Jessica Sims to head DCF’s communications

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Jessica Sims will become the Department of Children and Families’ new communications director, starting next Monday, Secretary Mike Carroll said in a press release.

Carroll announced the move Thursday.

“We are excited to bring Jessica on board to lead the statewide efforts of collaboration, partnership and prevention with our community and media partners,” Carroll said in a statement.

“Our mission to protect the most vulnerable requires a solid line of communication, and Jessica’s nearly eight years of service with the state demonstrates her dedication and skill in making that happen,” he added.

Sims comes on board to a perpetually beleaguered child-welfare agency that most recently agreed to pay $450,000 as part of a settlement to head off future lawsuits in its handling of a case that resulted in the mass murder of a Gilchrist County family.

Last September, 51-year-old Don Spirit shot and killed his 28-year-old daughter Sarah Spirit and her six children – aged 10 weeks to 11 years old – in rural Bell, a town of about 350. He later killed himself with a shot to the head.

The Spirit family had been written up 18 times by DCF investigators for reported child abuse, according to reports, and the latest abuse-hotline report was sitting on a desk at the time of the murder-suicide.

Moreover, area law enforcement said a University of Florida child protection team had recommended to DCF that there be “no contact” between Don Spirit and the children after a 2013 visit to the home.

Sims most recently served as press secretary for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and was the public information specialist for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, according to the release.

She also was information director for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service. Sims has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science from Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.