July 29, 2015
NAPLES, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has announced Keith Laakkonen as the new southwest regional administrator for the Florida Coastal Office and director at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Laakkonen’s duties include managing the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, as well as the 12 aquatic preserves within the Florida Coastal Office’s southwest region. He will also coordinate with local, state and federal agencies on coastal management, listed species conservation, watershed management and environmental education and outreach.
“Keith comes to us with a good working knowledge of our programs, strong management skills and ability to further all the great ongoing work in the Southwest Region and across the Florida Coastal Office,’’ said Kevin Claridge, director of the Florida Coastal Office.
Laakkonen, a former DEP employee, returns to the department after seven years with the town of Fort Myers Beach where he served as environmental sciences coordinator with responsibility for implementing the town’s natural resource management goals, which included hydrologic restoration and management of prescribed fires, exotic plants, animals and public access.
“I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to come back to Rookery Bay Reserve and work with some of the most amazing employees in the state,” said Keith Laakkonen. “The Florida Coastal Office is dedicated to research and monitoring, education and protecting our natural resources. It feels great to come home.”
A native Floridian, Laakkonen worked previously for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in the Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas for eight years. During his tenure he served as a land management coordinator at Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve from 2000-03; as the preserve manager from 2004 to 2005 for St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic and Buffer Preserve and Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve; and as the stewardship coordinator from 2005 to 2007 at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Laakkonen began his career as an intern conducting research on American alligators with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit in Gainesville after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Florida in 1998.
Laakkonen replaces Gary Lytton who retired after 30 years of service with the department.