Decline in Morale and Rise of Favoritism Post-DeSantis’ Disney World Governance, Say Former Staff

by Gabriel Martinez
DeSantis Disney World takeover

The atmosphere of trust and morale among the employees of Walt Disney World’s governing body has seen a significant downturn following the administration’s takeover by allies of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, say several former employees. Reports indicate a shift towards a more politicized environment with a noticeable increase in favoritism.

Around 40 individuals out of the approximately 370-strong workforce have exited the now-renamed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District since its acquisition in February. This exodus has sparked concerns about the loss of extensive institutional knowledge and the degradation of what was once viewed as an efficiently managed governmental entity.

A recent exit survey by a facilities manager, who had been part of the organization for three years, voiced a sense of disillusionment. The former employee recounted entering an institution committed to community service and valuing its workforce, only to leave an entity that, in their view, now puts political gains over its people and mission.

Exit surveys revealing such sentiments were obtained by The Big Big News through a public records request, initially sourced by the Florida watchdog newsletter, Seeking Rents. The identities of the individuals have been kept confidential for safety reasons.


  • Governor DeSantis has indicated that the support of Iowa’s governor might bolster his stance against Trump, casting his opponents as mere distractions.
  • The question of whether a candidate from Florida could secure the presidency remains unanswered, as Trump and DeSantis both strive to be the first.
  • Florida’s lawmakers convene in a special session to bolster support for Israel and implement further sanctions on Iran.

The significant staff turnover has led some to question the operational capability of the district, as stated by a departing facilities director.

The motive behind the state’s takeover traces back to Disney’s opposition to a Florida law that prohibits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in early education, a piece of legislation advocated by DeSantis, who is also a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Previously under the control of Disney affiliates, the district was originally established as the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967, managing municipal services for Disney’s expansive theme park resort in central Florida.

A long-serving environmental biologist and an accountant are among those who have resigned, both citing a deteriorated work culture and lack of trust under the new leadership as key factors in their decisions.

In response to inquiries about the staff turnover, Matthew Oberly, Director of External Affairs for the district, highlighted that several departures were pre-planned retirements, assuring that there remains a core of long-tenured employees to preserve the district’s knowledge base.

Chairman Martin Garcia has voiced his commitment in board meetings to dissolve the previously cozy relationship between Disney and the district, aiming for a reformed, transparent, and accountable governance.

Despite these assertions, allegations of favoritism have surfaced, particularly concerning the appointment of politically connected individuals and contract allocations by the new board. These actions include the selection of a new district administrator and the controversial awarding of a substantial contract for updating emergency communication networks, a deal that is now subject to a competitive bidding process following media scrutiny.

Disney is currently challenging the district’s takeover and the actions of DeSantis and the board in both federal and state courts, with accusations of free speech infringement among other claims.

As legal battles ensue, the newly appointed board has been criticized for undermining established practices, as lamented by an executive administrative assistant who departed in June, expressing regret at leaving a team dedicated to the excellence behind Disney’s magic.

To keep up with further developments on this story, follow journalist Mike Schneider at his handle: @MikeSchneiderAP.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about DeSantis Disney World takeover

How has employee morale been affected since Governor DeSantis’ allies took over Disney World’s government?

Many former employees have reported a significant decline in morale, citing increased politicization and cronyism within the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District since the takeover.

What changes have occurred in the Walt Disney World government after the takeover?

There has been a notable staff turnover with over 40 employees leaving, concerns of lost institutional knowledge, a shift towards a more politicized environment, and accusations of cronyism being introduced by the new leadership.

What was the reason behind the state’s takeover of Disney World’s government?

The takeover by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature was in retaliation against Disney’s opposition to a state law that banned discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in early education, a law supported by DeSantis.

What actions have former Disney World government employees taken following the takeover?

Former employees have voiced their concerns through exit surveys, and Disney has filed lawsuits against Governor DeSantis and the board members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, alleging violations of free speech rights.

What is the stance of the new board members regarding the changes in the Disney World government?

The new board members, appointed by DeSantis, claim to aim for reformation of the district, seeking to end the prior close relationship between Disney and the governing body, and to introduce more accountability and transparency.

More about DeSantis Disney World takeover

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Emily Parker November 8, 2023 - 2:28 am

saw this coming, politicizing workplaces never ends well, especially not for such a iconic place like Disney World, not surprised employees are upset

Mike Johnson November 8, 2023 - 1:29 pm

No bid contracts, cronyism? This isn’t the disney world we knew, something’s gotta give or we’ll see more than just morale going down…

Jane Doe November 8, 2023 - 1:44 pm

Just read this, cant believe how much the situation at Disney’s changed since DeSantis stepped in, really makes you wonder bout the future there

John Smith November 8, 2023 - 5:08 pm

i heard about the disney stuff but seeing all these people leaving…doesn’t look good does it, where’s the magic gonna go if the staffs unhappy


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