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by Chuck Echenique

Some 17 individuals have thrown their names in the hat to be your next representative on the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The list includes: Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven; Dan Roach of Fernandina Beach; Dave Meehan of St. Petersburg; Chuck Roberts of Tallahassee; Grady Johnson of Wauchula; Jack Floyd of Jay; Dr. Steven Rosen of Davie; Preston Robertson of Tallahassee; Mike Puto of Marathon; James Kern of Coral Gables; James Marshall of Baker; James Shuler of Bristol; Jorge Gutierrez of Miami; Ken Johnson of Tallahassee; Aliesa Priddy of Immokalee; Manuel Prieguez of Miami and Marco Espinar of Naples.

One will be selected by Governor Rick Scott to fill the vacancy left by former Chairman Rodney Barreto, whose term expired Aug. 1. Scott has not indicated when he will name a replacement, but many presume it will be before the FWC’s Sept. 7-9 meeting in Naples.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) has recommended Scott appoint a birdwatcher instead of a hunter. They claim hunter numbers are declining, ecotourism is growing to the point that people are more interested in taking home a photo rather than a meal and wildlife viewing has a greater economic impact in Florida than hunting.

“As hunting continues to decline in Florida, the FWC must change its focus and serve the majority of the Floridians who do not need to kill animals to enjoy the outdoors,” the ARFF stated.

The FWC has seven commissioners who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate to five-year terms. Commissioners are not paid for serving on the FWC.

The Florida Constitution authorizes the FWC to enact rules and regulations regarding the state’s fish and wildlife resources. To do this, FWC Commissioners meet five times each year to hear staff reports, consider rule proposals, and conduct other business.

Their mission is to manage fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. FWC Commissioners oversee a staff of 1,947 full-time employees, with headquarters in Tallahassee, five regional offices (Panama City, Lake City, Ocala, Lakeland and West Palm Beach), as well as the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg and 73 field offices.

The FWC provides law enforcement, fish and wildlife research, management, outreach (hunter and boating safety training), and public information relating to hunting, fishing, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, weapons, boating, protected species and nuisance animal complaints. http://www.woodsnwater.net/assets/3386/fwc-com1.jpg

Current FWC Commissioners (Click for individual bios):

We have compiled a list of the 17 applicants, along their qualifications and information we think you should consider. All the information was taken from the questionnaires each applicant submitted to the Governor.

Woods ‘n Water makes no recommendation on whom you should support. Our perspective of these candidates stems from their qualifications and connections to the common man and public land hunter in Florida. It is meant to be an informative look at who is running and what they bring to the table.

We hope this information will not only inform you of who is applying, but motivate you to send a letter of support to Governor Scott for the person you feel will best represent Florida’s recreational sportsmen.

Scott’s Appointment Office can be reached at: (850) 488-2183; (850) 921-0733 (fax) or email: [email protected]

The applicants are:

Baxter Troutman – Winter Haven, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Former State Representative 2002-2010. Current CEO of Labor Solutions, Inc. - a staffing company. Chairman of the Florida Sportsman’s Caucus from 2004-2010.

Hunting & Fishing Experience:Grew up in an agricultural family and has hunted & fished his entire life.

Pluses: Has experience in state government and connections to various state agencies. He was instrumental in getting Florida a crossbow season. His connections and experience could be extremely beneficial in accomplishing many changes for Florida’s sportsmen.

Minuses: Active on the Board of Directors for land investment companies Atlantic Blue Group, Inc. and Alico, Inc. Being involved in land acquisitions for development could bias his position on numerous issues and present possible conflicts of interest in the future.

Dan Roach – Fernandina Beach, FL (Georgia Native)

Professional Qualifications: BS in Forest Management from Auburn University. Two terms on Governing Board St. Johns River Water Management District 1993-2001 & Chairman 1999 & 2000. Has worked for the last 32 years for Rayonier, Inc. (A Forestry Company) and is presently their Forest Products Leader. He has been a forestry manager and worked on environmental policy on local, state and national levels.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: None listed.

Pluses: An in-depth knowledge of applied forestry practices, forestry related business, land management and ecological issues. Professional experience in government.

Minuses: No known participation in hunting & fishing recreation.

