TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration underwent a major shake-up on Friday, with an announcement of the resignation of the secretary of the Department of Children and Families and the shuffling of two other top officials to lead DCF and the Agency for Health Care Administration.
The moves could be a prelude to other changes shortly after the midpoint of DeSantis’ four-year gubernatorial term.
The DeSantis administration announced that DCF Secretary Chad Poppell resigned, effective Feb. 19, and that Shevaun Harris will replace him at the agency in charge of Florida’s oft-beleaguered child welfare system.
Harris has been serving as interim secretary at the Agency for Health Care Administration, where she has held a series of posts since 2005.
DeSantis named Simone Marstiller, who headed the Department of Juvenile Justice, to become secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees Florida’s $30 billion Medicaid program and is charged with regulating hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care facilities.
Meredith Beatrice, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said Josie Tamayo, who had been serving as Marstiller’s chief of staff, will be acting secretary at the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“This has been, without question, the most fulfilling time of my professional life,” Popppell wrote in his resignation letter Friday. “I am excited about beginning the next chapter of my professional life and being able to focus more of my energy on my own family. Their sacrifice made my time at DCF possible and I am eager to try and repay that gift. "
The governor’s chief of staff, Shane Strum, is scheduled to interview next week to become chief executive officer at the North Broward Hospital District, one of the largest public-hospital districts in the nation. Strum is one of three candidates being interviewed, according to district officials.
Also on Friday, Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter submitted his resignation. DeSantis put Satter in charge of the state’s embattled online unemployment compensation system in April, after the system repeatedly crashed amid a spike of compensation claims due to the coronavirus pandemic. While he oversaw the state CONNECT system, Satter retained his post as secretary of the agency that oversees state buildings and state workers’ health insurance.
In his resignation letter Friday, Satter said he intends to work with agency staff “to organize an appropriate transition plan” in the coming days.
Halsey Beshears announced Jan. 15 that he was stepping down as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Secretary Mary Mayhew resigned in October to head the Florida Hospital Association.
“The First Lady and I thank Chad Poppell for his years of dedication and service to the state of Florida. As the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, he has brought about transformational change to Florida’s child welfare system and was instrumental in the passage of the DCF Accountability Act,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement Friday, referring to a law passed last year. “We wish him well as he moves on to new opportunities.”
The Agency for Health Care Administration has the largest budget in state government, primarily because it runs the massive Medicaid program.
An attorney, Marstiller once worked as the Agency for Health Care Administration’s chief appellate counsel, according to the governor’s office. She worked closely with former Gov. Jeb Bush, who appointed her interim secretary of the state Department of Management Services in 2002 and as secretary of the Department Business and Professional Regulation in 2005. She later went on to a stint as a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal.
In a prepared statement Friday, Marstiller said she looks forward to her new position at the Agency for Health Care Administration.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to further the agency’s ongoing mission to achieve better health care for all Floridians and am thankful to have served two years as the Secretary for the Department of Juvenile Justice, where under this Governor’s leadership, we have made great strides in supporting Florida’s at-risk youth,” the statement said.