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Florida Historical Commission

The Florida Historical Commission (FHC) was established by the 2001 Florida Legislature (Section 267.0612, Florida Statutes) to enhance public participation and involvement in the preservation and protection of the state's historic and archaeological sites and properties. The Commission advises and assists the Division of Historical Resources in carrying out the programs, duties and responsibilities of the Division. Seven members of the Commission are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Secretary of State, two by the President of the Florida Senate and two by the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

 The members are responsible for reviewing and ranking Special Category Historic Preservation Grant applications; five members of the FHC also meet as Florida's National Register Review Board to review and vote on proposed nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the Commission exists to advise with regard to policy and preservation needs. Members of the FHC are considered to be experts in their respective fields, with the members representing the following:

  • Of the seven members appointed by the Governor, one member must be a licensed architect who has expertise in historic preservation and architectural history; one member must be a professional historian in the field of American history; one member must be a professional architectural historian; one member must be an archaeologist specializing in the field of prehistory; and one member must be an archaeologist specializing in the historic period.
  • The remaining two members appointed by the Governor and the two members appointed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, must be representatives of the general public with demonstrated interest in the preservation of Florida's historical and archaeological heritage.

Current members of the FHC include: educators in Florida's university system, authors, the principal of a cultural resource management firm, and citizens who have devoted personal and professional lives to protecting and preserving Florida's historic resources.

Florida Historical Commission 


Dr. Judith Bense

(Prehistoric Archaeologist)

Pensacola, FL

Term: 9/3/2021 to 9/3/2023

Reappointed by Governor DeSantis

Dr. Judy Bense, a native of northwest Florida, is an archaeologist and has been at the University of West Florida (UWF) since 1980. She is the founder of the Anthropology program, Archaeology Institute and Florida Public Archaeology Network at UWF. Dr. Bense served as President of UWF from 2008 to 2016, and has now returned to the faculty. She specializes in northwest Florida archaeology and is the author of four research books and two public archaeology books plus scores of articles and book chapters. She is a founding member of the Florida Historical Commission and previously served as its chair from 2002-2008.

Mr. Steve Birtman

Tallahassee, FL

Term: 2/14/2022 to 12/31/2023

Reappointed by Speaker Sprowls

Stephen Birtman is employed by the City of Tallahassee and his duties include legislative affairs, transportation planning, and advocating for downtown as a representative of the Downtown Improvement Association.  Stephen has served as State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business Florida and Director of Government Relations- South East for Humana Insurance Company. He is former President and serves on the Board for the Capital City Tiger Bay Club and is Commissioner Emeritus of Baseball at Winthrop Park. Steve has a passion for history and architecture and has explored the Mayan Temples at Tikal and the Fortress Europe Fortifications of Normandy. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida History Museum at the R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee, Florida. Stephen is a graduate of Florida State University. He is married and is a father. He is a lifelong Chicago Cubs Fan.

Mr. John Browning, Jr.

East Palatka

Term: 9/3/2021 to 9/3/2023

Reappointed by Governor DeSantis

John Browning is the Senior Vice President of Political Affairs for the Goodman Company headquartered in West Palm Beach. The company is a real estate and investment firm specializing in retail commercial development. He also owns businesses, including his family ranch and Angel’s Dining Car – Florida’s oldest diner. Mr. Browning is an avid enthusiast of early Florida and Spanish history. He has had a long career in public service including being appointed by President George H. Bush to the National Council on Surface Transportation Research, The White House advance team, Former Chairman of Florida Transportation Commission, Vice Chairman of the High Speed Rail Commission, as well as the Florida Rail Commission. Mr. Browning currently serves on many professional boards including Associated Industries of Florida, National Federation of Independent Business, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, and Sunrise Rotary Club. He currently lives in Palatka, where he also enjoyed restoring a historic turpentine settlement. He is a multi-generation Floridian maintaining his old Victorian home located on the St. Johns River. Mr. Browning graduated from St. Johns River Community College with an AA in Business Administration and from Florida State University with a BS in Business Management.

Mr. Dewey "Parker" Destin

Destin, FL

Term: 3/3/2023 to 3/1/2025

Appointed by Senate President Passidomo

Dewey “Parker” Destin is a 6th generation Floridian. Parker grew up commercial fishing and operating restaurants with his family before receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tampa in 2007. Parker graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law in 2012 and is admitted to the Bar in the State of Florida. As a life-long student of Florida History, Mr. Destin has worked to preserve Florida’s historical heritage through passing local preservation laws, as an elected official, and digitizing documents from Florida’s Revolutionary War period. He currently owns and operates restaurants in Northwest Florida.

