Lisa Edgar has helped regulate the state’s investor-owned utilities. Now, she’s going to oversee its parks.
“From my time at DEP and as a frequent visitor of our state parks, I’ve seen first-hand the high caliber of the Florida Park Service team,” she said in a statement.
“I look forward to working with this team to continue to achieve the Florida State Parks mission to provide resource-based recreation while preserving, interpreting and restoring natural and cultural resources.”
Edgar, a three-term member of the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC), previously was Deputy Secretary of DEP. She decided not to seek another term on the PSC and will be replaced by water use engineer Donald Polmann of Dunedin.
She replaces former director Donald Forgione, who was demoted, raising concerns from two environmental group that Gov. Rick Scott is pursuing his plan to make parks profitable.
Forgione, who has worked for the parks service for 32 years, six of those as director, will manage Paynes Prairie State Park near Gainesville. He started his career as a ranger and was known for protecting Florida’s 171 springs, seashore and forest parks.
“We were shocked and dismayed,” said Paula Russo, president of the Friends of Florida State Parks. “Donald has had a lifelong career with the parks. He’s been a great leader and director and to remove him like that is very concerning. We’re worried about the future direction of our parks.”
Rather than subsidize parks, Scott has suggested raising revenue by leasing out parkland for cattle grazing, selling timber and opening wildlife preserves to hunters. State parks receive no general revenue funds and raise 64 percent of their operating costs through entry and camping fees, concessionaire income sharing and other partnerships.
Jim Adamski, vice president of the nonprofit Friends of the Wekiva River, said Scott’s push for park profits is inconsistent with the mission of Florida’s parks: to protect our natural and historical treasures; and provide recreational opportunities for citizens and visitors.
“We believe his plans are short-sighted and will harm local economies that depend on ecotourism,” Adamski said. “The damage to the environment will be immeasurable.”
Edgar’s DEP responsibilities included “executive management oversight of the agency’s budget, fiscal and strategic planning, accountability measures, information technology, administrative services, Florida Geological Survey, and coordination between the state and federal government on environmental issues,” the release said.
She also was chief environmental policy analyst in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget under Govs. Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush, as well as a senior cabinet aide for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Edgar “will bring a wealth of agency knowledge, superb leadership skills and an understanding of and appreciation for Florida’s diverse environmental resources to this role,” said Gary Clark, the department’s deputy secretary for land and recreation.
The 52-year-old will remain at the PSC until her current term expires Jan. 1. She was first appointed by Gov. Bush in 2005, re-appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008 and appointed a third time by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012.