Visitors to the Office of the Speaker of the Florida House can expect to see at least one familiar face for the next two years as Kathy Mears, current Chief of Staff to Will Weatherford, is expected to continue in that role for the chamber’s next leader, Steve Crisafulli, senior aides to the Speaker Designate confirmed to SaintPetersBlog.
Mears is considered one of the savviest operators in the Florida Capitol, a polymath who understands communications, policy and politics. She is also a tenacious defender of, if not fighter for, her principals, which have included several of the state’s most prominent leaders. In addition to her service to Weatherford, Mears has served as an adviser to former Governor Charlie Crist, as well as former Senate presidents Ken Pruitt and Tom Lee.
While Mears will lend her experience and proven leadership to Crisafulli’s operation, one of state politics’ rising stars, Ryan Smith, will serve as one of two Deputy Chief of Staff to Crisafulli.
Smith’s first political job came from Michael Ayers, who hired him as an intern at the Republican Party of Florida in 2006. From there, Chip Case hired him to run Crisafulli’s 2008 House campaign. Smith then worked as Crisafulli’s legislative assistant. Ryan worked on Will Weatherford’s 2010 campaign, as a RPOF House liaison, and currently serves as deputy director of RPOF House campaigns.
Also serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to Crisafulli is Brett Prater, formerly a staff director to Crisafulli, as well as Director of Party Development for the Florida GOP.
Although there has been some speculation that Weatherford’s communications director Ryan Duffy would play a role on Crisafulli’s team, however, at this time, that does not appear to be the situation. Undoubtedly, the ever-capable Duffy will make a mint in the private sector.
So what does it mean that Mears will be Crisafulli’s right-hand?
First of all, it sends a clear signal that Crisafulli is prepared to continue much of the work started by Weatherford, while also carving out his own sphere of influence. Make no mistake, Crisafulli is taking over as Speaker with an ambitious agenda, but he’s also playing with house money because he wasn’t suppose to be Speaker. Expectations are low, but opportunities are readily available.
Mears’ appointment is also a push-back against some of the chatter that Speaker Designate-to-be Richard Corcoran would enjoy a “four year Speakership.” Because Crisafulli is an accidental Speaker, some have suggested that Corcoran would have the run of the place. Certainly, there is no sharper operative in the Florida House than Richard Corcoran, but there’s only ‘one Speaker at a time’ and Mears will help enforce that rule.
Speaking of speculation, we’re also hearing that Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner’s is expected to name Reynold Meyer as his Chief of Staff. He currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Senate President Don Gaetz.