Destin native James Uthmeier named new chief of staff for Gov. Ron DeSantis

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

TALLAHASSEE — A Destin native has been named as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' new chief of staff, according to a Thursday announcement from the governor's office.

James Uthmeier, currently serving as DeSantis' general counsel, will assume the duties of chief of staff when the resignation of current Chief of Staff Adrian Lukis becomes effective Oct. 1.

According to recent reporting in Florida Politics, a political news website covering the state, Lukis had made it clear that he would not stay as chief of staff for as long as his predecessor, Shane Strum, who held the post for two years.

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Strum left as DeSantis' chief of staff in February to become president and CEO of Broward Health, a taxpayer-funded health system comprising five hospitals and a number of other health care facilities in South Florida.

"We greatly appreciate Adrian’s leadership, expertise, and service to Floridians," an email from the governor's communications director, Taryn Fenske, noted Thursday. "He has been in the administration since the start — first as Deputy Chief of Staff and then as the Chief of Staff for Governor DeSantis, and has held the interests of Floridians at the forefront of what he does every day."

James Uthmeier, a Destin native and graduate of Fort Walton Beach High School, has been named new chief of staff to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Uthmeier, a graduate of Fort Walton Beach High School, began working in DeSantis' legal office in March 2019 as deputy general counsel, and has served as the governor's general counsel since October of last year.

"We are proud to welcome James as the next Chief of Staff for Governor DeSantis, where he will continue to serve the people of Florida," Fenske said in an email Thursday. 

Uthmeier's résumé includes service as a senior adviser and counsel to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who served in that post during the administration of President Donald Trump.

Uthmeier also worked as an associate at Jones Day, the seventh-largest law firm in the United States. Prior to his work at Jones Day, Uthmeier worked as a law clerk in the office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio from late 2012 to early 2014.

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Uthmeier is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he served as managing editor of  Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy. He is also a graduate of the University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business.

Additionally, Uthmeier holds undergraduate degrees in business administration and political science from the University of Florida. He was part of the UF cross-country team and the 2010 track and field team that claimed the Southeastern Conference championship.

Replacing Uthmeier as general counsel in DeSantis's office will be Ryan Newman, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Texas School of Law.

After serving as a captain in the U.S. Army's 10th U.S. Cavalry from 1999 to 2003, Newman went on to a career that included service as general counsel to attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice from March of 2020 until January of this year during the administration of President Donald Trump.

Newman previously served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, and as chief counsel in the office of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.  

"We are thrilled to welcome him to the team and know he will be an invaluable part of the administration," Fenske's email noted in comments on Newman's upcoming duties as DeSantis's general counsel.