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    Familiar face to lead Corrections

    The longtime prison warden is praised by lawmakers and others who see his value as an insider.

    By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 7, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- James V. Crosby Jr., a career employee in the state prison system, was appointed Monday by Gov. Jeb Bush to run the Department of Corrections.

    Crosby, a bald, jocular 50-year-old North Florida native, replaces Michael W. Moore, a controversial figure who was severely criticized by the rank and file who saw him as an outsider unable to communicate well with employees or legislators.

    Crosby's appointment drew praise from some North Florida lawmakers who have worked with him, and from the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing the officers who guard the state's 73,000 inmates.

    "This is an excellent appointment," said Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua. "The men and women on the line have a lot of confidence in him."

    Crosby was warden of Florida State Prison in 1999 when death row inmate Frank Valdes was beaten to death.

    Three prison guards were found innocent at trial, and prosecutors later dropped charges against five others.

    Bush praised Crosby's handling of the Valdes case.

    "I was impressed with his leadership during the investigation," Bush said.

    PBA lobbyist David Murrell said the union has "had a good working relationship with him in the past and we look for an even better one in the future."

    Murrell said Moore was perceived as the outsider he was, and some of his difficulties stemmed from his unfamiliarity with Florida politics.

    Florida auditors criticized Moore for his attempts to reorganize the department, saying he failed to save money and created distrust among employees.

    Moore, who resigned last month, took over the agency in 1999 after serving in a similar post in South Carolina.

    Crosby has been warden at five Florida prisons. Most recently he was regional director of the prison system in North Florida, where a majority of the state's most hardened inmates are housed.

    "Jimmy has had a long career with the Department of Corrections," Bush said. "His experience and knowledge of the system will be valuable to the agency and the men and women who place their lives on the line every day to keep us all safe. He has enormous respect among the corrections officers."

    Crosby is a native of Bradford County, home to Florida State Prison.

    He earned a journalism degree from the University of Florida in 1973 and began work in the prison system in 1975 as an inmate classification specialist.

    He is also politically connected: He's a former mayor of Starke, appeared frequently at Bush campaign events and was a convention delegate for President George W. Bush in 2000.

    Bush said he wants Crosby to smooth communications within the agency, improve the connection between responsibility and accountability among employees, and tweak some of the changes already made.

    Crosby said he believes the agency has "a solid foundation and a lot of great staff" but needs improvements.

    He also pointed out that not all inmates are incorrigible.

    "There are certain people who are bad and have chosen to harm people," Crosby said. "They need to be locked up, but there are others who can change and need the tools to go back out and be productive citizens."

    Bush said the state's prison population has remained stable for several years but is likely to increase as inmates serve longer sentences, prompting the need for several new prisons.

    Other Bush appointments

    Bush on Monday also named interim secretaries at two state agencies: Simone Marstiller, 38, takes over the Department of Management Services, replacing Cynthia Henderson, and Hardy Roberts, 33, takes over the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, replacing Kim Binkley Seyer.

    Some key staffers in the governor's office also were replaced.

    Jill Bratina becomes communications director, replacing Katie Muniz; Kent Perez, Cabinet aide to former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, becomes Bush's chief Cabinet aide, replacing Colleen Castille, the new head of the Department of Community Affairs; and Alan Levine, a former hospital CEO, replaces Brian Yablonski as policy adviser.

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    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk