Backroom Briefing: Nuñez Takes Active Role in New Administration

Nuñez is poised to be a major player in the DeSantis administration

Jeanette Nuñez, who is poised to become Florida’s next lieutenant governor, plans to play a major role in her boss’s administration over the next four years.

Just ask her.While Nuñez says she and Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis continue to discuss her duties, it’s clear that Nuñez is going to put her eight years of legislative experience to use.

“I think it’s going to organically sort of formulate as we get further into the administration,” Nuñez said of her upcoming $125,000-a-year post as lieutenant governor.

The role of lieutenant governor has no defined duties, and some past governors have leaned more heavily on their running mates. Current Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state representative, helped Scott navigate the Legislature back in 2014, but has since had a limited scope of duties.

Scott — who’s headed to Washington, D.C., after defeating incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in last month’s election — snubbed Lopez-Cantera this week when Scott announced he would finish his term as governor and not resign early to be sworn in as Florida’s newest senator.

Nuñez is taking an active role DeSantis’ transition and currently is lending a hand with the first wave of the incoming governor’s hires. And, despite the recent exodus of agency chiefs, the DeSantis administration says it hasn’t issued any edict requiring current agency heads to submit letters of resignation. Some of the Scott’s current appointees could even remain on the job after the dust settles in January.

“We are in the process of interviewing all current agency heads who have not expressed that they are leaving, or have definitively moved on,” Nuñez said.

Nuñez will play a higher-profile role in the DeSantis administration than her predecessors have under Scott, she indicated during an interview this week.

Nuñez said she and her new boss are focused on her being engaged in “some level of Legislative affairs” with “some agency oversight.”

“He’s really looking for feedback from me,” she said of DeSantis.

SENATE LOOKING AT SNIPES

Senate President Bill Galvano is working with his staff to address the issue of former Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes, ousted from her office by Scott after she submitted her resignation from the post.

The embattled Snipes, appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 and re-elected four times, told Scott she was walking away from the job, effective Jan. 4, amid repeated calls for her to step down or be stripped from office following a number of problems in the November election.

But after Scott booted her from office Friday night, Snipes rescinded her resignation, accusing the Republican governor — and U.S. senator-elect — of attempting to embarrass her and “tarnish her record.”

Scott replaced Snipes with long-time ally Pete Antonacci, whose badge awaited him at the winter meeting of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections but who was a no-show.

If Snipes chooses to follow through with her fight against her removal from office, the Florida Senate will have the final say in whether she should keep her position.

After he appeared briefly at the supervisors’ conference in Sarasota Tuesday morning, reporters asked Galvano about Snipes.

“I’m working with my staff on that issue and I’m not going to comment further,” the Bradenton Republican said.

Someone “reached out on her behalf” to his staff “to understand what the process is,” Galvano said.

Senators “are the ones who ultimately remove, or maintain her current position” after a trial, Galvano explained when asked to explain the Senate’s role.

“We are looking at the process right now, and what the options are and what’s required of us and what the timing of all of that is, so it will be sooner rather than later,” he said, when asked how long it would be until the Senate weighs in on the matter.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee would be the first panel to take up the issue, he said.

ONLINE STATE ADMINISTRATIVE JOBS

As they transition into running the state, Florida’s next governor and agriculture commissioner each have launched websites for potential job applicants.

Scott used a similar approach for non-leadership appointments.

As of Monday, more than 1,000 candidates have applied to serve in the new governor’s administration, according to David Vasquez, a spokesman for the DeSantis transition team.

“The online portal is an excellent resource for our team to screen and select talented individuals to fill positions throughout the administration,” Vasquez said.

Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried’s spokesman Max Flugrath said her website has received “hundreds of resumes” so far.

Fried’s transition team will begin interviews “in the coming weeks,” Flugrath said.

BONDI’S DOGS

In a little more than six years, just over 70 displaced dogs have found “forever” homes, thanks to Attorney General Pam Bondi and the state Cabinet.

But the Cabinet’s role as a pet-adoption service could be coming to an end.

The sight of Bondi, shod in high heels, toting a homeless hound has become a regular feature before the Cabinet takes up its official agenda.

On Tuesday — the last meeting for Bondi, Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — Bondi thanked her fellow Cabinet members for “indulging me” in a “highly unusual” step to “save a lot of animals.”

Despite efforts to get returning Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis or one of the newly elected Cabinet members to take over the reins of the program, no one has publicly declared they will carry on Bondi’s mission.

Bondi’s pet drive began after she suggested that Humane Society of Florida’s state director Kate MacFall bring a rescue dog to a Cabinet meeting.

“This has been so successful and we’re forever grateful,” MacFall said before Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. “There is no other elected official that has done what Pam Bondi has done for dogs, and she’s used this platform to help a lot of dogs.”

The effort has a perfect record in finding the dog-of-the-day a home, MacFall said.

On Tuesday, Patronis became the latest canine hero.

“He is absolutely keeping the dog. He’s going to surprise his boys with her,” Patronis spokeswoman Anna Alexopoulos Farrar said.

TWEET OF THE WEEK:

“I already miss the greatest human being that I will ever know. Love you Dad!” — Former Gov. Jeb Bush (@JebBush), following the death of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at age 94.

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News Talk Florida Staff