The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board looks to be back in business.
Gov. Ron DeSantis named four new members to the nine-member board Thursday -- three in Naples and one in Stuart -- giving the board a quorum at its March 14 meeting if five members show up, avoiding a further delay in board business.
The four new appointees are Marco Island resident Charlette Roman, a retired U.S. Army colonel; Carlos “Charlie” E. Martinez, president of CEM Investments LLC and a member of the Everglades Foundation; Cheryl Anne Meads, an Islamorada Village Council member who worked as a contractor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former Sewall’s Point mayor who served on the state Constitution Revision Commission as Sen. Joe Negron's appointee.
In Naples DeSantis said, “I’m pleased to announce the appointments of Charlie Martinez, Cheryl Anne Meads and Charlette Roman to officially serve on the board of the South Florida Water Management District. Each of these individuals have demonstrated an aptitude for public service and a firm understanding of the vital role of clean water to Florida’s livelihood. I look forward to working with them to protect our natural resources and water quality for all Floridians.”
In Stuart DeSantis praised Thurlow-Lippisch. “Floridians are excited about the new leadership at the South Florida Water Management District and our mission to protect our state’s environment and water resources. Jacqui will be a champion for our environment and for Floridians everywhere. I’m proud to announce her appointment and look forward to her continued stewardship of Florida’s environment.”
Outside of Martin County Thurlow-Lippisch is best known for CRC Proposal 23, which she introduced and which caused a major stir before it was discarded. The proposed amendment would have provided any Floridian the ability to litigate “against any party, public or private” if they felt their right to a “clean and healthful” environment was threatened. Critics quickly argued the amendment would not only affect businesses, it would also apply to permits that private citizens file for basic home-improvement. For instance, if someone didn't want you to put a pool in your backyard or make an addition to your home, a suit could have been filed against your permit. The proposal’s language ultimately was deemed too vague and would have been open to wide interpretation. But Thurlow-Lippisch argued her case passionately and impressed many with her willingness to fix the amendment's flaws and return another day.
On Jan. 29 DeSantis named to the board Chauncey Goss, a Sanibel City Council member who was once a deputy staff director for the U.S. House Budget Committee, and Ron Bergeron, a businessman and developer from Fort Lauderdale and a former member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. But as of last week, Goss and Bergeron were still being vetted -- Bergeron by the Senate Ethics Committee and Goss by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They were unable to take their seats for the Feb. 14 Governing Board meeting.
Without a quorum, there was no vote on two major contracts: the C-43 West basin storage reservoir, in the amount of $524 million; and a near-$5 million material-hauling-and-stockpile contract for the EAA storage reservoir.
Three days after his inauguration, DeSantis had called for a wholesale house-cleaning, demanding the resignations of the previous board, as if those members were responsible for Lake Okeechobee discharges and the algal blooms that fouled the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. Four of them remained through the February meeting.
DeSantis told TCPalm on Thursday he will name the remaining appointees next week, in time for all to be seated and sworn in at the March 14 meeting. The final three members will have to be from Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County and "the heartland" of the state, he said.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith