History

The Division of Bond Finance (Division) was created by the Legislature in 1969 to issue bonds on behalf of local governments and agencies of the State of Florida. It assumed the powers of its predecessor, the Florida Development Commission, and became the latest in a progression of state agencies responsible for issuing state bonds that began in 1933. The Division has been administratively housed within the State Board of Administration since 1992, and operates under the control of a governing board which consists of the Governor and Cabinet. Prior to 1992 the Division was located in the Department of General Services (now the Department of Management Services).

Overview

The Division of Bond Finance provides the financial, legal, and marketing services necessary for the issuance and sale of bonds. In addition to performing financial analyses, structuring bond issues and conducting bond sales, the Division also collects, maintains, and disseminates information on tax-exempt bonds issued by units of local government and the State; administers the Private Activity Bond Allocation Program as required by federal law; and is responsible for ensuring that all tax-exempt bonds issued by the State and its agencies comply with federal arbitrage laws.

The proceeds of bonds issued by the Division are used to finance schools, state office buildings, roads, bridges, rights-of-way, prisons, parking garages, dormitories, student activity facilities, land acquisition for recreational and environmental purposes, pollution control facilities and water management projects. The state agencies for which the Division issues bonds include the Departments of Education, Transportation, Environmental Protection, Management Services and the Board of Governors of the State University System.

Division Leadership

J. Ben Watkins III, Director
J. Ben Watkins III was appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Cabinet as the Director of the Florida Division of Bond Finance in 1995. Director Watkins is well known and respected for his work in the municipal “muni” bond industry. He is an active member and has served in a variety of leadership roles on muni associations. He is a past vice chairman and board member of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), former chairman of the Committee on Government Debt for the Government Finance Officers Association, and currently serves as a member on the National Association of State Treasurers and National Association of Bond Lawyers.

He has been nationally recognized for his contributions to the muni industry by receiving the Jim Lebenthal Infrastructure Champion Award (2017), the National Federation of Municipal Analyst Industry Contribution Award (2009), and the National Association of Treasurers Tanya Gritz Award for Excellence in Public Finance (2001).

Additionally, Director Watkins serves as the chairman and past president of the Economic Club of Florida and board member on the Municipal Code Corporation Board, Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab Advisory Board, Maclay School Board of Trustees, and Tall Timbers Research and Land Conservancy Board.

Prior to his role as Director, he practiced public finance law with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Florida and his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Auburn University. A Florida native, Director Watkins and his wife Joy have two daughters and reside in Tallahassee.

Kimberley Nichols, Deputy Director
Alexis Lambert, Chief of Staff

Analytical Team
    Charlie Yadon, Senior Associate 
    William Reynolds, Associate
    Kelsey Manno, Analyst

Legal Team
    Donna Biggins, Senior Attorney
    Whitney Langston, Attorney
    Ryan Dugan, Attorney
    April Warner, Paralegal

Florida Division of Bond Finance | 1801 Hermitage Centre, Suite 200 | Tallahassee, Florida 32308
Telephone: (850) 488-4782 | E-mail: bond@sbafla.com