesty and integrity.” In a statement announcing the appointment, Scott said Vinyard had represented a myriad of clients while serving as an environmental attorney.

“Herschel is a man of deep environmental knowledge and practical business experience,” Scott said. “He has a love for our great state’s natural resources and a passion for job creation. He will effectively balance those interests for the benefit of all Floridians.”

On the other hand, Linda Young of the Clean Water Network of Florida said Scott had chosen “a capable man to make easy work of clearing the path for monied interests that find natural resource protections getting in the way of quick profits.” Other environmental group representatives said they would have to wait to find out Vinyard’s impact on the department.

“Putting a business person in charge of enforcement of laws doesn’t change the law,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. “It doesn’t change the mission of the agency.”

Kirk Fordam, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, sounded an optimistic note about Vinyard even though Scott has said he was opposed to the state purchase of land from U.S. Sugar for Everglades cleanup.

“Vinyard recognizes both the ecological and environmental value of Florida’s remarkable natural resources,” he said in statement. “He has demonstrated a commitment in both the private sector and on a personal level, to implementing sound, innovative practices and policies to conserve our waterways, lakes, estuaries and all of the environmental treasures of this state.”

The appointment requires confirmation by both the Florida Senate and the Cabinet. Vinyard replaces Mimi Drew, who was initially named interim secretary this past summer and was later named permanent secretary by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet. Drew said she wanted to stay in the job but she would have had to resign from state government by July 2011 since she was enrolled in the deferred retirement option program.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting