DeSantis appoints new secretaries to Florida corrections, child welfare departments

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Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis speaks with reporters at his Election Day rally after declaring victory over his democratic opponent Andrew Gillum. - PHOTO BY JOEY ROULETTE
  • Photo by Joey Roulette
  • Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis speaks with reporters at his Election Day rally after declaring victory over his democratic opponent Andrew Gillum.
Filling top jobs at two of the most-scrutinized agencies in state government, incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday appointed new secretaries of the Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

DeSantis named Mark Inch, a retired U.S. Army major general who also worked as director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to serve as secretary of the Department of Corrections.



DeSantis also announced that Chad Poppell will head the mammoth Department of Children and Families. Poppell served in outgoing Gov. Rick Scott administration as secretary of the Department of Management Services before resigning in March 2017.

With DeSantis set to take the oath of office Tuesday, his transition team has gradually announced appointments to top administration positions.



The new secretaries of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Children and Families will take over agencies that in recent years have drawn scrutiny —- and litigation —- because of issues such as the treatment of inmates and tragedies involving abused children.

Inch will replace Julie Jones, who has served as corrections secretary since January 2015. In Thursday’s announcement, DeSantis called Inch “one of the foremost experts on criminal justice.”

“I look forward to working with him to strengthen Florida's Department of Corrections and ensure efficiency and accountability at such an important agency,” DeSantis said.

Before being named to run the Federal Bureau of Prisons in September 2017, Inch’s Army career specialized in military incarceration. Inch left the federal prisons position last year after what The New York Times called a “turf” battle between presidential adviser Jared Kushner and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

While Inch’s career has been focused on the military and federal system, DeSantis’ appointment of Poppell continued moves to bring back some current and former members of Scott’s administration.

Prior to serving as secretary of the Department of Management Services, which oversees issues such as state human resources, procurement and real estate, Poppell worked as chief of staff at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

"Chad Poppell is a dedicated public servant with a proven track record of achievement within the public sector," DeSantis said in a prepared statement. "From this service at the Department of Economic Opportunity to his leadership at the Department of Management Services, Chad is the kind of leader who will be committed to strengthening Florida's families and fighting for Florida's children.”

Since leaving state government, Poppell has worked as an IBM industry client leader for Florida’s public sector.

The Department of Children and Families has been led since September by interim Secretary Rebecca Kapusta. She replaced longtime Secretary Mike Carroll, who resigned last year.

Along with the choice of Poppell to run the Department of Children and Families, DeSantis’ decisions to hire people with ties to the Scott administration have included appointing Visit Florida chief Ken Lawson to serve as executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Also, DeSantis has kept Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer and Florida Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell and has retained Scott’s budget director, Cynthia Kelly.

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