Bush picks Cabinet aide to regulate development
By JULIE HAUSERMAN, Times Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE -- In a move that was immediately applauded by environmental groups, Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday appointed one of state government's top environmental policy experts to head the agency that regulates development.
Colleen Castille, 43, is the new secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs. She replaces former Pinellas County Commissioner Steve Seibert, who resigned in November.
But it is unclear how long Castille will serve because Bush is pushing a plan to merge her agency with the Secretary of State's Office, to be headed by Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood. The Legislature will be asked to approve Bush's plan when it meets in the spring. How the new agency will function and who will lead it, is unclear.
In the meantime, Castille will run an agency that works with cities and counties on planning for development and also oversees disaster preparedness.
A former fundraiser for Republican candidates, Castille has logged many years of service in Florida government, mostly behind the scenes. As an aide to Florida's elected Cabinet, she handled the details of state conservation land buying, public education and state finances. She began her political career in 1986 as a fundraiser for Republican Tom Gallagher, now the state's chief financial officer. She worked as chief Cabinet aide to Gallagher, and to Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan when he was education commissioner. For the past four years, she has been Bush's chief Cabinet aide.
"This is a smart move by the governor," said Eric Draper, a lobbyist for Audubon of Florida. "He's put somebody environmentally conscious and bright and a good communicator in charge of that agency."
Bush called Castille "one of my most trusted advisers on conservation and the environment."
Bush was fuzzy on details about his proposed merger of the agency and the Department of State, but said managing growth will remain a top priority.
Castille said growth management is key to one of Bush's top goals for his second term: strengthening Florida's families.
She said families don't have enough time with their children "if it takes mom and dad an hour and a half to drive across town and pick up the kids."
As he has before, Bush said Florida's growth management laws aren't working, and he said he will keep trying to change them. He provided few details.
Bush has three agency heads yet to appoint: a new secretary of the Department of Corrections to replace outgoing DOC head Michael Moore; a new secretary of the state Department of Transportation to replace longtime DOT chief Tom Barry; and a secretary of the Department of Management Services, a job that came open when DMS Secretary Cynthia Henderson resigned.
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