3 names sent to DeSantis for Florida transportation chief

File photo of FDOT employee
File photo of FDOT employee (Jerry McGovern, WJXT)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida experience was a plus for three candidates forwarded Thursday to Gov. Ron DeSantis to be put in charge of the state Department of Transportation, which has a nearly $10-billion-a-year list of road, bridge, seaport and airport projects.

DeSantis is expected to appoint a transportation secretary from the three names forwarded by the Florida Transportation Commission.

The candidates are Richard Biter, a former Department of Transportation assistant secretary for intermodal systems development who in 2016 was a finalist to lead Enterprise Florida; Phillip Gainer, a Department of Transportation district secretary the past three years; and Kevin Thibault, a regional senior vice president for TranSystems Corp. who spent two stints with the Department of Transportation in leadership positions, including time as interim executive director of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise.

After interviewing five candidates Thursday, several members of the transportation commission also favored Katharine Nees, a Richardson, Texas-based transportation executive who once served as the director of strategic projects at the Texas Department of Transportation.

However, while commission members liked the idea of an outsider bringing in new ideas, there were questions about how long it could take her to start running the Florida department.

Michael Dew stepped down from the $151,000-a-year secretary position in November and joined DeSantis’ transition team. Dew was selected secretary by former Gov. Rick Scott in June 2017.