By a unanimous vote, the board of directors of Visit Florida on Jan. 10 appointed Ken Lawson as the organization’s new president and CEO. He succeeds Will Seccombe who, along with two other senior Visit Florida officials, lost his job in the wake of revelations that the organization had a $1 million contract with a famous Florida rapper, Pitbull, to promote Florida, as well as criticism on the part of some state legislators of a promotional video, “Sexy Beaches.”
Because of the legal structure of the private-public Visit Florida, Gov. Rick Scott, while praising the work of Visit Florida during Seccomde’s more than four years with the organization, had to ask William Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami CVB and chairman of the board to ask for Seccombe’s resignation. All of this action took place in the week before Christmas.
Talbert made the announcement of the selection on the afternoon of Jan. 10. Lawrence began his new job on Jan. 11.
Lawson, who has no background in the travel and tourism industry, is a native Floridian, Florida State University graduate and former U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocate General, who has spent 12 years in public service in numerous regulatory positions, including his most recent work as Secretary of the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). During his six-year tenure with DBPR, Lawson managed a team of 1,600 employees charged with licensing and regulating more than 1 million businesses and professionals throughout the state.
Previously, at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, he was responsible for the oversight of several federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service. Before taking over as DBPR secretary, he was vice president for compliance for nFinanSe Inc., a Tampa financial services company.