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Shawn Hamilton Tapped As Florida Environmental Protection Secretary

Algae Bloom Florida
Lynne Sladky
An algae bloom is on the Caloosahatchee River at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam, July 12, 2018, in Alva, Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is charged with protecting and improving water quality and aquatic resources.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday named Shawn Hamilton secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, a position Hamilton has held under an interim title since June. Hamilton replaced former Secretary Noah Valenstein, who left the job in early June after four years.

A news release Tuesday about Hamilton’s selection didn’t mention the state Cabinet, which has jointly approved the appointments of past DEP secretaries. DeSantis suggested at a June 15 Cabinet meeting he would take precedent-setting action by seeking approval of the new DEP secretary from the Legislature, as is done with many other agency heads.

The governor’s office pointed to a part of the state Constitution dealing with executive departments. That part of the Constitution says: “When provided by law, confirmation by the Senate or the approval of three members of the Cabinet shall be required for appointment to or removal from any designated statutory office.”

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running to try to unseat the Republican governor in 2022, countered at the June meeting the DEP appointment requires Cabinet approval.

A part of a law about the creation of the Department of Environmental Protection, says: “The head of the Department of Environmental Protection shall be a secretary, who shall be appointed by the Governor, with the concurrence of three members of the Cabinet. The secretary shall be confirmed by the Florida Senate. The secretary shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.”

Fried’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Shawn Hamilton

In the news release from the governor’s office, DeSantis said Hamilton has a “strong, proven record of environmental stewardship and management of award-winning state parks and conservation lands.”

Hamilton has been with the department since 2007, starting as a public affairs manager in the agency’s Northwest District Office and moving to assistant district director in 2010 and district director in 2011. Hamilton was promoted to deputy director of the department last year.

Valenstein is now a senior adviser for the American Flood Coalition and presidential fellow for The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University.