A real estate attorney who lives near Orlando is the new chairman of the South Florida Water Management District.
Daniel O’Keefe, of Windermere, on Thursday was picked to lead the appointed, nine-member board that heads the agency charged with guarding against flooding, protecting water supplies and leading Everglades restoration.
O’Keefe was first appointed to the district’s board by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 to represent residents near Lake Okeechobee, including Glades, Okeechobee, Highlands, Polk, Orange and Osceola counties.
O’Keefe takes over as chairman for Joe Collins, of Sebring, whose term on the governing board expires this month. Collins remains on the board until the governor names a replacement.
Collins is vice president for Lykes Brothers Inc, which has sugar, cattle and landscaping operations. Collins was first appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2009 and became chairman in 2011.
Collins took over during Scott’s shakeup of leadership at the district and helped guide the agency through a state-imposed 30 percent budget cut that led to about 134 layoffs.
O’Keefe on Thursday thanked the board for choosing him and credited Collins for leaving “big shoes to fill.”
The district board soon could end up getting as many as three new members.
In addition to Collins expiring term, board member Kevin Powers’ term ends this month. Powers can be re-appointed and Thursday his fellow board members chose him to remain as vice chairman.
Also, Daniel DeLisi, who represented southwest Florida on the board, recently stepped down and then was hired as the district’s new chief of staff – going from an unpaid volunteer to a $135,012.80 job with the agency.
Prior to going to work for the district, DeLisi, of Estero, was a planning and engineering consultant who had been appointed to board by Scott in 2011.
The South Florida Water Management District, based in West Palm Beach, has about 1,600 employees and a $600 million budget fueled in part by South Florida property taxes. The district owns more than 1 million acres of land and oversees water issues in a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to the Keys.
The governor appoints the district’s nine board members, who must then be confirmed by the Florida Senate. They serve four-year terms.