DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein adds Chief Resilience Office duties to his portfolio

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DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein is celebrating Florida's 'cleanest air ever.'

Posted March 11, 2020

Dual roles held as Legislature considers future oversight for DEP.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein will take on the responsibilities of Chief Resilience Officer while continuing to hold his current position within the administration.

“Secretary Valenstein will continue to prioritize coastal resilience in Florida and prepare for the effects of sea-level rise,” said DEP Press Secretary Weesam Khoury.

The move to put Valenstein in the dual roles comes weeks after Julia Nesheiwat, the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer, was tapped to serve as President Donald Trump’s homeland security advisor.

Valenstein was first appointed DEP Secretary in May 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott. Gov. Ron DeSantis elected last year to keep Valenstein in that role. The Secretary previously served as executive director for the Suwannee River Water Management District.

The shift in responsibilities may also signal a move in the works to put Valenstein in charge of Resilience full-time and open up the DEP Secretary post.

But that movement isn’t happening just yet. And the Florida Legislature remains in the midst of a fight over who oversees the DEP.

Right now, the DEP falls under the auspices of the entire Florida Cabinet.

But there’s a bill in the House sponsored by Rep. Bobby Payne that would give greater oversight to Gov. Ron DeSantis exclusively.

Payne, a Palatka Republican, has in the most recent iteration of the bill provisions that would make the appointment of a DEP Secretary the responsibility of the Governor, with his choice subject to confirmation by the Senate.

“We will see where it ferrets out in the final vote,” said Payne, who noted companion legislation in the Senate doesn’t have that change.

The move is just one of many discussed this Session about how much power the Governor holds.

The House last month voted to take the Office of Energy out from under Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and place it under the Governor. Fried, the only Democrat in the Cabinet, labeled the bill as a “partisan power grab.” But the Senate has yet to sign on to that change.

This move has raised some eyebrows in that it takes oversight away not just from Fried but two Republican members of the Cabinet— Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

Should the change become law, Valenstein could potentially wait to depart his post at DEP until DeSantis could choose a successor and send that pick to the Senate for confirmation without input from the Cabinet.

But Helen Aguirre Ferre stressed no decision has been made as to who will be appointed permanently to the Chief Resiliency Officer post.

“Noah Valenstein is Secretary of the Department of Environment Protection, and he is happy at his job,” Ferre said. “There have been no conversations or discussions to the contrary.”