By KEITH LAING
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 15, 2010…….The most recent chairman of the House’s transportation budget committee wants to run the state Department of Transportation, joining several current and former heads of other states’ highway agencies as applicants for DOT secretary.
Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, who had chaired the House Transportation and Economic Appropriations Committee the last two years, is one of 29 applicants whose applications have been received so far by the panel that vets potential Department of Transportation secretaries for Florida governors. That panel, the Florida Transportation Commission, extended the original Dec. 10 deadline for applications to Dec. 31, so more candidates may be forthcoming.
So far, Glorioso is the only member of the Florida Legislature in the running, though at least one other lawmaker, Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, is rumored to be interested. Glorioso said he is not sure Dockery will apply for the job, though he has let her know that he would.
“Paula and I kept in touch,” he told the News Service of Florida Thursday. “I don’t know what she’s going to do. I know she’s got a lot of talents she wants to offer too.”
Dockery, who has seen her power in the Florida Senate diminished after her brief anti-Tallahassee gubernatorial run, endorsed Scott shortly after she ended her own bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. She was considered a possible contender to be his running mate and since then, her name has come up frequently as a possible transportation secretary.
Appearing on a state political show over the weekend, she did little to discourage the talk, though thus far, she has not submitted a resume.
“I would consider it,” Dockery said when asked if she was interested in replacing outgoing DOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos. “All options are on the table…but that’s certainly not something I’m working on.”
Glorioso, however, is. He told the News Service that his experience in municipal government – he’s a former chairman of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization – and his time at the helm of both House committees dealing with transportation make him a good fit for DOT Secretary.
“I think I’ve got a pretty good resume, pretty good talent and I’m offering it up to the governor,” he said. “If he can find a place for me, that’d be great.”
Glorioso, a former colonel in the U.S. Air Force, also touted his military background, which he said gave him experience “leading large organizations that needed to be transformed.”
He said he had not spoken at length about the position with Scott, who is himself a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Glorioso said only that he told the incoming governor that he was applying for the DOT post.
Other candidates in the running include the current and former heads of the Idaho, Vermont and Minnesota Departments of Transportation, who would find warmer weather should they be selected to lead the Sunshine State’s DOT. Three other applicants have experience with the Oregon, Puerto Rico and Wisconsin transportation departments, though they did not lead them.
“I have a record of excellent performance as Secretary of Transportation in Vermont during a period of almost seven years, appointed by governors of both parties,” Patrick Garahan, who led the Green Mountain State’s transportation department from 1983 to 1986 and from 1991 to 1995, wrote in a letter to Florida Transportation Commission Chairman Marcos Machena. “In that position, I have supervised over 1,300 employees with a budget of over $300 million annually and a total capital program of over $700 million.”
By contrast, Florida’s 2010-2011 budget contained more than $7 billion in transportation spending and the state has 7,426 transportation employees statewide.
Current Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Thomas Sorel, who has been at the helm of that state’s DOT since 2008, noted he has led a state agency of 5,000 employees with a $4.3 billion biennial budget.
Former Idaho Transportation Director Pamela Lowe, who was in that position from 2006 to 2009, leaned heavily on her experience leading her state’s agency too, saying it had 1,800 employees and a $600 million budget.
“During my tenure, I forged new partnerships with groups such as the Association of General Contractors, local governments, and private,” she said on her resume. “I introduced new and efficient processes to the department, enabling savings of millions of dollars per year.”
Lowe also worked from 1986 to 1993 in the Arizona Department of Transportation, though she was not in charge there.
Two very recent college graduates also applied. As graduates of Florida A&M University, Sontaria McGary and Ashelee Slater are familiar with Tallahassee. However, considering they just finished college in August and May 2010 respectively, they likely won’t get much consideration for replacing Kopelousos next year.
Transportation Commission spokeswoman Lisa Stone said the original schedule called for creating a short-list of candidates to interviewed and conducting background checks on them by Dec. 28, holding the interviews Jan. 13 and providing Gov.-elect Scott with three names to choose from Jan. 14. But with the deadline for applications being extended until Dec. 31, the whole process will be pushed back a few weeks, Stone said.