Crist names new agency heads; more appointments to come

State Rep. Holly Benson, R-Pensacola, will lead the DBPR

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published December 29, 2006

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov.-elect Charlie Crist named four new agency heads Thursday, including a replacement for an earlier selection who decided against moving his family to the state capital.

Crist decided on Linda South, who has been secretary at the Agency for Workforce Innovation the past eight months, to head the Department of Management Services.

Jacksonville attorney Kevin Hyde told Crist that business and family issues prevented him from accepting the appointment.

A Brevard County businesswoman, South was Gov. Jeb Bush's pick in May to lead the state's labor agency where she was paid $119,000. She has a bachelor's degree from Barry University and an MBA from Rollins College.

State Rep. Holly Benson, R-Pensacola, will lead the Department of Professional and Business Regulation after resigning her seat in the Legislature. Crist will call a special election to fill that vacancy.

Benson, 35, has a law degree from the University of Florida and an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth. Her mother, Lois Benson, served in the Florida House.

LeRoy Collins Jr., a retired Naval admiral and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate this year, will head the Department of Veterans' Affairs and Leo DiBenigno will move up from his role as deputy secretary at the Florida Lottery. DiBenigno's wife, Arlene DiBenigno, is Crist's deputy chief of staff.

Crist brushed off a question about putting a husband and wife in key jobs in his administration.

"We probably have the best of the two already in this administration," he joked.

A 1956 Naval Academy graduate, the 72-year-old Collins finished third behind unsuccessful nominee Katherine Harris in the Sept. 5 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate nomination with 15 percent of the vote. Collins' father, the late LeRoy Collins, served as Florida's governor from 1955 to 1961.

"He [Collins] understands the evolving needs of Florida's veterans and will represent them well," Crist said. "He has a servant's heart. He comes from a family of tremendous public service tradition in our state."

Crist, who becomes Florida's 44th governor Tuesday, still has to decide on several more agency heads, including leaders for the state's transportation, health, juvenile justice and corrections agencies.