Dept. of Health confirms continued staff shake-up

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The latest staffing changes at the Florida Department of Health include the appointment of Michael Cantens as director of Legislative Affairs.  An aide to former Rep. Marcelo Llorente, Cantens is the oldest of three sons of former Rep. Gaston Cantens, like Llorente a Miami Republican.  Since leaving the Legislature in 2004, Gaston Cantens, 50, has gone to work for Florida Crystals, the sugar giant, as vice president of corporate relations.

Sandra Magyar, executive director of the Florida Public Health Association, said that while she prefers to see DOH appointees with a background in public health, “someone who understands how the Legislature works” like Cantens brings a lot to the table.  “They’re respected by legislators,” she said.  “They’ll have access to them.”

Other confirmed changes at DOH: Dr. Steven Harris – in addition to serving as Deputy Secretary for Health – is overseeing Children’s Medical Services.  Harris’ experience includes stints as medical director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department and country director for Haiti for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global AIDS Program in Port au Prince. And Jay Watkins has resigned as chief of the Bureau of Statewide Pharmaceutical Services, while Ryan Wiggins, formerly communications director, “now works with the Senior Executive Management team briefing legislative achievements on HB 1263,” according to deputy press secretary Ashley Carr.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.