Dave Meehan – St. Petersburg, FL (New Jersey Native)

Professional Qualifications: Former FWC Commissioner 1999-2007, Vice Chair 2006-2007, Chairman 200-2001. Chairman & Co-Owner of Gilchrist Club. President of Bankers Insurance Group. US Navy submariner 1965-1968.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Avid hunter and fisherman. Owner/Chairman of sporting club.

Pluses: As a former FWC Commissioner, Mr. Meehan has the experience necessary to serve again.

Minuses: No first hand perspective of the complexities surrounding public land hunting & fishing.

Chuck Roberts – Tallahassee, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owners of C.W. Roberts Contracting. Owner of Hales Place Plantation. Owner of 800 acres of timber land. Governing Board NW Florida Water Management District 1989-2001, Chairman 8 years. Board of Directors for Florida Transportation Builders Association for 20 years, Chairman 1996-1997. Board of Directors for Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida for 10 years.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Has hunted and fished in Florida his entire life.

Pluses: Besides being an avid sportsman, Mr. Roberts has government experience and business relationships with numerous state agencies.

Minuses: Being involved in commercial and state funded land development could bias his position on numerous issues and present possible conflicts of interest in the future.

Grady Johnson – Wauchula, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Current Hardee County Commissioner. Marine Patrol Deputy 1970-1996. Chief Deputy Sheriff Hendry County 1997-1999. Owner of Two Feathers Horse & Cattle Ranch. Member of Organized Fishermen of Florida. Member of Ad Hoc Committee on Naples Bay Management. Hunting & Fishing Experience:As a former Sheriff, Marine Patrol Officer and belonging to a family of commercial fisherman and ranchers since the 1700’s, he has a deep connection to Florida’s history, the law and the outdoor community.

Pluses: Strong ties to Florida’s history. Experience in law enforcement and local & state government. Strong background in ranching and commercial fishing issues.

Minuses: Commercial perspectives in fishing and ranching could be at odds with the recreational issues. Could lack the perspective needed to connect with public land hunters and sport fishermen.

Jack Floyd – Jay, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owner of Dura-Med Southeast, Inc. (a pharmacy, home healthcare and medical supply company). Attended Pensacola State College – Agricultural Program. President Blackwater Fox Hunters Association. Jay Hospital Advisory Board 2004-2011. Jay Elementary School Advisory Council 2006-2011.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Avid hunter and recreational fisherman.

Pluses: A true love of the outdoors and a willingness to affect changes for sportsmen in Florida. Identifies with public land hunters and sport fishermen.

Minuses: Limited government experience. Limited qualifications in biological and ecological fields. Limited range of knowledge outside of northwest Florida.

Dr. Steven Rosen- Davie, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owner of Tend Skin International (Manufacturer and distributor of skin care products). President of Angels in Distress Animal Rescue, a non-profit Florida foundation. BS in biology from FIU and a DDS degree from Emory University although he no longer practices dentistry. Hunting & Fishing Experience: No hunting experience. Enjoys scuba diving. Lifetime NRA member.

Pluses: He has some outdoor experiences and loves animals.

Minuses: He has no real connection to Florida’s sportsmen and no professional qualifications in government or agency interaction. He has no basis from which to relate to hunters and sport fishermen.

Preston Robertson – Tallahassee, FL (Maryland Native)

Professional Qualifications: Vice President and General Counsel for the Florida Wildlife Federation. Assistant Attorney General 1993-1994. Assistant General Counsel for FWC 1994-2002. Board Member Apalachee land Conservancy. Board Member Get Outdoors Florida. Founding Board Member of Future of Hunting in Florida. Advisory Board Member for Babcock Ranch. Member of the Florida Agricultural Regional Advisory Council. Supervisor of the Ochlocknee Soil & Water Conservation District 2004-2005. Member of Tall Timbers Research. Master Wildlife Conservationist designation from UF.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Life long hunter, fisherman and private land owner.

Pluses: Former employee of FWC. Love of conservation and strong stewardship record. Extremely knowledgeable and experienced in state governments and agencies. Outstanding record in working for Florida’s sportsmen and natural resources.

Minuses: None.

Mike Puto – Marathon, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: City Manager of Marathon 2004-2008. Volunteer Fire Chief 1983-2000. Monroe County Emergency Manager 1997-2000. Former public school teacher. Hunting & Fishing Experience: None listed.

Pluses: Knows public service and government function inside and out.