Mr. Tony Cortese

Tallahassee, FL

Term: 2/14/2022 to 12/31/2023

Appointed by Speaker Sprowls

Tony Cortese is a political fundraising and campaign consultant.  Over the past decade, Tony has served as the Deputy Chief of Staff of both the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives.  Tony attended Florida State University for his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife and 3 boys. Along with his wife, he has owned and renovated numerous historic homes and buildings.

Dr. Michael Francis

St. Petersburg, FL


Term: 9/3/2021 to 9/3/2023

Reappointed by Governor DeSantis

Michael Francis is a Professor of History and holds the Hough Family Chair of Florida Studies in the University of South Florida’s College of Arts and Sciences. He serves on the University of Florida’s Historic St. Augustine Commission and has previously served on the Florida Historical Commission. Francis earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alberta and a PhD in Spanish American History from the University of Cambridge.

Mr. Rick Gonzalez, AIA, Vice Chairman

(Preservation Architect)
West Palm Beach, FL

Term: 9/3/2021 to 9/3/2023

Reappointed by Governor DeSantis

Rick Gonzalez, AIA, founded REG Architects, Inc., with his father Ricardo in 1988. Rick holds two architectural degrees from the Catholic University of America and has studied design in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Italy. He was Chairman of the Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design, and is actively involved with community organizations such as the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation and the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. His association with high-profile projects like Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club, the 1916 Palm Beach County Historic Courthouse, and "The Harriet" at City Place, has led the firm to numerous awards for historic preservation and downtown redevelopment.

Ms. Kathleen Kauffman

(Architectural Historian)

Gainesville, FL

Term: 9/3/2021 to 9/3/2023

Appointed by Governor DeSantis

Kathleen Kauffman is a Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Gainesville. Previously, she was a principal at KSK Preservation, Historic Preservation Chief for Miami-Dade County, Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Miami and Executive Director of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Kauffman earned her bachelor’s degree in historic preservation from Mary Washington College and her master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Florida.

Mr. John B. Phelps

Tallahassee, FL

Term: 1/1/2022 to 12/31/2023

Reappointed by Appointed by Senate President Galvano

John Phelps worked for the Florida Legislature for over 40 years. His first appointment was in the House of Representatives where he held positions in various committees and the Speaker's Office. He was elected Clerk of the House in 1986 and served for twenty years before leaving in 2006 to accept an appointment as Curator of the Historic Capitol and pursue a longstanding interest in Florida history. In 2010, the Senate President recruited him for the position of Staff Director of the Rules Committee. John has held numerous offices with national legislative organizations, including Staff Chair of the National Conference of State Legislatures, President of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries and Chair of the Commission that revises Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure. Outside the legislature, John has been a procedural consultant to legislatures in Central America, Africa and the Middle East, most recently Iraq, Afghanistan and Morocco. He is a trustee of Eckerd College and Honorary Consul in Florida for Great Britain.

Dr. Clifford E. Smith, Jr., RPA 

(Historic Archaeologist)
Venice, FL

Term: 9/3/2021 to 9/3/2023

Reappointed by Governor DeSantis

Dr. Clifford E. Smith was hired by the City of Sarasota on December 26, 2006, to develop a historic preservation program, to promote historic preservation within the city, and to be a resource to the public interested in historic preservation. He currently serves as a member of the Historic Preservation Board for Sarasota County, a member of the Coalition for Historic Preservation, and Chairman of the Board for the Sarasota Municipal Employees Credit Union. In his previous position, Dr. Smith was Deputy Director of the Bermuda Maritime Museum - Chief of Operations and charged with the restoration of the 19th century museum buildings, the fort's six and a half acres grounds, and its battlements. As the Museum's Director of Archaeology and Conservation, he was responsible for a number of projects both on land and underwater completing Phase I surveys through Phase III excavations on sites dating from the 17th to the 19th century. These projects were used as training opportunities for the hundreds of students, interns, and volunteers that went through the various programs offered. In addition to historic restoration and archaeological projects; Dr. Smith often acted as a consultant to the British Government, Bermuda Government, and the West End Development Corporation to address their Historic, Archaeological, and Conservation issues.




Meetings & Materials

Approved Minutes