In this episode, Brett gets to talk with Mary Szafraniec, a Florida scientist with a remarkable personal story. They talk about her grandparents’ survival in Nazi work camps during World War II and her parents’ eventual escape from communism in Europe to arrive in the United States, ready to start a new life; how a chance meeting at a music festival changed her career path toward environmental issues and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; how she moved into the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program at the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the importance of mentorship there; how her time in government created value in the private sector; and of course, her new role at Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) and how she strives to do good by creating accountability in her work and measuring long-term outcomes for Florida’s natural systems.
In this episode, Brett heads to the empire headquarters of Florida’s most prolific environmental professional, Jeff Littlejohn. Jeff is a principal at the National Stormwater Trust, OnSyte Performance, and the Florida Environmental Network (host of the Environmental Permitting Summer School in Marco Island); a Senior Advisor with the Adams and Reese Law Firm; and the Founding Editor of the newly revamped Florida Specifier.
They talk about growing up the son of Florida environmental royalty; how Top Gun and his step-father influenced his decision to attend the U.S. Naval Academy; what brought him back to Florida to work as an engineer; his sometimes controversial tenure at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; and whether he’s the Nicolas Cage of Florida environmental entrepreneurs.
In this episode, Brett gets a visit from his friend and President of Sea & Shoreline – Carter Henne. They talk about growing up outdoors and on the water in Polk County; how his desire to create sustainable marine ecosystems drew him first to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and then Sea & Shoreline founder Jim Anderson; the things we’ve been getting wrong about seagrass restoration in the past and how that’s changed; and a look at some of the work he’s doing to now to protect coastlines and natural systems that extend far beyond just seagrasses.
In this episode, Brett gets to spend some time with the former top attorney for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Matt Leopold. In addition to his time at the EPA, Matt served as General Counsel at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; handled environmental issues for Governor Jeb Bush; and was an environmental attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.
They talk about growing up in West-Central Florida; split(?) allegiances between his undergrad and law schools; his consequential tenures as the top environmental lawyer on the state and national stages; what happened in the Sackett v. EPA case; and what the Supreme Court’s decision means for regulators and the regulated moving forward.
In this episode, Brett travels to Pensacola for a conversation with the prolific Executive Director of the relatively new Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program – Matt Posner. They talk about growing up in Pensacola; the value of the education and experiences he gained on the way to his current role; the importance of fostering partnerships as the head of a small agency; and the exciting new programs his team is spearheading that could breathe new life into the region’s estuaries.
In this episode, Brett is joined by lobbyist, consultant, policy expert, and former Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – Jon Steverson. They talk about growing up the son of an accountant and an English teacher; working for three different governors; his unintentionally controversial tenure as the DEP Secretary; and his approach to working in the legislative process. And of course, no conversation with Jon is complete without a mention of the Williams/Steverson Family Reunion and the Bonifay Rodeo.
In this episode, Brett gets to spend some time with the new Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida – Greg Knecht. They talk about growing up outdoors in Polk County; his life as a cave diver and dive instructor; and how his wife has been the catalyst for the most consequential decisions of his life and career. They also discuss his father’s influence on how he approaches controversial issues; the important mission of The Nature Conservancy; and how the Conservancy has expanded its mission over the years to help solve some of Florida’s biggest restoration and preservation challenges.
In this episode, Brett travels to Palatka to sit down with the Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District – Mike Register. They discuss how a young engineer out of the University of Florida charts a path to a more than three decade-long career at the agency he now runs; his approach to solving problems and working with stakeholders; the complicated processes involved in the development of Regional Water Supply Plans and Minimum Flows and Levels; and his thoughts on the future of water in Florida.
In Season 2, Episode 2, Brett travels to Lakeland for the opportunity to hear from the person who brought the idea of conservation easements (they called it something different in the early 90’s) to Florida: 8th generation Floridian, long time real estate broker, and former member of the Florida House of Representatives – Dean Saunders. They talk about his time with Senator and then Governor Lawton Chiles; how conservation easements and Bright Futures were born; and how a young pancake dinner salesman became one of the most prolific land brokers in the state.
