- Jim Turner News Service of Florida
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has two new commissioners, as the leadership of the agency continues to undergo changes.
Gov. Rick Scott late Friday appointed Sonya Rood of St. Augustine to replace Commissioner Aliese “Liesa” Priddy of Immokalee and Gary Nicklaus of Jupiter to succeed Commissioner Ronald Bergeron of Fort Lauderdale.
Both appointments, which were effective Friday, are ultimately subject to state Senate confirmation.
The seven-member commission will be in Gainesville on Tuesday to begin three days of meetings, which are expected to include discussions on replacing Executive Director Nick Wiley and Chairman Brian Yablonski.
Wiley announced last week that he accepted a position with Ducks Unlimited, a Memphis, Tenn.-based nonprofit focused on conserving wetlands and habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Wiley, who has held the top staff position at the state agency since 2009, is slated to start with Ducks Unlimited in January.
Yablonski, a Gulf Power external affairs director and one-time policy director for former Gov. Jeb Bush, is leaving at the start of the year to become executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont.
Rood, whose term is slated to run through Jan. 2, 2022, is the wife of John Rood, a former member of the commission who founded the real estate company The Vestcor Companies and is a Scott appointee on the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida.
Nicklaus, whose term is set to run through Aug. 1, 2022, is a former professional golfer, is on the board of the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, and is vice chairman of the Nicklaus Companies, which was founded by his father, legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.
Priddy, who had been named to serve as interim chairwoman upon Yablonski’s exit, had continued serving on the commission after her term expired in January 2017. Bergeron’s term had expired on Aug. 1.
Both Priddy and Bergeron are avid hunters, but they were on opposite sides in recent years on controversial votes about holding bear hunts in Florida.
Bergeron voted against the hunts, including casting the lone vote against allowing a hunt in 2015 after more than 20 years without bears being allowed to be killed.
Priddy paid for a license for the 2015 hunt, which resulted in 304 bears being killed, but she did not participate. The commission has decided the past two years against holding hunts.
With the appointments, the commission still has two members continuing to serve beyond the expiration of their terms. The terms of Richard Hanas of Oviedo and Bo Rivard of Panama City both ended on Aug. 1.