Sunday, May 26, 2013

Meeker abandons her job at SFWMD; heads for better deal


Melissa Meeker has resigned from her position of two years as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.  A Sun Sentinel article says she is leaving not because she was pushed out but because of a better offer she couldn’t refuse.
This should not surprise you.  Meeker has a history of “moving on.”  A glance at her vitae indicates she has used political opportunism to move to more important positions again and again staying only a few years at most before leaving. 
Is she a political hack, as some say, for her jumping from one governmental position to another just to widen her portfolio of connections and improve her political capital?  Or, is she the professional gadfly whose luster dims easily under the light of failed expectations and disappointment prompting her to grab the next ride to another opportunity?  Or, is she such a treasure chest of intellect and talent that suitors will do anything to lure her away, as she would have us believe?
Frankly, I don’t know what her deal is but I am confident it isn’t the latter. A search for shining moments where her professional ship has docked over the years leaves one scratching one’s head.  Nowhere does it mention any achievements of significance she could claim as her own.  It does say curiously, however, with the quotes being her own, that she “sold” her own consulting business so she could move on to bigger and better things.  What was she trying to communicate when she put the word sold in quotes?  Did she sell it or not?
Here’s her LinkedIn profile:
June 2011 – Present (2 years) 

Deputy Secretary of Water Policy and Ecosystem Projects, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
March 2011 – May 2011 (3 months)

Responsible for state water policy, coordination among water management districts, and implementation of ecosystem projects, including Everglades Restoration and ACF. 

Commissioner, FL Environmental Regulation Commission
2010 – 2011 (1 year) 

The Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) is a non-salaried, seven-member board selected by the Governor, who represent agriculture, the development industry, local government, the environmental community, citizens, and members of the scientific and technical community.

The Commission sets standards and rules that protect Floridians and the environment based on sound scientific and technical validity, economic impacts, and risks and benefits to the public and Florida’s natural resources. Most issues that go before the ERC relate to air pollution, water quality and waste management.
 

Former Owner, Hesperides Group
2007 – 2011 (4 years) 

" ‘sold’ the business to move on to bigger and better things!” 

Director, Women in the Environment
2007 – 2011 (4 years)

A networking organization for women who work in environmental fields. 

Vice President, Tetra Tech EC, Inc.
July 2005 – January 2010 (4 years 7 months) 

National Water and Natural Resources Program Lead 

Board Member, Sustainable Treasure Coast, Inc.
2004 – 2010 (6 years)

Governing Board Member, South Florida Water Management District
2007 – 2009 (2 years) 

SE District Director, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
1997 – 2004 (7 years) 

So, what are we to think of Ms. Meeker (assuming it should matter)?  

One thing she did not say was that she served on hospital-trader Scott’s transition team, and worked with co-member and transition team sub-committee chair on regulatory reform, Doug Manson.  It was Manson’s sub-committee that devised the now despised grand plan of the Scott administration to dismantle and destroy the state’s nationally respected environmental regulatory framework.  This is a very ill-advised scheme that resulted in the firing of hundreds of regulatory professionals and loss of thousands of years of critical institutional memory under the guise of having to reduce government because of a fractured economy.   

Meeker has been very much a part of this overly destructive gambit which really could be putting Florida's economic future at risk.  It has become clear that the true reason for the attack on the state’s ability to provide fundamental protection for its natural systems was to reset the regulatory clock to an earlier time when environmental protection was no more than a concept and before it was a body of law.  The true reason was to allow power companies, mining companies, big agriculture, and developers-of-all-things-that-sprawl to once again have the freedom to ditch, dike, drain and pollute the state’s rivers, wetlands, lakes, springs and natural systems without restraint. 

Meeker was one of Scott’s minions who participated in the genesis of this idiocy and then signed on to help carry it out.  In her farewell email to the staff, she said she is proud of “what we have accomplished together …” i.e., the damage she wrought during the two short years of her presence, and the institutional incapacity she, Herschel Vinyard and Rick Scott have suffered upon the district.  (see Meeker resignation email to staff HERE.) 

Earlier this year, we learned in a Palm Beach Post Editorial that someone had placed an amendment on a bill last legislative session that allowed only Meeker’s district to place advertising signs on the district’s public property.  Suddenly and without notice, a proposal was placed before the governing board to enter a contract that would benefit former board member Harkley Thorton.  Here’s what the Post concluded: 

  • The amendment allowing the billboards — disguised as “public information systems” — was a last-minute provision in a must-pass bill to fund the water districts. That’s the tactic Tallahassee uses to sneak stuff through with no debate;
  • Former Sen. Paula Dockery, a member of the committee where the bill originated, says former House Speaker Dean Cannon’s office backed the amendment;
  • Mr. Thornton chaired Mr. Cannon’s political spending committee in 2010, and the two are friends;
  • Mr. Thornton, who owns the billboard company Florida Communication Advisors, is a former business partner of South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker;
  • Mr. Thornton’s company is negotiating with the district on a contract to install billboards in a dozen counties, including Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin, Orange and part of Broward.
And there’s more:

  • South Florida is the only one of the state’s five water management districts with a billboard plan;
  • Mr. Thornton and his wife each donated $4,700 to Mike Haridopolos, who was Senate president when the bill was passed. 
The thought that occurred to many when all this hit the street was said best by the Post: 

 “When Ms. Meeker took over, she said the district would focus only on its core missions: flood control, water supply and environmental restoration.  Where do billboards fit?” 

On February 7, The Everglades Review reported that the district dropped the proposal saying, “Public backlash over allowing billboards on public land persuaded the South Florida Water Management District on Tuesday to drop its controversial money-making venture…. But so many questions remain unanswered.” 

