Governor-elect Ron DeSantis Announces Ken Lawson as Executive Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity & Recommends Jamal Sowell for Enterprise Florida President & CEO

Tallahassee, Fla. – Governor-elect Ron DeSantis today announced Ken Lawson will serve as Executive Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). Governor-elect DeSantis also announced he will recommend that the Enterprise Florida, Inc.’s (EFI) Board of Directors appoint Jamal Sowell as its next president and chief executive officer (CEO) for the DeSantis-Nuñez Administration.

“Ken Lawson had demonstrated his leadership ability since serving his country in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate General,” said Governor-elect DeSantis. “Since that time, he has brought his commitment to service home to Florida, where he has served as Secretary of DBPR and President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. I have no doubt Ken will continue this tradition of outstanding leadership at the Department of Economic Opportunity and help the state continue to be an economic powerhouse, bringing new businesses to Florida and creating jobs for Floridians.”

Regarding Lawson’s appointment to DEO, Governor Rick Scott said, “Ken Lawson has been a valuable member of my administration since the beginning of my first term as Governor. Under Ken’s leadership as head of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and more recently as CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, Florida was able to create more than 1.6 million private-sector jobs while setting remarkable visitation records. I applaud Governor-elect DeSantis for choosing Ken to lead the Department of Economic Opportunity. I am confident that Ken will continue to faithfully serve our state by working every day to create jobs, so each family can succeed in Florida.”

Regarding Jamal Sowell, Governor-elect DeSantis said,

“A native Floridian, Jamal Sowell is a person of integrity who has served his country and, now, has successfully helped to lead and grow the Port of Tampa Bay – one of the largest economic engines in the region,” said Governor-elect DeSantis. “I am proud to recommend Jamal to serve as the next president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. I know he will bring his acumen to the department and will keep our state competitive and ensure our workforce has opportunities.”

Steve Swindal, Chairman of Port Tampa Bay Board of Commissioners lauded the recommendation of Jamal Sowell to EFI stating, “Jamal has served with great distinction at the Tampa Port Authority. He is a bright and talented individual who will serve the DeSantis-Nuñez Administration, and the people of Florida, well. Our organization wishes him all the best in his new role.”

Ken Lawson, Executive Director of Department of Economic Opportunity
As VISIT FLORIDA’s president and CEO, Lawson led Florida’s official destination marketing organization in partnership with its Board of Directors and the statewide tourism industry.

During Lawson’s career, he has served in numerous leadership positions for several private-sector companies and government agencies, where he balanced the needs of the private sector while protecting public resources. Prior to joining VISIT FLORIDA, he served as secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for six years, where he led a team of 1,600 employees who successfully regulated more than 1 million businesses and professions across Florida.

A native Floridian, Lawson received his bachelor’s and law degrees from Florida State University. He began his legal career in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate General and later served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. In 2001, he was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Enforcement for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he was responsible for the oversight of several federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. efforts combating terrorist financing.

Lawson also served as Assistant Chief Counsel for Field Operations with the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. In the private sector, Lawson served as the vice president for Compliance for nFinanSe Inc., a Tampa financial services company, and consulted for Booz Allen Hamilton, for whom he served as chief of party for the Financial Crimes Prevention Project in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Jamal Sowell, President & CEO of Enterprise Florida
Sowell most recently served as Port Tampa Bay’s chief of staff, where he was responsible for coordinating the operations of the president and CEO’s office, interfacing regularly with Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the State of Florida on critical issues facing the port. Sowell also served as the primary liaison to the governor and state executive branch in his capacity as chief of staff.

Prior to joining Port Tampa Bay, Jamal was special assistant to the University of Florida (UF) President and assistant corporate secretary to the UF Board of Trustees. A sixth-generation Floridian, Sowell was the UF student body president and member of the UF Board of Trustees. He was awarded as UF Outstanding Male Leader, UF Hall of Fame, UF Outstanding Young Alumni Award and is currently on the UF Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Sowell also served in the U.S. Marine Corps enlisting as a Private First Class in the Reserve, and was eventually commissioned, going into active duty, completing his time as a Captain. He is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan.

Sowell has a Masters of Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with coursework in 19th Century American Literature at Amherst College. He has a law degree from Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law, where he was a Pat Tillman Scholar. During his time in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence appointed Sowell to a state board regulating health facility administrators.