Corporate exec to lead Fla. growth agency

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott has appointed an executive of one of Florida’s largest land development companies to oversee the department charged with managing growth.

Billy Buzzett, vice president of the St. Joe Co., will take over the Department of Community Affairs, the state’s land planning and community development agency that Scott is eager to overhaul.

Scott’s office issued a news release about the appointment Wednesday night.

Scott also announced that former Secretary of State Kurt Browning will return to the job he retired from eight months ago and that Michelle Rhee -- the controversial former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools -- will continue in her role as an “informal education advisor” to Scott.

Environmentalists see the appointment of Buzzett as another sign that Scott -- in his quest to create jobs and spur Florida’s economy -- will allow developers to run rampant over the state’s natural resources. On Monday, Scott appointed a shipbuilding executive as his top environmental regulator.

“I can’t think of anyone who would be less appropriate for that job,” said Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, who has sparred with Buzzett and St. Joe for years. “To put it mildly, it’s troubling to know that he’s in charge of steering the growth and development of the state. He has been at the heart and soul of some of the most destructive developments that the Florida Panhandle has seen.”

Brian Burgess, Scott’s spokesman, dismissed those criticisms as antidevelopment.

Buzzett is a fifth-generation Floridian from Apalachicola who has previously worked for the Florida Legislature and as assistant general counsel to then-Gov. Bob Martinez.

Salaries were not released for Browning or Buzzett.

Browning, 52, became Pasco County’s elections supervisor in 1980 at the age of 22. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist named him secretary of state in 2007, a position he held for 31/2 years.

Rhee launched tough teacher evaluation systems and contracts in Washington that resulted in hundreds of teachers being fired. She is a polarizing figure loathed by many teachers groups but loved by many of those who want to more aggressively and quickly boot poor teachers.

She installed programs in Washington in which teachers were observed multiple times a year by principals or trained master teachers who came to their classrooms unannounced. She also created a system in which teachers determined to be ineffective could be fired outright, while those rated “minimally effective” received a one-year period to improve.

She resigned from her job in the fall after the mayor who had supported her was defeated in an election. In December, Rhee founded StudentsFirst, a public education reform group.

Rhee served as a member of Scott’s transition team for education.