Here are some other controversies in which the district has become embroiled under her leadership (reported by Everglades Hub at http://www.evergladeshub.com/news/arch/13-05TXT.htm.) 

Jan. 24: No-bid leases: Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet bless two land deals by the water district that award no-bid, 30-year agricultural leases in the Everglades to major farming companies despite complaints from environmentalists and a water district official that the public was neither aware of nor consulted on the deals. The district came under fire last year for its long-standing policy of renewing agricultural leases without putting them out for competitive bid.

Feb. 27: No-interview hiring: Water district governing board member Dan DeLisi has resigned and accepted a position as the district’s chief of staff. DeLisi, 39, sent his resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday. On Friday, DeLisi said he submitted his application for the chief of staff position. Although he did not interview for the position, on Tuesday DeLisi was offered the job over 53 other applicants.

May 20: Mecca deal: When the water district governing board voted this month to offer Palm Beach County $26 million for a former citrus grove, the same value determined by an appraiser hired by the county, the district’s board was not told of another county appraisal that had valued the property between $14.8 and $22.5 million 

Except for the fact that this woman is obviously filled with burning ambition, her ultimate destination has never been clear.  The Sun Sentinel reports she was offered a position at a large international consulting firm without even asking.  She indicated that the promise was of a future so much better than her life at SFWMD that she could not deny herself the opportunity.   

So, Meeker now rejoins the private sector.  Let’s hope that’s where she stays.  That’s where she belongs.  Maybe the damage she'll do there will limited to her own interests and not so much the public's.  She says she does not intend to do business with the South Florida Water Management District in the near future.  Let us hope that’s forever.
 
As she leaves a once respected institution badly weakened and maybe even broken, and a confused staff that before she arrived knew a whole lot better what is needed to accomplish its complex and crucially important duties, I for one do not understand why anyone might think she did a good job.

 

14 comments:

  1. One can only wonder how much longer before Guillory , gets his pay back and jumps to his next opportunity.

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    Replies
    1. Not soon enough! And hopefully he takes Beltran and Donaldson with him!

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  2. First Bob Brown, now Melissa Meeker. Good riddance to them both.

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  3. It won't be soon enough! But with Beruff as Board Chair it won't matter since he has his own agenda for destroying the District.

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    Replies
    1. Carlos Beruff elected as Governing Board Chair??? I guess that just proves crap does rise to the top! No matter how hard I tried during my "thanks for your 25 years of faithful service" recognition, I could not get him to look me in the eyes as he shook my hand. Nothing but a slimy used car salesman with absolutely no environmental stewardship experience as far as I'm concerned. Hey Beruff, US 41 runs north AND south ... take the hint.

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  4. Thanks, again for trying to open eyes. It is going to be interesting to see how this turns out.
    Keep us posted!

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  5. After reading your post below … excuse me for a moment. I need to go find a clothes pin for my nose. The political stench is nauseating, overwhelming and insufferable!

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  6. Good to see you at the BBQ.
    As for MM, based on her very brief service on the ERC, I would have to concur with your assessment of her.

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  7. I am perplexed. Is this good news or bad? Or a dose of castor oil and Epsom salts?

    Is this Rick Scott's governance style? Perhaps in another life I will understand, but not in this one.

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  8. if this is a multiple-choice question, I'll take d)

    a) Is she a political hack, as some say, for her jumping from one governmental position to another just to widen her portfolio of connections and improve her political capital?
    b) Or, is she the professional gadfly whose luster dims easily under the light of failed expectations and disappointment prompting her to grab the next ride to another opportunity?
    c) Or, is she such a treasure chest of intellect and talent that suitors will do anything to lure her away, as she would have us believe?
    d) a and b, above

    Good news for the SFWMD. Thanks for keeping me in the loop,

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  9. Rumors starting to heat up on Blake Guillery leaving SWFMUD for either SFWMD or just plain leaving. Either one is good for the Southwest District although that might leave Bob Beltran as the choice. Not sure that's much better. These Scott appointees, yes that what Meeker and Guillery and th eother Executive Director were/are, and many of his other state agency hand picked minions don't seem to last very long until they appear to panick and depart as they realize they are in over their head and about to be found out. It seems their only talent in the private sector was shaking hands and using whatever was at their means to do someone in the party a favor to promote themselves. Now as meeker found out, you can't get away with it in the Sunshine of state government. And if you can't make your bosses happy with gifts and you run out of tea party agenda goals all youhave left is your ability to work hard which appears to be a virtue that Meeker or Guillery has. Looking forward to November 2014 to clean house.

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  10. Rumors starting to heat up on Blake Guillery leaving SWFMUD for either SFWMD or just plain leaving. Either one is good for the Southwest District although that might leave Bob Beltran as the choice. Not sure that's much better. These Scott appointees, yes that what Meeker and Guillery and th eother Executive Director were/are, and many of his other state agency hand picked minions don't seem to last very long until they appear to panick and depart as they realize they are in over their head and about to be found out. It seems their only talent in the private sector was shaking hands and using whatever was at their means to do someone in the party a favor to promote themselves. Now as meeker found out, you can't get away with it in the Sunshine of state government. And if you can't make your bosses happy with gifts and you run out of tea party agenda goals all youhave left is your ability to work hard which appears to be a virtue that neither Meeker or Guillery has. Looking forward to November 2014 to clean house.

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  11. What is going on? Are we stupid or blind here in the sunshine state? Is it true that the ones who actually have a clue, have to worry about not losing their jobs, while the corrupt, inept, political animals take turns pretending to run things?How can this happen in plain sight?

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    ReplyDelete