Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Crist taps Democrat Bob Butterworth to head social services agency





TALLAHASSEE -- Republican Gov.-elect Charlie Crist on Tuesday named his predecessor as attorney general, Democrat Bob Butterworth, to head the state's social services agency, which has been beleaguered by scandal.

Crist is turning over the Department of Children & Families to one of the state's most respected Democrats. Butterworth served as attorney general for 16 years before being forced out by term limits in 2002, when Crist was elected. He was also a judge in Broward county and the sheriff.

Butterworth acknowledged that his new job won't be easy, given that the agency deals with the most difficult problems facing families. He called the people who work at the agency heroes.

``It probably is perhaps the most rewarding job, the most demanding job that you know when you're going into it you're probably not going to do all you want to do, but you want to move the ball as far forward as you can for the children and the people,'' Butterworth said.

``What greater role is there for government than to protect the people of the state, especially the children?'' he added.

Butterworth, 64, is now dean of St. Thomas University Law School in Miami. He has also been a Broward County prosecutor, judge and sheriff, mayor of Sunrise and head of the state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

However, he lost a 2002 state Senate race to Republican Jeff Atwater.

He earned a reputation early on for taking on tough challenges. On his way to prominence, Butterworth became his party's fireman of sorts, taking jobs where there were problems or political turmoil.

``Somebody who is appointed to head this important agency has to have great intellect, great integrity and great compassion. Bob Butterworth has all three in an extraordinary amount,'' Crist said. ``He's done this kind of thing over and over again. He's a fixer.''

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