For the first time in over a year, Florida will have a full-time chief resilience officer, responsible for the state’s response to rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced that he has selected Wesley Brooks for the role.

The governor had appointed Julia Nesheiwat as chief resilience officer in August 2019 but she left after six months.

The new resilience officer has been director of federal affairs in the state Department of Environmental Protection and was an aide to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio who has worked on initiatives in clean water, Everglades restoration, and coral reef conservation, according to the news release.

The nonprofit Everglades Foundation released a statement from CEO Eric Eikenberg, applauding the appointment and saying: “As a peninsula with 1,350 miles of coastline and a very unique environment in almost every region of the state, Florida is and will be facing impacts from sea level rise that will present a challenge for our state, and Dr. Brooks is well qualified to lead us in preparing for these challenges.

“With a doctorate in ecology, and an expertise in Everglades science and policy, coupled with his experience working in government, Dr. Brooks is an excellent choice for this important position.”

Along with Dr Brook’s appointment, the Governor also named new leaders for the departments of Corrections, Juvenile Justice, and Elder Affairs.

The new Corrections secretary is Ricky Dixon, who has spent 15 years in the agency including six years as deputy secretary. He replaces Mark Inch, who has retired and has been vocal about the challenges in Florida’s state prison system.

Eric Hall will lead Juvenile Justice. Previously, he served as a chancellor within the state Department of Education, overseeing the public schools, community colleges, career and adult education, vocational rehabilitation, blind services, and the offices of Safe Schools and Early Learning and was instrumental in the department’s response to COVID-19.

He replaces interim secretary Josie Tamayo, who will serve the DeSantis administration in another capacity, according to the governor’s press office.

The new Elder Affairs secretary is Michelle Branham, formerly vice president for public policy for the Florida Alzheimer’s Association, chair of the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee, and advisory member of the State Plan on Aging Task Force.

The appointments will take effect in the coming weeks, according to a news release.

This report first appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to coverage of state government and politics from Tallahassee.


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