TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — In a move sure to shake up Florida’s political landscape, Jeff Atwater, the state’s chief financial officer, resigned Friday to take a job at Florida Atlantic University.
Atwater, a Republican from Palm Beach County, had risen to the rank of state Senate president before getting elected chief financial officer in 2010. He was easily re-elected four years later.
He announced that he would step down to become vice president of strategic initiatives and chief financial officer for the college based in Boca Raton. Atwater said he would remain in his office until after this year’s legislative session that starts in March.
“While I would have preferred to embrace this opportunity at a later date, the timing of crucial university initiatives warranted an accelerated transition,” said Atwater in a statement.
It will be up to Gov. Rick Scott to appoint someone to fill the rest of Atwater’s term, a key opportunity that comes at a time when Scott is openly feuding with his fellow Republicans in the Florida House.
Scott, in his own statement, praised Atwater and said that he would “begin the process to appoint someone to serve Florida families.”
Florida’s chief financial officer is elected statewide and is a member of the state Cabinet that oversees several key agencies. The chief financial officer, who is also the state fire marshal, plays a key role in helping regulate the financial and insurance industries and also functions as the state’s treasurer.
During his time as chief financial officer, the 58-year-old Atwater worked with Scott to overhaul Florida’s auto insurance laws. During his rise in GOP political circles, Atwater’s name had been bandied about as a possible candidate for U.S. Senate and other jobs.
Still Atwater’s departure to take a job at FAU is not a complete surprise. His children attended the school and he unsuccessfully sought the post of FAU president in early 2014.
Atwater will report to FAU President John Kelly, a former vice president at Clemson University, who won the job over Atwater and others such as former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux.
Kelly said in his own statement that he approached Atwater to take the job.
“It was immediately obvious he cares passionately about FAU,” Kelly said. “There is no better person to help guide this university’s finances and corporate relationships as we continue with unbridled ambition to make FAU America’s fastest improving university.”