SFWMD board selects DEP's Drew Bartlett to head the district

Tyler Treadway
Treasure Coast Newspapers

As one of its first actions, the new South Florida Water Management District board hired a new leader for the agency: Drew Bartlett, a deputy secretary at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Bartlett, 51, replaces Executive Director Ernie Marks of Palm City, who announced his resignation at the February meeting effective March 5.

Bartlett's salary will be negotiated, but Marks was paid $176,000 a year.

More: SFWMD chief announces resignation to board with no quorum

Chauncey Goss, the newly elected board chairman, said Bartlett had "the perfect resume" for the job.

"We've got some work to do," Bartlett said.

Drew Bartlett

In particular, "we're going to build the EAA Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area," he added, referring to the project designed to help cut damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Bartlett also promised to engage with board members and the public.

"This is going to be a very transparent era," he added.

The statement drew a round of applause.

More:Gov. Ron DeSantis-appointed members take seats on South Florida Water Management District board

Bartlett is to begin the new job April 1.

Terrie Bates, the district's water resources director, assumed the executive director's duties after Marks left. 

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More:New contractor: Caloosahatchee River reservoir ready in five years

DeSantis told TCPalm he was considering recommending Bartlett as the district's executive director during the Feb. 21 ceremony announcing he was appointing Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch of Sewall's Point to the SFWMD board.

Except he didn't remember Bartlett's name.

Minutes ahead of his appointment as the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, Drew Bartlett (center), talks with Gary Goforth (left), an environmental engineer and former district scientist, and Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, on March 14, 2019, at the South Florida Water Management District offices in West Palm Beach. Currently a deputy secretary at Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, Bartlett's reign over the water management district begins April 1.

"A lot of people are talking about Noah's (DEP chief Noah Valenstein's) deputy," DeSantis said. "And he'd be good for the job."

Valenstein, who also was at the ceremony, confirmed DeSantis was talking about Bartlett.

More: DeSantis considering DEP's Bartlett to head SFWMD

Bartlett was appointed to the deputy secretary post in 2013 by then-DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.

His job entailed working with the state's five water management districts and overseeing several divisions of the DEP responsible for environmental restoration, water quality and coastal management.

Bartlett recently led an advisory committee assembled to recommend changes to how the state regulates the use of sewage sludge on farmland.

More:DEP panel suggests tweaks, not overhaul of biosolids practices

He previously served as director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration and also has  worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Southeast Regional Office, where he was responsible for implementing programs authorized by the federal Clean Water Act.

Bartlett earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and master's degree in business administration from Georgia State University.

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