Described by Gov. Rick Scott as someone who can “get deals done,” South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Pete Antonacci has been tapped as the next leader of the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida.
Enterprise Florida's executive committee last week unanimously approved a recommendation by agency Vice Chairman Stan Connally to offer the president and CEO position to Antonacci rather than to go through a search.
In addition to his nearly two years at the water management district, Antonacci's background includes two years as Scott's general counsel.
Connally noted that Antonacci expressed a desire to the governor's office for the Enterprise Florida position.
“The more I learned about Pete … I learned things like his ability to quickly get up to speed on topics that may not be naturally as familiar to him,” Connally said during a conference call with the committee. “Some would call that a quick study. And I think, given the circumstances in front of us, I think that would be important.”
The agency has been working under interim director Mike Grissom since March, following the abrupt departure of Chris Hart from the top position.
Hart, the former leader of CareerSource Florida, was hired in November as president and CEO of Enterprise Florida but left the position in March. Hart pointed to a difference of opinions with Scott on the future of the agency at a time when House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, was pushing to eliminate Enterprise Florida.
Scott and Corcoran battled for months about the future of Enterprise Florida, with the House blocking Scott's request for $85 million for business incentives. But they eventually reached a compromise that created an $85-million funding pool for infrastructure projects and job training that could boost economic development. Antonacci's nomination must still be approved by the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, which is chaired by Scott.
“My experience with Pete is he is able to negotiate a lot of good deals. That's part of what you have to do both as general counsel and running the water management district,” Scott told committee members during the call. “I think he will do a good job. He'll work hard. He'll get deals done. And he'll also be a good team player.”
An Enterprise Florida board meeting is being planned for next week.
Antonacci served as Scott's general counsel from January 2013 until early 2015. He took over the water management district, with its approximately $660 million budget, in September 2015.
Connally, chairman, president and CEO of Gulf Power, said he was comfortable in bringing forward the recommendation without going through the normal application process, which he said could take months.
“I think it's important we move forward pretty quickly,” Connally said. “Many of you might recall the last time we posted the job. It would take two or three months to go through a long-term posting. Given the circumstances and urgency to fill the job, I'm very comfortable bringing his name before you as the next president and CEO.”
Between working for the governor and the water management district, Antonacci worked as a registered lobbyist with the law firm GrayRobinson. His client list included Accelerated Learning Solutions, Key West, Corizon, JP Morgan Chase Bank, the National Notary Association and PC Solutions & Integration. Antonacci has also been a member of the Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board and worked as a deputy state attorney general.