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Nancy Smith

Ritch Workman, Scott's Worst Appointment Ever

September 18, 2017 - 6:00am

There's no part of Gov. Rick Scott's job more heavily criticized during his seven years in office than the friends and supporters he's appointed to leadership posts, generally as a lucrative prize for loyalty.

I seldom complained. They might have been square pegs in round holes, but I always figured there was some hope -- for the most part, they were intelligent, exercised reasonably good judgment and had achieved some measure of success somewhere in their careers. They were capable of learning on the job. 

Melbourne Republican Ritch Workman on the other hand, just appointed to replace Ronald A. Brisé on the Public Service Commission, is none of the above. Even the early favor he supposedly did for Gov. Scott carrying the water on pension reform ultimately crumbled like a stale biscuit. 

What was the governor thinking?  

It isn't so much the things Workman, 44, did while he served in the Florida House ... although, let's face it:

-- He did try to bring back "dwarf tossing," an act that became a sensation in bars and taverns before it was banned in 1989 and is legal in none of the other 49 states. ("I'm on a quest to seek and destroy unnecessary burdens on the freedom and liberties of people," Workman said in November 2011. ") In the end he apparently had a change of heart, because less than six months later he let the proposed repeal die.

-- He did make headlines when his name was discovered  on the client list of Ashley Madison in 2011. It provided weeks of salacious headlines in the Capital press -- Ashley Madison's "Life is short, have an affair" advertising being code for "we're your place for extramarital relationships." Never mind that Workman had divorced, and was single at the time he signed up, and insisted the site never actually hooked him up. The story created a major distraction from the real legislative business of the day and made him a laughingstock.

-- He did sponsor an effort to forbid judges from considering marital infidelity when deciding how much alimony a spouse deserves in a divorce settlement. A revised version of the bill would have put a cap on alimony payments and eliminated lifetime alimony rewards. Women across the state protested; nevertheless, Workman continued to flog it as "pro-family." It took a pair of Scott vetoes to put those bills where they belonged.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli -- also from Brevard County -- singlehandedly tried to recreate Workman, give him some heft -- turn him from a lightweight without portfolio into a statesman who might discover greatness within himself. Crisafulli appointed Workman chairman of the Rules Committee -- probably the most important committee along with Appropriations in the chamber. Unfortunately, Workman didn't entirely get it. For example, he remained a part-time Uber driver, which some -- including Florida taxicab companies -- considered a conflict of interest when the state was wrestling with contentious rules for app-based transportation services.

While unimpressive and, frankly, disruptive, the things Workman sponsored are nothing like as disappointing and disqualifying as the things he didn't do or hasn't the credentials to attempt.

The first term he ran for his House seat, he beat Democrat Amy Tidd largely by convincing conservatives he was going to get an Arizona-style immigration bill passed. But it was an empty promise. His immigration bill went nowhere. Legislators at the time said he meant well but didn't have a clue how to make it happen. 

Looking back, it's difficult to find a single accomplishment of his own making -- not something just to curry favor with the speaker or the governor, but something aimed simply at making life in Florida better for Floridians. Show me just one.

True, Workman was the governor's man when he oversaw the House version of a $500 million cut to taxes and fees in 2014. The package featured a rollback in vehicle registration fees. But the registration rollback wasn't his, it was the governor's, and it was widely considered the lightest of Gov. Scott's "heavy lifts" that legislative session. As one lobbyist quipped, "I think the sergeant-at-arms could've got us lower registration fees, that's how easy it was."

Workman's constituents apparently didn't buy Crisafulli's new and improved Ritch. "Rules Committee chairman" might have done the trick to get Workman on board as director of business development at Keiser University -- universities want people who know how to connect with Tallahassee. But in 2016 a fancy title at Keiser wasn't enough to help him win election to the state Senate. He lost to a fellow state representative, Debbie Mayfield.

Workman's creds besides Keiser:

  • He has a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University.
  • He served in the Florida House from 2008-2016.
  • He served in the Florida Army National Guard.
  • He worked as an Uber driver.

Note: no utility industry experience.

Utility regulation is highly technical and requires people who have knowledge of what they’re doing. 

Remember, the PSC is supposed to safeguard consumers from unjustifiably high utility rates. It has developed a reputation for cozying up to the companies it regulates. Sadly, Workman's appointment gives that theory more credence.

Scott selected Workman from a short list of 14 PSC candidates forwarded by a nominating council -- a council made up mostly of governor's and legislators' appointees. The 14 who survived included a sitting legislator and four former legislators. It's no secret legislators salivate over PSC posts, and why wouldn't they? The attraction isn't just the $131,000-a-year salary. It's also because the deal includes a generous padding of the pension credits they earn for their part-time service in the Florida House or Senate.

