Thanks to a pointed rebuke from Gov. Jeb Bush, Department of Children and Families Secretary Jerry Regier is no longer moonlighting as chairman of his Oklahoma friend's legislative campaign. But that has not stemmed all worries over the depth of Regier's commitment to Florida's children.
Sen. Steve Geller, D-Broward, recently sent Bush a letter asking why Regier had apparently neither applied for a homestead exemption on the Tallahassee property he owns, nor registered to vote in Florida's 2002 general election. According to Geller, Regier still owns his home in Oklahoma City and chose to vote there last November, despite his then-months-old position at DCF.
"I believe it is a problem if the person in charge of protecting Florida's children and future is so unwilling to commit himself to Florida's future that he will not make Florida his home," Geller told Bush.
The issue Geller raises is a fair one, to a point. As recently as last year, Regier had obvious political aspirations in Oklahoma - he ran for governor there in 2002 but had to withdraw because he failed to meet the 10-year residency requirement - and only Regier knows how brightly that ambition still burns. While no one should expect Regier to sever all ties to his former home state, Floridians deserve a DCF chief whose energies are focused on Florida, and Florida alone. Regier cannot hope to tackle Florida's weighty child-welfare challenges if he is distracted by current obligations or future opportunities in Oklahoma.
Regier has only himself to thank for the persisting inquiries. His ill-considered agreement this summer to do fundraising and consulting on the side for a fellow Republican running for the Oklahoma Senate, planted the impression that he is less than fully invested in his work at DCF. Regier insists that is not the case, and we hope he is right.
Ultimately, however, it will be the relentlessness with which he fights for Florida's children and families that will prove where Jerry Regier's loyalties really lie.