DeSantis Nominates New Head of Disney World

in Walt Disney World

Surprised DeSantis over nighttime Disney World

Credit: Inside the Magic

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially took over Walt Disney World Resort’s Reedy Creek Improvement District in 2023, renaming it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) and hand-selecting board members to control the area. Just a year after appointing Glen Gilzean to lead the charge, a slew of political controversies forced DeSantis to recommend a replacement.

To make a long story short, DeSantis dissolved Reedy Creek in 2022, soon after former Disney CEO Bob Chapek publicly condemned the Parental Rights in Education Act (colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law). The Walt Disney Company unsurprisingly found the timing suspicious and sued the former Republican presidential candidate for violating its First Amendment right to free speech by retaliating against them. A federal judge dismissed the case in January, but Disney vowed to appeal.

The court decision didn’t end Gov. DeSantis’s legal troubles. Soon after, ethical conflicts forced Gilzean to resign from the Florida Commission on Ethics, and he stepped down from the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board to serve as Orange County Elections Supervisor.

Glen Gilzean Becomes New Administrator for Disney’s Governing District, Will Earn as Much as a US President
Credit: Inside the Magic

Florida Senator Linda Stewart (D) called on DeSantis to select a Central Florida local to lead CFTOD instead of shuttling in a conservative ally from another county. He disregarded the plea. According to a report from The Orlando Sentinel on Monday, the Republican governor has recommended Stephanie Kopelousos for the position.

Kopelousos is one of DeSantis’s top advisers and served on his recent presidential campaign. The CFTOD board must approve her leadership, but the governor’s team was confident they’d accept his recommendation.

“We are glad to see her step into this leadership role as the District embarks upon the next chapter in its efforts to ensure an even and transparent playing field for the businesses that operate in Central Florida,” DeSantis’s communications director, Bryan Griffin, told The Sentinel. “[She] has extensive state and local government experience that make her the ideal candidate to take the reins at CFTOD.”

Stephanie Kopelousos in a government headshot.
Credit: Florida Department of Transportation

Orlando-based state representative Anna Eskamani (D) was disappointed with the governor’s decision.

“This is another example of a loyal team member of DeSantis being picked,” Eskamani told The Sentinel. “This is just another political appointment of a friend to a well-paid position. She is definitely more qualified than Glen, but that is still setting a low bar.”

Kopelousos has a history of working with The Walt Disney Company as DeSantis’s senior adviser and director of legislative affairs. When they still donated to DeSantis’s campaign for governor, she worked closely with lawyers to exempt the company from a “Big Tech” social media bill. She’s also served as Clay County manager and Department of Transportation secretary.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis laughing with the Cinderella Castle in the background as the sun sets inside of the Magic Kingdom Disney World Park.
Credit: Inside The Magic

Gilzean hasn’t officially left CFTOD–reporting suggests he’s still collecting his $400,000 salary alongside his new $205,000 check from Orange County. He argued that it was legal to do both jobs while DeSantis searched for a replacement.

“I am committed to ensuring a seamless transition as I conclude my duties as the District Administrator and will continue to be available as a resource during the search for my replacement,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Sentinel.

Inside the Magic will report any updates on the CFTOD board leadership.

Should Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the CFTOD board gain more control over Walt Disney World Resort? Share your thoughts with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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