Minuses: Has no history or related ties to the sporting community. His desire to serve on the Commission seems motivated by commerce and economic impact for the FL Keys as opposed to serving the sportsmen, wildlife and natural resources of Florida.

James Kern – Coral Gables, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owner & President of the Kern Company (a real estate company). Dual BS degrees in Economics and Sociology FSU ‘86. Licensed marine captain.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Avid sportsman with a history & emphasis on bringing kids into the outdoors.

Pluses: A strong desire to educate children on the importance of our sporting heritage.

Minuses: Lacks experience in dealing with government and state agencies in relation to sporting and conservation issues.

James Marshall – Baker, FL (Alabama Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owner/Operator Marshall Farms 1972-2011. Board Member Farm Services Agency 1993-2005. natural Resources Conservation Service 2006-2009.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: None listed.

Pluses: Long history of row crop and tree farming. Practical knowledge of environmental issues and ecology as they relate to farming.

Minuses: Unknown history of hunting & fishing. No formal education past high school. Lacks credentials to serve on the Commission and deal with the many issues facing sportsmen and our natural resources.

James Shuler – Bristol, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owner Shuler Brothers, Inc. (produce wood chip products).Board member of Florida Forestry Association 30 years. Appointed to assist in writing wetland laws 1980’s.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: None.

Pluses: Lifetime of forestry knowledge.

Minuses: His answer to question 17A regarding his personal list of qualifications, “I am an Environmentalist but not a preservationist.”

Jorge Gutierrez – Miami, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Civil Trial Attorney in private practice. Former VP of United Waterfowlers-FL & Director of Legislative Affairs. President of Everglades Coordinating Council. US Secretary of Interior appointed to Big Cypress ORV Advisory Committee.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Life long hunter, fisherman and advocate of sportsman’s rights. Emphasis on recruiting and educating children in outdoor heritage. Emphasis on public land issues related to hunting and conservation.

Pluses: Extensive history of working with FWC and other state agencies on public land and sporting issues.

Minuses: None.

Ken Johnson – Tallahassee, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: FSU Information Technology Director. FSU Board of Regents 1998-2001.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: None.

Pluses: None.

Minuses: Humane Society advocate for animal welfare. Has opposed legal hunting openly at FWC Commission meetings.

*(Mr. Johnson contacted us to request the opportunity to offer additional information about his qualifications and background to our readers. He provided us with the following cover letter he sent to Gov. Scott to express his interest in an appointment to the FWC Commission) Click here to read Mr. Johnson's letter.

Aliesa Priddy – Immokalee, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owner JB Ranch Agribusiness (ranching & farming.) Cohen & Grigsby Law Firm as Conflict of Interest Specialist. 2011Conservationist of the Year Award from Florida Wildlife Federation. Big Cypress Basin Board member 6 years.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Lifetime hunter, fisherman & conservationist. Advocate for youth education in outdoor heritage and sporting traditions.

Pluses: Works with various environmental & sporting organizations to promote hunting and protect endangered animals and environmentally sensitive ecosystems. Has previous gubernatorial appointments to various boards in the state of Florida.

Minuses: As a major private land owner, could lack the perspective needed to connect with public land hunters and the average recreational sportsman.

Manuel Prieguez – Miami, FL (Florida Native)

Professional Qualifications: Miami Municipal Strategies, LLC (government relations firm) 2005-2011. Owner of Miami River Lobster /Stone Crab Seafood 1993-2011. Former FL State House Representative 1998-2004.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Commercial fisherman.

Pluses: Extensive knowledge and experience in government and dealing with state agencies.

Minuses: Involvement with commercial seafood could bias future decisions on fisheries issues. Lacks a hunting perspective.

Marco Espinar – Naples, FL (New York Native)

Professional Qualifications: Owner of Collier Environmental Consultants (works with both ranchers and developers.) Former employee and biologist with SWFWMD.

Hunting & Fishing Experience: Avid hunter & fisherman with applied knowledge of biology and ecology.

Pluses: Familiar with working both inside and outside of state government. Strong biological background and knowledge of Florida specific environmental issues. Worked with various states during Gulf oil spill clean up. Worked with Conservation Collier to purchase and open Pepper Ranch to hunting for Collier County residents.

Minuses: Convicted of DUI in 1994.