Published: Dec 31, 2010 9:51 PM EST
Updated: Dec 31, 2010 6:51 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The head of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department, whose programs to keep young offenders out of detention have served as national models, will become the first woman to lead Florida's juvenile justice department.

Gov.-elect Rick Scott on Friday appointed Wansley Walters to lead the state's Department of Juvenile Justice.

Walters, who headed Scott's juvenile justice transition team, is currently the director of juvenile services in Miami-Dade County.

"Wansley is one of the nation's most prominent juvenile justice experts and I am excited to bring her experience and passion for juvenile justice reform to our state government," Scott said in a statement.

He pointed to her record of reducing juvenile arrests, detention and recidivism in Miami-Dade through programs that have been recognized by the White House and serve as a national juvenile justice model.

In the past 10 years, Walters has saved the county $33 million while reducing juvenile arrests by 51 percent, re-arrests by 80 percent and juvenile detention by 66 percent, Scott said.

Walters' screening and assessment programs help keep more young offenders out of juvenile detention, and implementing her system statewide will save taxpayer money, said Cathy Craig-Myers, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association.

"If you can catch the youth early on, you can help that child usually at a much cheaper cost," Craig-Myers said. "This is what I think Gov. Scott is hoping she will do."

Walters previously was a senior police bureau commander for the Miami-Dade Police Department, overseeing the office that eventually became the independent county juvenile services department.

Walters replaces Frank Peterman Jr., who became secretary in 2008 and resigned earlier this month. Scott takes office Tuesday.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)