PANAMA CITY — Florida’s next chief financial officer will be one of Gov. Rick Scott’s original political allies.
Scott on Monday turned to former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Republican from Panama City, to complete the term of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who will leave the elected Cabinet office Friday for a job at Florida Atlantic University.
Scott said he wanted someone who could “step in and do a really good job.”
“He’s got a breadth of knowledge about a lot of things,” Scott said during an appearance at Patronis’ family-owned Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant in Panama City.
A Florida State University graduate, Patronis will be sworn in Friday to the $128,972-a-year job, joining Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on the Cabinet.
The move was Scott’s third major appointment of Patronis, who served in the state House for eight years.
Scott appointed Patronis in 2014 to the Florida Public Service Commission. Patronis submitted his resignation Sunday from the $131,036-a-year position on the utility regulatory panel.
In March, Patronis was among a number of political loyalists the governor appointed to the state Constitution Revision Commission.
Patronis, 45, was an early political supporter of Scott in 2010, when the governor was a largely unknown multi-millionaire from Naples who was challenging Republican establishment favorite Bill McCollum in a GOP primary.
Atwater, who was elected CFO in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, quickly offered support for Scott’s selection of Patronis.
“He’s a dedicated public servant with a proven record, an esteemed entrepreneur and a great man,” Atwater said in a statement. “And he’s just accepted the best job in the state of Florida!”
The move gives Scott another firm ally on the Cabinet. And while Patronis wouldn’t commit to running for a full term as chief financial officer, Scott could have a potential friend on the campaign trail in 2018 if, as widely expected, Scott runs for U.S. Senate.
“There will be plenty of time to talk about politics later,” Patronis said Monday. “Right now, I’m just focused on doing the best job that I can as CFO for the state.”
Patronis, who said Scott told him of the selection on Sunday, said he won’t work at Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant, which has often served as a campaign backdrop for Scott.
The Florida Democratic Party quickly blasted Scott’s selection of Patronis as “cronyism.”
“Floridians are facing rising insurance rates and stagnant wages, but Rick Scott is propping up yet another yes-man rather than prioritizing the needs of working Floridians,” Democratic spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said in a prepared statement. “This governor has stacked nearly every appointment with special interest lackeys rather than the most qualified candidates.”