Florida disaster chief quits as state recovers from hurricane

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s disaster management chief announced his resignation Tuesday as the state continues to recover from one of the largest, most destructive hurricanes in decades.

State Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon will officially leave his post Sunday, ending one of the longest agency chief tenures during Gov. Rick Scott’s two terms in office.

In a news release, Scott said Koon has planned to take a job in the private sector.

“Under Bryan’s leadership, Florida has been recognized as a national leader in emergency preparedness,” Scott said in a written statement. “Since day one, Bryan has done an excellent job ensuring our state is prepared and able to respond to countless weather events including Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and Irma.”

Koon had initially announced plans to leave Sept. 1, but Scott asked him to stay on through the month, the statement said.

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Koon departs roughly three weeks after Hurricane Irma howled over the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida. The storm moved up the center of the state to the northeast, where it brought torrential rains that caused devastating flash floods. More than 13 million people were left without power in the first day after the storm. 

As of Tuesday, the DEM blamed Irma for the deaths of 54 people. That total does not include the 11 elderly residents who died from health issues complicated by enduring high temps inside a Hollywood nursing home. 

The state Division of Emergency Management is a branch of Scott’s office, and it serves as a liaison as cities attempt to get money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Overseeing the recovery effort in Koon’s place will be DEM Chief of Staff Wes Maul.

Maul was hired by the DEM in May 2016 after spending roughly three years as Scott’s traveling aide. He received a law degree from the University of Florida in 2013.  

“As chief of staff at DEM, Wes has worked countless hours helping lead our state through Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and now Irma,” Scott said. “Since earning his law degree at the University of Florida, Wes has devoted his life to serving the families of our state and I am confident in his ability to lead DEM as Interim Director as we continue to recover from Hurricane Irma.”

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Scott hired Koon in February 2011. At the time, Scott sought to place private sector veterans at the helm of the state’s executive agencies. His salary is $141,000, according to state records. 

Scott had lured Koon from an emergency management position at Walmart. His role at the giant retailer included routing supplies to regions impacted by a wide variety of natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes.

Prior to Walmart, Koon served as watch commander for the White House Emergency Operations Center. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Follow Arek Sarkissian on Twitter: @ArekSarkissian

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