Emilio (Sonny) Vergara has been professionally and personally involved in Florida’s water and related environmental protection issues for over forty years during which he earned a state-wide reputation for his professionalism and resource management leadership.
1979-84As Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, decades of draining and diking of the Upper St. Johns River (a 2000 square mile watershed) was halted and a project reflecting modern principles of natural systems protection and flow management was developed.Today, the environmentally sensitive system is considered a model success story where multiple interests became united and are now being served.
He was one of the first water management district executive directors to receive confirmation by the Florida Senate when that requirement became law in the 1980's.
1984-89 He and two partners established a consulting company in Ocala, Florida, which specialized in obtaining approvals for Developments of Regional Impact and writing Comprehensive Plans for local governments.During this time, he also established and operated a company providing fresh cut flowers imported from around the world for wholesale flower houses throughout the eastern United States.
1985-97As Executive Director of the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, the water authority became a successfully operating regional utility that today serves over 100,000 residents throughout four counties and three major communities.He orchestrated the purchase of the Peace River Water Treatment Plant from General Development Utilities which involved renegotiating the original agreements creating the Authority. While providing a safe and reliable water supply for a four-county region, the system was designed to assure the protection of the sensitive ecology of the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor, a major estuarine system of national importance.Today, the Authority's regional supply and distribution system is well positioned to meet the region’s need for a safe dependable supply of water in an environmentally sensitive manner now and well into the future.
1997-2003As Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, he led the negotiation of the agreement between the District and the Tampa Bay members of the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority (now Tampa Bay Water) which brought an end to decades of environmental degradation and wasteful litigation within the Tampa Bay region.Under this agreement, the water authority voluntarily reduced its permitted groundwater withdrawals by an unprecedented 100 million gallons per day from areas where severe environmental impacts were occurring, in exchange for over $300 million to help develop and construct new alternative water supply sources, regional pipelines and treatment facilities.The Authority is known today as Tampa Bay Water and serves over two million residents.
2003-2007During this time, he was a principal partner of Mainstream Companies, Inc., located in Myakka City, Florida.The mission of the company was to preserve and optimize the position of over 25,000 privately-held agricultural acres in a rapidly changing environment of rules and laws in a high-growth state.The company was also involved in acquiring other large parcels of land and obtaining the entitlements needed for developing and constructing homes and communities in southwest Florida.The company was dissolved in 2007.
Sonny has been fully retired since 2007 and resides in Spring Lake, Florida.In addition to writing the blog, SWFWMDmatters (http://swfwmdmatters.blogspot.com/), he grows muscadine grapes, makes wine and is an accomplished nature photographer. He was formerly a gubernatorial appointee to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority Board of Governors and the charter past-president of the Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Inc., Board of Directors.He has also been an involved volunteer with the Brooksville Vision Foundation, Inc., working with the private sector to help the City of Brooksville develop a vision that will lead it toward a bright and economically sustainable future. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of that organization as well as Chairman of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council.
He piloted H-46 helicopters for the USMC during the Vietnam War surviving over 200 combat missions and earning the Air Medal with a gold star. He was also a Forward Air Controller for the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, calling in air support for his unit when under fire. He has qualified and held licenses as a commercial pilot with instrument ratings for multi engine fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. His ratings are currently expired.
Sonny is well known for his informed thinking and frank talk about one of Florida’s most complex dilemmas - how to balance protection of Florida’s unique natural systems while maintaining the state’s economic vitality and protecting the rights of private property owners.