Not that I haven't been wrong about the governor's appointments in the past. I booed (in writing) the selection of Pete Antonacci to head the South Florida Water Management District. Antonacci turned out to be one of the strongest and clearest-thinking SFWMD chief executives I've seen in more than two decades. Everglades restoration and other water projects are on schedule, he supports his staff, the district's business is proactively transparent. But Antonacci had a long resume of successes by the time he got to SFWMD. His resume showed he was results-oriented, well-focused and a quick study. He had the tools to  lean into the job.

Again, Workman has none of the above. He will not step up. He will not surprise and amaze. He will be exactly what we expect. On Jan. 1 and for at least the next four years, Florida energy consumers will have one less watchdog in the house.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

Your accessment of Workman is totally on point. He is useless. He doesn't care about anybody but his pocketbook. He tried to be a champion for the rich white men's group who were determined to not only take alimony of the table for many long term wives , but also tried to persuade our governor that it's in the best interest of Florida children to be awarded to both parents. Never mind that some of those parents may be violent or have caused harm to their children. That's not in the best interest of the children , but it was in the best interest of Ritch Workman to gather with the rich businessmen that didn't want to support their ex wives or their children. He would have eliminated them having to pay support. I wonder how many freebies he got from that alone. Thank God the Govenor knew better then to follow his plan. We would have had the taxpayers paying to support their wives and children if it was up to Workman. He doesn't belong anywhere in government and the voters knew that. Unfortunately the Governor did not.

Come on, the campaign is over. This hit piece would have been expected by your organization during the campaign. Can the Ed Dean ignorance that has infected this blog site like a venereal disease not stop even after his chosen candidate wins? You cleverly wrote your hate ad by strategically leaving out all the accomplishments that Workman actually did. So much so the Florida Today (an actual news organization) referred to Workman as one the the "most effective Legislators in Florida". Tough to get that liberal paper to give a compliment, but then they don't share your clear hate / agenda. Please get over it, your candidate won. Workman served us VERY well as our State Rep and he will serve with distinction as our Commissioner!

I'm also a Brevard voter and this article could not be written about anyone else as it lies squarely upon old 'do nothing' Workman's shoulders. The one thing Nancy overlooked as what he's done, is he secured another "do nothing" position for his fat, lazy butt! Workman has been, always has, most likely will be, an embarrassment to the State of Florida! His possible county commission candidacy will only provide the proof positive of Workman's own devalued worth. As a public official and also as a simple minded loudmouth he's been well known for in Brevard County! Sorry BV, but you seem to want a job by your suck-up comments!

When you resort to juvenile name calling you have already lost. My guess is that Workman must not have kissed your ring or butt and that hurt your feelings and you're lashing out. Hater's gonna hate. You'll be fine Mark. Kisses! :)

That's the trouble, he's OUR commissioner too, not just yours this time. Supposed to be serving ALL of us. Glad Nancy wrote this

You might like him. Not a "typical" politician, but works hard and is very easy to talk to and always gives an honest answer (whether you want to hear it or not). This opinion writer doesn't like him, that is obvious, but you and I don't know why. It could be for a reason that would actually make you like him, who knows. She purposely left out many of his accomplishments. Funny she couldn't find room in her hit piece to mention that Workman reformed Florida's ethics laws and his work has clamped down on wrong doers within Florida's government. Whenever you see a totally one sided opinion piece watch-out, that's someone with an agenda.

You're right BV, an agenda IS very noticeable and it clearly seems yours is to find a job, any job, so long as Workman provides it for you. The guy is a profound loser!

Workman never met a lobbyist he couldn't suck up to

Workman is a stooge for the utility industry and single-handedly killed pro solar legislation that the utilities di not want passed. That's why he got the appointment.

Yeah you hit it. Workman is a FPL puppet

Governor Scott has done an excellent job with his appointments. Especially his judicial appointments, with the exception of heather pinder-rodriguez as a circuit judge in the 9th Circuit in Orlando. She is rated by peers and attorneys as one of the worst judges in Florida. Why? She is non-judicial, biased, and takes joy in being narcissistic. Her Orders state "this matter came before ME" instead of "this matter came befote the Court." A german word called schadenfreude best describes the motivations behind heather pinder-rodriguez's judicial actions. She did study russian studies in college. A jusge like heather pinder-rodriguez hurts all Floridians. The Good News is the voters of Orlando (Orange and Osceola Counties) can voter her out so she stops causing irreparable harm to the citizens of Florida. Or, she could resign or be impeached by Florida Legislature and Governor Scott could appoint a more judicial-minded jurist. Even Harry Truman made up for a bad decision with making a right decision. Keep up the good work Nancy Smith and Governor Scott.

They all stink, but it is business as usual for the corrupt business model currently in power... It is the most corrupt and least efficient method of governance, but the uneducated love the money, talking points and flash, hence the downward spiral...

I disagree w you more often than not,, but your assessment of Workman as worthless is spot on. More importantly, what does this say about Gov. Scott's criteria for selecting people to look out for the public's best interests? Uh huh.

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