Jimmy Patronis Assumes Office as Florida’s Next CFO

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis. (Public domain photo from the Florida Department of Financial Services.)

On June 30, Jimmy Patronis was sworn in as the Chief Financial Officer of Florida after Jeff Atwater’s premature exit from office the same day.

When Atwater announced his resignation in February to accept the position of Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and the role Chief Financial Officer at Florida Atlantic University, the potential list of replacements grew large but ultimately the Panama City Republican was selected.

Other potential candidates included Mayor Lenny Curry, R-Jacksonville; Lt. Governor Carlos López-Cantera, R-Miami; Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

As CFO, Patronis will head the Florida Department of Financial Services. According to the CFO website he also “oversees the state’s accounting and auditing functions and unclaimed property, monitors the investment of state funds and manages the deferred compensation program and risk management program for the state.”

Patronis will also have other duties including the oversight of insurance agencies, enforcement of workers’ compensation packages and the role of state fire marshal. In his new role, he will manage an office of over 2,000 employees on a nearly $300 million budget.

Governor Rick Scott made the announcement to about 100 people on June 25 at Capt. Anderson’s, the Patronis family’s Panama City restaurant.

The Governor praised Patronis, who has been a consistent politically ally, as a “successful job creator” and saying “I am confident that he will add to our mission to cut even more taxes and create even more jobs.”

Patronis returned the praise by declaring that Scott’s policies toward the Florida economy as “revolutionary.”

The choice of Patronis to the position received praise from the outgoing Atwater, who has served as CFO since 2011. Atwater referred to Patronis as a “dedicated public servant” and an “esteemed entrepreneur.”

Fellow Bay County Republicans State Sen. George Gainer and Commissioner Philip “Griff” Griffitts both expressed approval. The closely aligned Florida Chamber of Commerce also congratulated Patronis.

Patronis’ appointment was equally received with criticism. The Florida Democratic Party issued a statement referring to Patronis as an “unqualified crony.” FDP Spokesperson Johanna Cervone stated, “Patronis has nearly zero applicable skills to qualify him for the post of CFO.”

She argued Patronis has always accommodated lobbyists and developers. The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board declared the Panama City Republican an “exceptionally weak choice” and took aim at Scott writing that the governor “appointed Patronis to secure a reliable yes-man” in the Florida Cabinet.

Experience

The 45-year-old, fifth-generation Floridian’s legislative experience began in 1995 when he interned in the Florida Senate. The following year, he served as a research assistant in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons.

In 1994, he earned his associate degree from Gulf Coast Community College in restaurant management and then received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University in 1996.

Beginning in 2006, Patronis served as a state representative from the 6th District. Serving until 2014, Patronis won his 2006 and 2010 elections by double digits while running unopposed in 2008 and 2012.

In the Legislature, Patronis was recognized for his pro-business policies. From 2009 to 2014, Patronis received a perfect score from the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Report Card. While the Florida Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council from 2009 to 2014 he garnered criticism from liberal groups because of his position in the powerful conservative interest group.

Patronis’ most controversial piece of legislation during his tenure was HB 999 which altered regulations on the environment and protocols pertaining to permits. The bill contained provisions such as barring counties from asking an entity no more than three times for additional information when issuing a permit as well as a clause allowing eligibility of expedited permitting for natural gas pipelines.

The bill provoked criticism from environmental groups and former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham, but Patronis maintained that the bill created “tweaks and fixes to the process that just makes it easier and simpler to do business.” The bill was signed by Scott at the end of the 2013 legislative session.

Patronis is also no stranger to gubernatorial appointments due to his selection to the Florida Elections Commission first by Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1998 and then by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001.

Scott’s relationship with Patronis became pronounced when he supported Scott in the 2010 Republican primary over former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. Additionally, Scott has appointed Patronis to the state’s regulatory body on utilities and the Constitutional Revision Commission, both of which he has now stepped down from due of his appointment.

Patronis will now finish the term vacated by Atwater but has not decided if he will seek election for CFO in 2018, citing his need to focus on his new role in the state’s executive branch.

When reached for comment, Patronis said in a statement directed towards students, “As you finish college and start your careers, I want you to find your dream jobs right here in Florida. When you do, it’s my job to help ensure that your hard-earned money stays with you and doesn’t get taken away as taxes. I’ll work to ensure that Florida’s economy continues to thrive, and to keep everyday costs, like car insurance, low so that you have the opportunity to build the life you want in our great state.”

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