Having only recently assumed the role of executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, Melissa Meeker is already touting efforts by her agency to streamline regulations and coordinate lobbying efforts.
Only three days after starting her new position (on June 1), Meeker spoke at a Water Forum held at a convention center at Rosen Shingle Creek, a sprawling luxury hotel and golf course in Orlando.
Addressing Gov. Rick Scott’s recently unveiled (and much-maligned) budget, Meeker said she wasn’t all that concerned with a roughly 25 percent cut to Water Management Districts across the state.
“While he was on the campaign trail, Gov. Scott no doubt heard a lot of concern, and, frankly, complaints about state Water Management Districts,” said Meeker. “There were a lot of inefficiencies and a lot of room for improvement.”
Meeker said that the districts would all be reducing and even eliminating non-core-mission duties, and reducing salaries and benefits across the board — but she remained confident her agency will still be able to fund important projects, including Everglades restoration efforts.
“If we can’t , then I’ve failed,” said Meeker. “And I’ll go back to Tallahassee, or back to my own company.”
On specific issues, Meeker said that she hoped to “coordinate lobbying and policy” efforts in the District, and hoped to restructure the state’s consumptive-use permitting process, which she argued should be more incentive-based.
She also said that legislation concerning the wetland permitting process could likely materialize in the next legislative session. Meeker said that the state is often much quicker at granting permits than the feds, who often drag their heels on giving permits. “There’s not a utility director in here that wants to destroy wetlands,” said Meeker. “Rather than this confrontational attitude of ‘You can’t do this,’ we need to build partnerships. We need to have a mutual goal of resource protection.”