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DeSantis Taps Democrat As State's Next Disaster Manager

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, asks a question about a concealed weapons bill during a meeting of the criminal justice subcommittee, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Steve Cannon
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis has tapped state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Broward County Democrat who serves as general counsel for a major disaster-recovery contractor in South Florida, to oversee the state's response to natural and man-made emergencies.

In a press release announcing the appointment Thursday, DeSantis, a Republican who was endorsed by President Donald Trump, noted that Moskowitz has been called a “high octane incumbent” and “an effective Democratic voice in the Republican-dominated Legislature.”

“Florida has a long history of being a model for the nation in emergency preparedness and response, and with Jared at the helm, I am confident this legacy will continue,” DeSantis, who will be sworn in on Jan. 8, said in Thursday’s announcement.

Moskowitz will succeed Division of Emergency Management Director Wes Maul, who was appointed by outgoing Gov. Rick Scott last year. Maul sent a letter to staff members last week saying he intends to step down from the $141,000-a-year post in January.

Maul, who guided the state through Hurricane Michael this year, spent about three years in the governor's office before becoming deputy chief of staff at the Division of Emergency Management in mid-2016. Scott named Maul as director to replace Bryan Koon, who left to take a private-sector job shortly after Hurricane Irma hit the state in September 2017.

Moskowitz told The News Service of Florida he is honored DeSantis chose him to head what the Democrat called “one of the most important departments” in state government.

The emergency management agency “especially of late is preparing and serving people in their time of need,” he said.

“I look forward to getting up to Tallahassee to meet with the folks in the department and immediately going to work so that we can prepare as best as we can for any emergency that may face the state,” Moskowitz said.

In what is likely to be rare praise for the Republican governor-elect’s slate of appointees, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo congratulated DeSantis on his across-the-aisle selection, calling Moskowitz “the perfect choice” for the agency.

“He has proven himself to be an effective leader in the state House and his work in disaster response makes him prepared on day one to do the job,” Rizzo said in a release. “We know Rep. Moskowitz will continue to be an effective leader that looks out for all Floridians in times of emergencies, and we are proud of his appointment!"

Republican state Rep. Holly Raschein, who represents the Florida Keys, also lauded DeSantis’ pick.

“Emergency Management is a non-partisan issue. It’s about keeping people safe before, during and after a disaster situation. Jared has the knowledge and expertise to ensure a quality response in these critical situations and Floridians can rest assured he will constantly look for ways that we can do better as long as he serves,” Raschein, R-Key Largo, said in the press release announcing DeSantis’ intention to appoint Moskowitz to the post.

The 37-year-old Moskowitz said he will step down from his position as executive vice president and general counsel at AshBritt Environmental, a national disaster recovery and environmental services company based in Deerfield Beach that has contracts throughout the state to clean post-hurricane debris.

Moskowitz currently oversees the contracting and procurement department and “leads AshBritt’s public policy efforts,” serving as a liaison to federal, state and local governments, according to the company’s website.

“Mr. Moskowitz is the driving force in building and maintaining relationships with all decision makers throughout AshBritt’s current client base and strengthening ties with local community leaders through various outreach programs for the targeted marketing area,” the website states.

As a lawmaker, Moskowitz played a role in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, signed by Scott earlier this year, following a Feb. 14 massacre at his alma mater in Parkland.

Also during the 2018 legislative session, Moskowitz served under Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez, who, as a state representative, chaired the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness. The committee was created in response to Hurricane Irma. Moskowitz was part of a subcommittee that looked at future hurricane costs and tax relief.

Moskowitz --- whose father, Mike, is a major Democratic donor --- was first elected to the House in 2012, and was re-elected to a fourth term in August when he won nearly 79 percent of the vote in a Democratic primary. The state representative was re-elected to the District 97 seat without opposition in 2014 and 2016. A special election will eventually be called to replace Moskowitz for the inland district in northern Broward County. 

Prior to his election to the state House, Moskowitz served on the Parkland City Commission.--- Senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this report.

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