Governor DeSantis Puts Disney World District in Charge of Florida Travel

in Walt Disney World

A man in a suit gives a thumbs-up gesture with an expression of approval. In the background, an airplane is flying through a sky filled with clouds, illuminated by the sun.

If you thought that Ron DeSantis would ever slow down on giving cushy jobs to his political allies, think again. Governor DeSantis has now appointed the head of his Disney World district board of supervisors to control nearly all air travel in the state.

Crowds flooding Orlando International Airport
Credit: News 13 on Twitter

Governor DeSantis is notorious for his open tendency to appoint his associates to desirable political positions, most notably the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) board of supervisors. The CFTOD replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District, where most of the Walt Disney World Resort is located. The company ran Reedy Creek for decades as the de facto government until a feud between DeSantis and Disney exploded into open battle, and the governor dissolved the district.

Related: Disney’s Governing District Reveals Startling Confession After DeSantis Feud Terminated

Ron DeSantis in front of Disney World Cinderella Castle with the CFTOD logo
Credit: DeSantis/CFTOD/Disney, edited by Inside the Magic

Numerous lawsuits were filed by the CFTOD and The Walt Disney Company. The most notable was Disney v. DeSantis, which accused the governor of violating the First Amendment in political retaliation against the company’s public stance against the Parental Rights in Education Act. A Federal judge ruled against Disney in that lawsuit, which is currently on appeal in the 11th Circuit.

The CFTOD board of supervisors has been stocked with DeSantis-appointed allies since the very beginning, many of whom have faced criticism and accusations of ethics violations or inside dealing.

Former administrator Glen Gilzean stepped down from his position as the Chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics after it emerged that his CFTOD, ironically, was a violation of governmental ethics. He has since been appointed to head the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, despite not living in Orange County.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Administrator Glen Gilzean overlooking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Credit: Inside The Magic

Gilzean was replaced as CFTOD administrator by Stephanie Kopelousos, another DeSantis associate who now just happens to have controlling authority over Disney. Now, the governor has given Kopelousos even more implicit authority over Disney World by appointing her to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the seven-person board that manages Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Needless to say, the state’s busiest airport (and 11th busiest in the nation) is crucial to the tourism travel that is the lifeblood of Disney World.

Governor DeSantis appointed both Stephanie Kopelousos and Joe Nunziata to the board, pending approval by the State Senate. Given that the Florida Senate is overwhelmingly dominated by the DeSantis-friendly state GOP, it can be taken for granted that both Kopelousos and Nunziata will be confirmed.

On the left, a sunny day at Walt Disney World Resort, on the right, the new CFTOD administrator appointment by Ron DeSantis, Stephanie Kopelousos.
Credit: Inside The Magic

The governor’s website describes both appointees as:

Stephanie Kopelousos

Kopelousos is the District Administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Previously, she served as the Director of Legislative & Intergovernment Affairs for the Executive Office of Governor Ron DeSantis, was the County Manager for Clay County Board of County Commissioners, and was appointed as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation in 2007. Kopelousos earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Alabama.

Related: DeSantis Unveils $2.2 Billion Expanded Disability Support Funding, Impacting Thousands of Walt Disney World Guests

Joe Nunziata

Nunziata is the Co-Chief Executive Officer of FBC Mortgage, LLC. Active in his community, he serves on the boards of the FBC Mortgage Charitable Foundation, the Seminole and Orange County Sheriff Foundations, and the Advent Hospital Foundation. Nunziata was named the 2015 “Executive of the Year” by the Orlando Business Journal. Earning his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of South Florida, Nunziata was the recipient of the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award in 2017.

A serene view of a fairy tale castle before the bustling crowd arrives.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Since the unexpected legal settlement between DeSantis, his CFTOD board, and Disney, there has been a remarkable amount of cooperation between all parties. The governor and the board have both committed staggering amounts of taxpayer money to upgrade and refurbish the roads and bridges around Disney World, and DeSantis is signing bills at a breakneck pace that will ultimately benefit the company as a whole.

While there may come some conflict of interest in the Disney district administrator also having a controlling say in how tens of millions of tourists get to Disney World every year, it apparently will not be today.

Do you think the Disney district administrator being put in charge of a major airport will cause any problems? Tell us in the comments below!

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