For Immediate Release 
September 12, 2011

Communications Office
(850) 245-7130

Dynamic Team to Lead New Department of Economic Opportunity

Tallahassee, Fla. – Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Doug Darling today announced several key appointments to the new department’s executive leadership team.

Agency for Workforce Innovation Director Cynthia R. Lorenzo will serve as DEO Chief Operating Officer. Reappointed by Governor Rick Scott, Lorenzo has led AWI since 2009 after serving as deputy director since 2007. 

“Cynthia has held several executive positions and brings a wealth of leadership experience to her new role,” said Executive Director Darling.

The department will consist of four divisions, led by the following directors:
  • Michelle Dennard, Division of Strategic Business Development

    Dennard comes to the department from the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development which she joined as legal counsel in 2007 and has served as deputy director since 2010. In these capacities, Dennard played key roles in Florida’s economic development efforts, negotiating incentive award contracts and coordinating with Florida’s public-private economic development partnerships.
  • Tom Beck, Division of Community Development

    With a doctorate in biology and as a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, Beck is currently the Director of the Division of Community Planning at the Department of Community Affairs where he previously worked for more than two decades. He also brings a private sector perspective after 10 years as a senior project manager at Stantec, an internationally known planning, engineering and design firm recognized for sustainable solutions and community investments.  
  • Tom Clendenning, Division of Workforce Services

    Currently serving as AWI’s Assistant Director, Clendenning has provided workforce and unemployment services to Florida’s businesses and job seekers for 35 years. Clendenning previously served as an assistant director at the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security before becoming Director of Florida’s Office of Unemployment Compensation during the reorganization that created AWI in 2000.
  • Kevin Thompson, Chief Financial Officer

    A certified public accountant with nearly 20 years of both public and private sector experience, Thompson has spent the last nine years as AWI’s Director of Agency Support Services where he oversees accounting, financial monitoring, budget, human resources and general services. Thompson holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting.
“Florida is on the path to becoming a job-creation engine and the new Department of Economic Opportunity is a tremendous resource for achieving this goal,” said Governor Scott. “Voters elected me to get the state back to work and the new department will be working with my office around the clock to ensure we get the nearly one million people without a job back to work.”

Additional leadership positions announced today include:
  • Michael Ayers as Chief of Staff, who has served in the same capacity at AWI since 2010 and previously served as the agency’s legislative director. 
  • Debby Kearney as General Counsel, who joins the department from the same role at DCA. Kearney previously served as General Counsel at the Department of Education and in similar capacities in all three branches of government.
  • James Mathews as Inspector General, who has held the same position at AWI since the agency was formed in 2000.
  • Darrick D. McGhee as Legislative and Cabinet Affairs Director, who joined the department from the same position at the Department of Education and has served in similar capacities at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Department of Elder Affairs.
  • Dean Izzo as Chief Information Officer, who joined AWI in July from DCA, where he also served as CIO.
The Department of Economic Opportunity was created during the 2011 Legislative Session in response to Governor Scott’s priority of establishing a more unified approach and rapid response to job creation through the consolidation of the state’s economic development functions. Encompassing responsibilities overseen by AWI, DCA and OTTED, the department becomes operational on October 1, 2011. 
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