Local developer Pat Neal and State Rep. Joe Gruters are among the leading contenders to become Florida’s next chief financial officer, and indications are that if Gov. Rick Scott were to offer either of them the cabinet job, they would accept.
Neal, a former state legislator, is chairman of the executive commitee of Neal Communities, the largest private developer in Manatee County.
“I have had quite a few calls, but this is Gov. Scott’s decision,” Neal said Tuesday, after his name began appearing prominently on lists of contenders for the CFO job.
“I will support anyone who he chooses to appoint,” Neal said.
Asked if he would accept the appointment as Florida CFO if it were to be offered, Gruters answered without hesitation: “I would. It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to serve in the cabinet without having to go through the election process.”
Gruters said he would seek election in 2018 to a full term if he gets the CFO appointment.
“It’s pretty exciting to be considered. I am a pretty happy guy,” said Gruters, a CPA who represents Florida House District 73, covering parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties. “It could be a significant advantage to our area if either Pat or I were appointed CFO.”
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater announced Friday that he is resigning the cabinet position he has held since 2010 to take a job as CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Both Neal and Gruters are friends and strong supporters of Scott.
Neal has raised money for Scott’s election campaigns and served on his transition team. Neal has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Atwater since at least 2014, when he first sought the job as president of FAU.
“I am a supporter of Joe Gruters, too,” Neal said, citing Gruter’s defiance of House Speaker Richard Cordoran, R-Land O’Lakes.
Gruters was the only Republican who voted against killing Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, projects dear to Scott’s heart.
Neal called Gruters’ vote “courageous.”
Similarly, Gruters is supportive of Neal if he gets the CFO appointment.
“I am very excited for our local area, whether it is Pat Neal or myself who gets the job,” Gruters said.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Gruters served as Florida co-chair of President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Gruters, who was elected in November to the Florida House, is in talks with the Trump administration for a possible federal job, he said.
“I may be offered two positions, or no positions,” Gruters said.