Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach announced Friday he plans to step down as the state’s chief financial officer before his second elected four-year term has ended to take a position with Florida Atlantic University.
Atwater’s office oversees financial and insurance regulation in the state, so his departure — and who replaces him through 2018 — has big implications for consumers statewide.
Gov. Rick Scott will appoint a replacement for the remainder of the term, CFO spokeswoman Ashley Carr said.
Scott and Atwater did not always agree on issues such as who to appoint for insurance commissioner and how best in state policies to balance regulatory changes or higher rates companies advocated against consumer safeguards and concerns about affordability. As a legislator, Atwater helped construct a glide path of gradual 10 percent rate increases at state-run insurer Citizens rather than steeper hikes, and as CFO pushed for legislation to protect consumers against surprise medical bills, for example.
In a statement, Scott said, “I got to know CFO Jeff Atwater well in 2010 on the campaign trail, and like me, he has been laser-focused on keeping the cost of living low for all Floridians. I am proud that the state has paid down over $7.6 billion in debt since 2011 and CFO Atwater has aggressively helped us achieve that goal. He has fought to reduce burdensome regulations that hinder job growth, protect families from financial fraud and has traveled the state to return more than $1 billion in unclaimed property to its rightful owners. CFO Atwater is a proud Floridian, father, husband and friend and I will truly miss working with him. The role of the CFO is incredibly important to our state and I will begin the process to appoint someone to serve Florida families.”
Here is the release from Atwater’s office:
CFO Atwater Announces Future Plans
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater anounced today that following the 2017 Legislative Session he will be accepting the position of Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Financial Officer of Florida Atlantic University. In this capacity Atwater will lead strategic initiatives and economic development opportunities for FAU as well as manage the University’s finances and budget.
“President Kelly has assembled a truly visionary executive leadership team and faculty, who are ideally positioned to move Florida Atlantic University into a higher echelon of academic achievement and recognition. I am honored to join FAU in such a significant capacity. While I would have preferred to embrace this opportunity at a later date, the timing of crucial University initiatives warranted an accelerated transition. In the near term I will remain focused on the Department of Financial Services’ legislative agenda through the conclusion of the session and provide Governor Scott sufficient time to thoughtfully consider the selection of Florida’s next CFO,” Atwater said.
Under CFO Atwater’s guidance, the Department of Financial Services has received national recognition for its management of the State’s financial systems and processes, including awards for superior financial transparency, aggressively pursuing insurance fraud, leading the country in returning unclaimed property to its rightful owners and providing a broad array of financial literacy programs to Florida residents. The Department lead a nationwide effort to identify insurance benefits that had wrongly been withheld by insurance carriers and successfully obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits that were returned to Florida’s citizens. As State Fire Marshal the department overhauled firefighter training, career advancement and is now pursuing a statewide initiative to eliminate the tragic frequency of cancers prevalent among firefighters.
CFO Atwater has enjoyed a lengthy relationship with FAU. “The South Florida community has long known of my enthusiastic support of Florida Atlantic University. First, as a banker, collaborating with the mission and economic engine of the University, then as a legislator representing their varied campuses and priorities and lastly as a parent of FAU students. President Kelly guides an inspired faculty and celebrates the growing achievements of the most diverse university student body in Florida. I am truly excited to accept responsibility for strategically developing public private partnerships and other initiatives to enhance the mission of the University while maintaining its historically sound financial management,” added Atwater.
“As I prepare to exchange my service to the people of Florida from the position of their CFO to the position of CFO of one of the State’s most vibrant universities, I am grateful for the commitment of all those I have served with these past six years and all those I will serve with in the future,” he concluded.
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Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services, serves as Florida’s State Fire Marshal, and is a member of the Florida Cabinet. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government; reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses; and providing transparency and accountability in spending.