In our Season 2 opener, Brett has a conversation with noted filmmaker and author, Steve Hawley. Steve has a brand new book out called, Cracked: The Future of Dams in a Hot, Chaotic World. They discuss the mythology surrounding the benefits of many of the world’s dams; the benefits of restoring once-dammed rivers; Dam Removal 101; and why he’s cautiously optimistic about the future of the world’s natural systems.
In the last episode of the season, Brett sits down with limnologist, business owner and two-time water management district executive director – Ann Shortelle. They talk about building a family and career in Florida; being one of only three people to serve as executive director of two different water management districts; how she wants young women and girls to embrace math and science more; Notre Dame super fandom; and how she became a “Lake Doctor”.
In his second-to-last episode of the season, Brett sits down with attorney, lobbyist, and former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection – Ryan Matthews. They discuss his family’s deep roots in Upstate New York; the example left behind by a renowned attorney and lobbyist father; the joys and challenges of leadership; and his flirtation with a life of crime.
In this episode, Brett has a conversation with recently retired Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chief of Staff – Jennifer Fitzwater. They discuss how a kid from the Midwest makes her way to law school and a career in resource protection; what it’s like to have been the Chief of Staff for two separate state agencies; the difficult and complicated work going into solving challenges like manatee habitat loss and red tide; and what life’s been like since she rowed off into the sunset.
In this episode, Brett sits down with the Northwest Florida Water Management District’s executive director – Lyle Seigler. They discuss Hurricane Michael recovery; springs restoration and protection efforts; the district’s relationship to the regulated community; and what happened to change a town in Walton County from the county seat to a trivia question.
To see tools used by the Northwest Florida Water Management District to track Hurricane Michael damage and recovery go here.
To learn more about the district’s spring restoration and preservation efforts, head here.
To reach out to Lyle directly, email him at: Lyle.Seigler@nwfwater.com
In this episode, Brett talks with well-known environmental attorney and former DEP general counsel, Fred Aschauer. They discuss Florida’s U.S. Supreme Court fight to save the Apalachicola River and Bay; growing up between Florida and New York; and how joining a heavy metal band led to a music scholarship and a haircut.
In Episode 4, Brett sits down with his partner: long time water policy and budget guru, Frank Bernardino. They talk about the history of wetland mitigation in Florida; the water resource funding gap and how he proposes we close it; and his life as a young song writer in Miami.
In this episode, Brett talks with one of the most renowned environmental advocates in Florida – Eric Draper. Draper is most known for his advocacy on behalf of Everglades protection and the Florida Forever land-buying programs, but he recently served a successful tour as the Director of the Florida State Parks Service. They talk about effective environmental advocacy; Eric’s continued concern about the global effects of climate change; and the importance of developing partnerships instead of enemies.
In this episode, Brett sits down with Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Executive Director – Brian Armstrong. Armstrong has a career in water management spanning 25 years, nearly all of them at the same water management district. They discuss growing up on the water; the importance of alternative water supplies; who’s cooler, geologists or engineers; and an incredible story of lake and wetland restoration that doesn’t get nearly the recognition it deserves.
In the very first Water for Fighting podcast, Brett has a conversation with the Godfather of Florida water management – Henry Dean. Dean currently serves on the St. Johns County board of county commissioners, but his thirty-year career in water resource protection spans five governors, two water management districts, and various other committees and agencies. They discuss the dawn of water management districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; management styles; and a career ultimately defined by its successful relationships.
Mark Twain is said to have quipped, “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.” And in Florida, the subject of water can bring out the strongest of opinions. The Water for Fighting podcast will discuss the past, present, and future of water in Florida with the people who make it happen. The host, Brett Cyphers spent over 20 years working throughout Florida government getting to know the people who’ve made water their life’s work and created this podcast to allow you, the listener, to get to know them as well.