Marking a significant change for the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, more than 30 employees have retired from the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which is responsible for Walt Disney World. The mass exodus, which includes nearly half of the senior leadership, follows a controversial takeover of the district by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, raising serious concerns about operational stability and political influence. ing.
CFTOD, formerly known as Reedy Creek Improvement District, has seen changes at all levels, from district administrator and chief financial officer to key roles in public works, procurement and facilities management.
In an article published by Jason Garcia, who has observed Reedy Creek for many years, We are looking for rentA former Reedy Creek manager with a 30-year career who obtained employee exit interviews through a public records request said DeSantis’ political appointees “demonstrated a serious lack of trust in employees.” , wrote that his job had become “unpleasant” and “stressful.” ”, and “demoralizing”. Another manager wrote that the transition was “very negative.” And one department head called the new leadership “unqualified and incompetent.”
The former executive assistant added, “The legacy of this special district is being destroyed by the people who have come to power here. Maybe I don’t care too much.” They claim transparency and bridging, but I see opacity and bridging happening. ”
DeSantis’ political maneuvering, lawsuits, and presidential candidacy
The roots of the turmoil go back to Governor DeSantis’ decision to assert control of the district, which many perceived as retaliation against Disney. The entertainment giant publicly criticized DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and suspended campaign contributions, drawing the governor’s ire. In a swift legislative move, DeSantis won the power to appoint the Board of Supervisors and installed allies and allies who quickly ousted his existing leadership.
The CFTOD Board of Directors sued Disney in Florida state court in May 2023 following Disney’s federal lawsuit against CFTOD Board members and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Disney said: “A targeted campaign of government retaliation, orchestrated every step of the way by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech, now threatens Disney’s business operations and threatens Disney’s ability to protect Disney in the region. endangers their economic future and violates their constitutional rights.”
Impact on employees and operations
Former employees painted a grim picture of the current work environment, calling it toxic, demoralizing and stressful. The new leadership has been criticized for its inexperience and lack of qualifications, and has been accused of fostering a climate of mistrust and incompetence. These factors not only affected morale, but also raised questions about the district’s ability to efficiently manage services critical to the Walt Disney World Resort.
Strategic recruitment and suspected political motives
Amid this turmoil, the board Mr. DeSantis appointed has been proactive in putting allies in key roles. High-profile hires include District Administrator Glenn Gilzean, who was appointed with a salary of $400,000, and Paula Hoisington, a former member of DeSantis’ transition team who is now chief of staff. The board has also awarded lucrative contracts to companies with close ties to DeSantis, including a $1 million no-bid contract for a new communications system. After this news surfaced, CFTOD canceled its board meeting scheduled for this month, and the next board meeting was scheduled to be held on Wednesday, November 15, 2023.
Operational challenges and public perception
The district is currently grappling with significant operational challenges. Recent job openings in facilities management highlight the void created by mass retirements. Critics argue these vacancies could impede the district’s ability to provide critical services such as fire protection, garbage collection and building inspections, impacting Walt Disney World operations.
Moving from efficiency to politics
Under previous management, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was known for its efficiency and detailed scrutiny of projects, despite criticism of its unique status and Disney influence. But the move to the Central Florida Tourism Supervisory District, now under Mr. DeSantis’ control, marks a shift from a well-run government agency to a politically charged arena.