Florida Politics

Florida cabinet names permanent head of Veterans’ Affairs

Glenn Sutphin, executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Glenn Sutphin, executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs

Glenn Sutphin no longer has the interim tag affixed to his title at the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

A longtime chief of staff and legislative affairs director for the Florida Department of Military Affairs, Sutphin was unanimously appointed Tuesday by Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet as executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

In a prepared statement, Scott said Sutphin, who in recent months has served as interim executive director, “has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to his fellow veterans, and I am confident he will continue to honorably serve our state and the many veterans who proudly call Florida home.”

Sutphin, 67, who was the only candidate interviewed out of more than 300 applicants, intends to push for additional nursing homes for veterans.

“There are many, many veterans in line, waiting to get in,” said Sutphin, who has been making unannounced visits to state veterans’ facilities.

“We have extremely dedicated people who want to do a good job,” he said. “They’re there because they want to take care of the veterans.”

Sutphin added that he doesn’t want any facility to have the “smell of dirt or the smell of death.”

Sutphin, a familiar figure at the Capitol, was appointed interim executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in April after Mike Prendergast stepped down to run for Citrus County sheriff.

He had worked since 1999 for the Department of Military Affairs, which is made up of the Florida Army National Guard and the Florida Air National Guard. Sutphin’s military career started as an enlisted soldier in 1969 and also included receiving a commission as a field artillery officer and serving in the National Guard, according to biographical information on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.

The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

▪  Reversing a five-year trend, Scott and the Cabinet unanimously agreed to borrow $285 million over the next few years to build and maintain facilities for state universities, colleges and public schools.

Following a period of fiscal austerity when Scott vigorously opposed most state borrowing, the decision marked the first time since the 2010-11 budget year that the state has approved Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, bonds to pay for the construction and maintenance of educational buildings.

The funding, which lawmakers included in the 2016-17 budget, will go toward major university projects including $20 million for the University of Central Florida’s downtown Orlando campus, $13.8 million for a nuclear science building at the University of Florida and $22.5 million for the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa.