Who’s who in Ron DeSantis’ administration

From former lawmakers to veteran civil servants, here are the people the governor tapped to run state government.

DeSantis signs books in Des Moines on March 10, 2023.

DeSantis signs books in Des Moines on March 10, 2023. Photo by Rachel Mummey for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The start of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second term in office was accompanied by some administration shake-ups. Perhaps the most noteworthy departure was Simone Marstiller, a veteran and accomplished state official and former judge who had been both head of the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Agency for Health Care Administration during the governor's first term.

But DeSantis methodically restocked his top officials with the help of three transition chairs: Adrian Lukis, a former chief of staff who is now at Ballard Partners; Scott Wagner, vice chair of the South Florida Water Management District; and Shane Strum, another former chief of staff, now the current president and CEO of Broward Health. 

In what is admittedly an incomplete list (for now), here’s who currently holds major positions in the DeSantis administration. This list will be added to and updated periodically: 

Agency for Health Care Administration: Jason Weida

This is “the chief health policy and planning entity for the state,” primarily responsible for administering Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care program for the poor. Jason Weida, who replaced Marstiller, had been the agency’s assistant deputy secretary for Medicaid policy and quality. The former assistant U.S. attorney received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service. He got his bachelor’s degree in Latin and history from Gettysburg College and law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Department of Business and Professional Regulation: Melanie Griffin

Melanie Griffin took the reins Jan. 1, leading the state’s department that licenses and regulates everything from “cosmetologists, veterinarians, and real estate agents (to) pari-mutuel wagering facilities.” She now oversees “Florida’s regulation of more than 1.7 million licensees across more than 30 fields of industry.” Griffin came from the ‘big law’ firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick in Tampa Bay, where she was of counsel, and Shumaker Advisors, its lobbying arm, where she was senior advisor of business-to-business relationships. 

Department of Children and Families: Shevaun Harris

Shevaun Harris, a holdover from DeSantis’ first term became secretary in February 2021 after a nearly 20 years at the Agency for Health Care Administration, according to her bio, where she rose to acting secretary. She also “has held positions in the health and human services field, providing services to children and adults diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and children receiving services in an inpatient psychiatric program” and “spearhead(ed) the development of the State’s Canadian Prescription Drug Importation program.”

Department of Corrections: Ricky Dixon

Appointed in November 2021, Ricky Dixon began his career with the department as a correctional officer and rose through the ranks over a 25-year career, including serving as deputy secretary, “responsible for the overall operation of the agency,” before becoming secretary. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Florida Gulf Coast University. He replaced Mark Inch, who had been secretary since January 2019.

Department of Economic Opportunity: Meredith Ivey

The state’s jobs agency, which also manages unemployment compensation, has been without a permanent head since Dane Eagle departed and joined Ballard Partners in January. Meredith Ivey, who is acting secretary, had been the department’s chief of staff. She’s had a succession of high-ranking posts in recent years, including director of strategic initiatives and deputy director of communications in the governor’s office, director of external affairs for the Florida Constitution Revision Commission and communications director for the Florida Department of State. 

Department of Education: Manny Diaz Jr. 

Though officially appointed by the state Board of Education, Manny Diaz Jr. was DeSantis’ pick to lead the department after Richard Corcoran, who now is interim president of New College of Florida. He’s the first Hispanic commissioner of education in Florida’s history, according to an email announcing his appointment. Diaz served in the Legislature since 2012, having last been a state senator. He’s also been a “public-school teacher, coach, assistant principal, and school administrator (and) possesses a great deal of classroom experience.” He got his undergraduate degree from St. Thomas University, a master’s degree in education from Nova Southeastern, and completed a Harvard Graduate School of Education program for principals.

Division of Emergency Management: Kevin Guthrie

One of the better-known agency heads, thanks to last year’s hurricanes, Kevin Guthrie had big shoes to fill: His predecessor was now-U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Broward County, the only Democrat to hold a high-level post in the administration. Guthrie “has more than 30 years of experience in public safety and emergency management” in Florida, his bio says, and was a police officer and emergency preparedness coordinator with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He’s also been public safety and emergency management director in Flagler County and an assistant county administrator in Pasco County. He later was FDEM’s chief of staff and its deputy director.

Department of Environmental Protection: Shawn Hamilton

Shawn Hamilton is no stranger at DEP; he’s worked there since 2007, starting as ombudsman and public affairs manager in the Northwest District Office. He rose to interim deputy secretary of land and recreation in 2020 and was appointed deputy secretary in 2021. Hamilton also was the principal state liaison for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice, involved in the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and hurricanes Irma and Michael. He has an undergraduate degree in computer science from  Troy State University with a minor in business. 

Department of Health: Joseph Ladapo

Besides Guthrie, Joseph Ladapo may be the best-known of DeSantis agency heads, coming to prominence amid the COVID-19 pandemic for inveighing against mask and vaccine mandates. As well as state surgeon general, he is also a professor of medicine at the University of Florida, studying “behavioral economic strategies to reduce cardiovascular risk in low-income and disadvantaged populations.” His op-eds “about health policy and public health have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.” Before coming to Florida, “he was a tenured Associate Professor at David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), … graduated from Wake Forest University and received his medical degree from Harvard and Ph.D. in Health Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.”

Department of Juvenile Justice: Eric Hall

Before heading DJJ, Eric Hall was appointed in March 2019 by then-Education Commissioner Corcoran “to serve as the state’s first Chancellor for Innovation and Senior Chancellor where he oversaw the divisions of K-12 Public Schools, the Florida College System, Career and Adult Education, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, the Office of Safe Schools and the Office of Early Learning.” He graduated with a degree in Secondary Science Education and received a master’s of education in Education Leadership, both from the University of South Florida. He also earned his doctorate in education leadership and policy studies from USF, his bio says. 

Department of Management Services: Pedro Allende

Pedro Allende now leads DMS, often referred to as the state’s real estate manager, though actually responsible for much more: “He has oversight of a $1 billion budget and a workforce of nearly 1,000 employees,” his bio says. Allende “previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure, Risk and Resilience Policy with the Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ... He led policy development to protect U.S. critical infrastructure against cyber, physical and natural threats while overseeing policy efforts to increase federal and state local preparedness, response and recovery capabilities.” He received two bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics, a master’s degree in decision and information science and a law degree from the University of Florida. He is fluent in English and Spanish.

Department of State: Cord Byrd

The Jacksonville attorney had been a Florida House member when he was tapped to replace Laurel Lee at State when she left to pursue the congressional seat she now holds. Cord Byrd holds many of the same hard-right views as DeSantis, including being a “ staunch advocate for election security, public integrity, the fight against big tech censorship and the de-platforming of political candidates,” according to an email that announced his appointment. As a lawmaker, he carried bills that banned sanctuary cities, required the use of E-Verify in Florida and created a Parents’ Bill of Rights in Florida, it added. 

Department of Transportation: Jared Perdue

Jared Perdue is another agency longtimer (18 years at FDOT) who was tapped as a head, having been District Five Secretary before leading the entire department. He “was responsible for leading and developing a workforce of nearly 600 employees and managing an annual budget of nearly $1 billion.” He also “led the completion of the I-4 Ultimate Project, FDOT’s largest project to date. He oversaw the Wekiva Parkway project, a model transportation project for environmental conservation.” Perdue received his undergrad degree in civil engineering from The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston.