By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On August 1st, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Dr. Julia Nesheiwat as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). The CRO is tasked with preparing Florida for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea level rise.
“Developing resilience goals for the state will help to protect our coastal communities and fortify Florida’s pathway to continued prosperity,” said Governor DeSantis. “Today, we take the step of appointing Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer to coordinate a statewide response to prepare for the environmental, physical and economic challenges facing our state.”
Adding “Dr. Nesheiwat’s more than twenty years’ experience operating at the highest levels of government and academia focusing on renewable energy, environmental and critical infrastructure issues make her an excellent choice for this position. She has a proven track record of public, private and military service that will serve Florida well.”
The CRO reports to the Executive Office of the Governor and will work in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in addition to local communities and stakeholders.
According to a government press release, Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer said “Dr. Nesheiwat is extremely well versed in a broad suite of issues related to resilience. Her breadth of expertise will serve her well as CRO. I am thrilled to work with her on coordinated and well-rounded resilience strategies.”
“With this appointment of Dr. Julia Nesheiwat as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer, Governor DeSantis stands above all other governors in his leadership and commitment to ensure the Everglades and Florida’s water resources are protected,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
“Governor DeSantis made a wise choice. Dr. Nesheiwat is a proven resiliency leader in critical areas where the public, private and academic sectors intersect. Her years of environmental experience, with an emphasis on water and natural resources, will serve the people of Florida well.”
“As Governor DeSantis takes serious steps to protect Florida from flooding exacerbated by sea level rise and more intense rain events, I applaud his choice in Julia Nesheiwat as the state’s first Resilience Officer,” said Jay Faison, Chairman of the American Flood Coalition.
On August 8th, the Miami Herald reported that Nesheiwat wasn’t shy about using the words ‘climate change’. When she was asked if she hesitated to use the term, she responded “Not at all,” she said. “It’s here. It’s real.”
This is noteworthy because during the former governor Rick Scott, Florida state employees said — and documents confirmed — there was a ban on using the term “climate change.” Instead of “sea level rise,” employees were instructed to say “nuisance flooding.”
Dr. Nesheiwat also said new limits on building homes, businesses and infrastructure in flood-prone areas will likely be necessary. “There will need to be restrictions, absolutely,” Nesheiwat said.
Nesheiwat was optimistic that there was grant money for needed pumps and other technology that could alleviate the burden on Florida taxpayers. “I think the funding is out there — it’s just a matter of harnessing it,” she said.
According to the Office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Nesheiwat has more than twenty years of renewable energy and environmental experience focused on water and natural resources as a senior executive in federal cabinet-level agencies, academia and as a combat veteran.
She also managed the resiliency and energy working group on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Advisory Council and is an advocate on energy and environmental programs and critical infrastructure protection (CI), power sector sustainability and innovation projects.