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Bill Johnson named Enterprise Florida chief

Miami-Dade's longtime port chief -- and current head of the water-and-sewer department -- was named Thursday to head Florida's economic-development arm.

Bill Johnson succeeds Gray Swoope as CEO of Enterprise Florida, a post that also came with the title of Commerce Secretary (Jeb Bush's first state job).

"You'll see me in the Panhandle. You'll see me in the Keys. You'll see me in Jacksonville," Johnson told the Enterprise Florida board at Thursday's meeting. "You'll see me around the state. You'll see me listening."

Considered a specialist at turning around troubled departments at Miami-Dade, Johnson spent most of his career at the county and traveled the world as the ports chief, a job he took in 2006. "Bill, I think this is the first job you've had where you didn't have to fix anything," Alan Becker, a Fort Lauderale lawyer and new Enterprise Florida vice-chairman, said in introducing Johnson.

The hire makes Johnson the top economic ambassador for Gov. Rick Scott, who was just reelected on a platform that centered around job growth.

Scott's tapping Johnson also puts a person described as Miami-Dade's highest-ranking openly gay administrator in a high-profile state post. In a January 2014 cover story for the magazine of Miami-Dade's Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Johnson was asked if he ever hit a glass ceiling. "No," he replied. "Rather, I think my perspective has been greatly appreciated in terms of diversity in the workforce."

Johnson, who became close with Scott during their joint push to build the Port Miami tunnel, praised the governor in his remarks Thursday.

"I don't consider this governor a politician," Johnson said. "I consider this governor a leader."

At a transportation forum Thursday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez praised the governor's choice, characterizing it as a good for the county, which will have a familiar face in Tallahassee (and, perhaps, in Miami, where Johnson told the mayor he may try to open an office).

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