August 30, 2014

The Business of Being Governor

Rick Scott and Florida Inc.

The corporate world lacks legislative and judicial branches. This month, as the Legislature convenes, Florida's first modern CEO as governor -- and the state -- will find out what that means for his plans to transform our state government.

Amy Keller | 3/1/2011
Gov. Rick Scott
"My experience in life is that if I do things that are logical and I sit down with you and create win-wins, then I generally can have success. That's what I'm going to do."
[Photo: Colin Hackley]

Some observations on other elements of Scott's CEO style during his first months in office:

» With the exception of a meeting with a "wounded warrior" group and a few other occasions, including trips to Miami and St. Petersburg to attend memorial services for police officers killed in the line of duty, Scott has spent little time on ceremonial occasions — in marked contrast to previous Gov. Charlie Crist's love of the spotlight. Scott has even turned traditionally ceremonial appearances into opportunities to assert both his control and his vision. Case in point: Florida's governor is the titular head of the board of directors of Enterprise Florida, the state's public-private economic development arm, but both Jeb Bush and Crist maintained a ceremonial, rather than managerial presence. At his first board meeting in December, Scott took control of the meeting, ran it, used it to announce his reorganization of the state's economic development activities — and then quietly fired John Adams, Enterprise Florida's president and CEO, after the meeting ended.

» Scott is energetic and highly mobile, moving about the state almost daily in his own jet. During his first week in office, he flew to Miami on short notice to talk trade with the European Union Consuls-General. He also spent four days in Washington, lobbying, among others, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for an expedited approval of a Medicaid waiver as part of his cost-cutting strategy. Scott hasn't let his oft-expressed distaste for the federal government get in the way of trying to grab a bigger share of federal dollars for Florida for transportation, education and healthcare: He's indicated he plans to travel to Washington once a month to lobby.

» In appointing agency heads, Scott and his advisers have highlighted their choices of "outsiders" but behind the scenes appear to be mindful of not introducing chaos — picking an insider as chief of staff or in another high position. All his agency heads, says Scott, must share his chief passion: "The biggest mistake if you come interview with me is to say you don't like measurement. And that's happened by the way."

» Scott has made himself available for media interviews, including meeting with Florida Trend's editorial staff, but hasn't ingratiated himself with the Capitol press corps. A blue rope in the press briefing room, a gag order on agency heads and, in particular, efforts to cherry-pick pool reporters to cover meetings with legislators and others have raised hackles — and questions about how open and accessible his administration will be. Scott didn't win any friends with his blunt acknowledgement that he doesn't read the state's newspapers.

» Scott is, by all accounts, hands-on. After a meeting with several national site locators for companies possibly interested in relocating to Florida, he made a number of personal follow-up calls, soliciting advice about what Florida might do better. The day before the Enterprise Florida board meeting, Scott called James W. "Bill" Heavener, co-chair and CEO of Full Sail University, to get Heavener to join the group's volunteer board and contribute $50,000. Such efforts have won Scott big points with the business community, which had grown furious with Crist for what it saw as his refusal to engage in traditional nuts-and-bolts economic development. "Every time we tell (Scott) he can help us move a deal along or close a deal, he has picked up the phone personally and spoken with the prospect for moving jobs along with business investment in Florida, whether it be a corporate headquarters or a Florida branch of a company," says Enterprise Florida board member Howell "Hal" Melton, partner at Holland & Knight.

» Though personally conservative, Scott has given no signs he intends to make conservative social causes a major part of his agenda. "I have my own personal beliefs, you know, religious beliefs, but I was elected to get jobs going," he says.

» Unlike Jeb Bush, who came to information-gathering sessions from a rigid philosophical perspective and was usually well informed, Scott has been willing to acknowledge what he doesn't know, ask questions and listen. Several, including Martinez, say Scott "doesn't step over your answers. He gives you the full time. He doesn't waste a lot of words. His questions are to the point."

» Scott is clearly unafraid of big change, as evidenced by the financial details of his budget, sweeping departmental reorganizations, pension reform and the re-creation of a Department of Commerce.

Tags: Politics & Law

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