Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed strong, continued support on Friday for placing Ron Bergeron on the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District, arguing his life’s experience and passion for the Everglades make him uniquely suited for the role.
DeSantis said he wouldn’t wait for another nominee to go through what he said is a lengthy “ethics clearance” before being formally nominated to the board, something the governor announced his intention to do on Jan. 29.
Bergeron is a developer, entrepreneur, conservationist, and sometimes alligator wrestler. But it’s his role as CEO of the Bergeron Family of Companies — a group of businesses including highway construction, rock pits and quarries, agriculture, real estate development, solid waste management and disaster recovery services — that complicate his appointment.
A week after DeSantis said he’d appoint Bergeron to the board, he signed a $25 million no-bid construction contract with the district calling for Bergeron Land Development Inc. to complete the another company’s unfinished work on a storm water treatment area in western Martin County, Treasure Coast Newspapers reported.
A DeSantis spokesman said earlier this month that Bergeron’s appointment was “under review.”
On Friday, DeSantis said he thinks any conflicts will be cleared up and he’ll be able to appoint Bergeron.
“Ronnie is a very successful businessman. He’s got a lot of different irons in the fire, and he wanted to make sure everything was good and so that process is going to be over, I think, in early April. And I imagine it’s going to be fine. If it is, then we’ll go ahead and appoint him,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Davie.
“Ronnie is unique because this guy is, he bleeds, Everglades. This is his life, and his passion is very clear. And so normally, on a normal person I wouldn’t have wanted to go through a screen like this. I would just say ‘Look, I’ll find someone else.’ But I think because Ronnie is somebody who would clearly understand the Everglades and it’s a passion of his, I just think the board would benefit from having his leadership on there.
“So hopefully we’ll get that straightened out, and as long as everything’s kosher, I’d like to formally put Ronnie on the board in early April,” DeSantis said.
He spoke to reporters at the Signature Grand in Davie, after two morning events: speaking to about 1,000 people at the Broward Workshop’s annual State of the County Forum and meeting with a handful of Broward law enforcement leaders.
Shortly after taking office on Jan. 8, DeSantis started remaking the water district’s board, as part of his effort to prioritize water and the environment. He pushed previous governing board members to quit, and appointed an entirely new board.
Last year, Bergeron and DeSantis said they had engaged in many conversations about Everglades restoration. After DeSantis became the Republican nominee for governor, Bergeron took him on an airboat tour of the Everglades in western Broward County.
Bergeron is a developer, entrepreneur and sometime alligator wrestler who was a 10-year Republican-appointed member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Bergeron, who lives on a ranch in western Broward, previously served 10 years on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
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