Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Hires New Administrator to Oversee Area Around Walt Disney World

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has voted to hire a new administrator. With the hiring of the new administrator also comes a 14% raise for the position from the position’s predecessor. Glen Gilzean Jr. has been tasked with being the new administrator for the former Reedy Creek District. He will be paid $400,000 per year for taking on this role.

The chair of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Martin Garcia acknowledged the pay increase for the position saying that it is “a very different job description. We are now functioning under a new legislative act.” With the state now overseeing the board for the district, it can be expected that more reports will need to be filed, which will add to the administrator’s duties. The administrator will also be tasked with helping neighboring Orange and Osceola Counties with fighting the 87 lawsuits Walt Disney World Resort has filed to contest property taxes.

Garcia also warned Gilzean that he will most likely also be the focus of a lawsuit as well. “We had to tell him that he is going to not only be an administrator, but he’s probably going to be a defendant in a lawsuit,” Garcia said. “It’s always challenging to recruit someone to a job and saying the first day, there’s going to be a process server coming down the sidewalk that’s probably going to serve you with a federal lawsuit.”

Gilzean was not the only one to get a contract approved on Wednesday by the board, however. Former Reedy Creek Improvement District administrator John Classe was also given a one-year contract at his former rate of pay as administrator. Classe will be paid $355,000 to be a special advisor to the board during the leadership change. This contract has the option to be extended another year if need be. During the meeting, the board praised Classe on his work and expressed their happiness that he would be continuing to work for the district.

The position of administrator for the district is much like that of a city manager. It oversees the building of roads and infrastructure, handles emergency services, and can levy taxes and issue tax-exempt bonds. This position is now under the purview of Governor DeSantis who took control of appoining board members earlier this year with a bill that replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. As this has played out, Disney sued DeSantis and the new district board. The board then countersued. The Governor and legislature has also been working on legislation to assert control and stymie Disney’s efforts in the district. This move does nothing to change the positions of either side of this dispute.

New administrator Gilzean expressed that he was glad about the actions that the new board has taken saying it would lead to more independence and transparency by hiring its own legal counsel and financial advisor.

“This board can now act without the pressure vested from outside influence,” he said. He did so without mentioning Disney, however, that was the implication.

“My job is to make this district and in turn this entire region a better place. … Let’s continuously keep in mind that the people are at the heart of this matter. They are our constituents, the district employees, the Walt Disney employees, the small business owners, and of course the millions of tourists who visit annually.”

Gilzean is an ally of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Previously, DeSantis appointed him to the Florida Commission on Ethics. He also worked with DeSantis as a part of the group for reopening Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, Gilzean is the President and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League. This is an organization that is tasked with ending generational poverty and also promoting equality. 

The appointment of Gilzean as district administrator continues the trend of DeSantis hand-picked allies being placed in positions of power in the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. The board was all hand-picked by the Florida governor as well.