Gov.-elect Rick Scott started two days of inaugural events Monday at the Governor’s Mansion where he’ll reside the next four years, and where his family photos are already displayed.
Scott doesn’t officially take office until he takes the oath on Tuesday, but he got a sense of what it will be like, having spent the night there, and riding to his first inaugural celebration event, a “Salute to Women in Leadership” breakfast in a motorcade after greeting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agents assigned to him.
Scott, who campaigned on a theme of “Let’s Get to Work,” appeared eager to start – getting going in the early morning hours with a walk with his yellow lab Reagan on the Mansion grounds.
Reagan didn’t make a public appearance Monday morning. But Scott was seen leaving the mansion at 8:24 a.m., for the breakfast, which drew about 300 invitees.
At the breakfast, Scott noted that he and his wife Ann – scheduled to be honored at an event just for her later – are the parents of two daughters.
“I hope they feel there is no limit to their lives,” Scott said.
He also recalled the challenges facing women, remembering his law school days in the late 1970s when women had to fight legally for opportunities and advancements.
“No woman who has come up in the past 50 years as a female has had an easy job,” Scott said, before sliding into his economic theme.
“This is the beginning. We’re going to turn this state around,” Scott said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, black or white?anything is possible. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure everybody in this state has that opportunity.”
There are two days of events surrounding Scott’s inauguration on Tuesday. The former health care executive, who has never held elected office, defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the closest governor’s race in modern times in November.
Morning temperatures in Tallahassee on Monday hovered around 35 degrees, recalling other recent inauguration days.
“It’s not as cold as it was for Jeb Bush’s first inaugural,” horse-track lobbyist Wilbur Brewton recalled. “My feet were frozen at that.”
Former Gov. Bob Martinez said his 1987 inaugural still was chillier. But he was ready to offer some advice for the new guy.
“They’ve put together a good team,” Martinez said of Scott and Lieutenant Gov.-elect Jennifer Carroll. “It’s not complete. But they should be able to work with the Legislature.”
Martinez also noted the $3.5 billion budget shortfall. “Money is always a huge challenge,” he said.
Among those spotted coming in for the nosh: former Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter, ex-Florida Republican Party Chair Carole Jean Jordan, GOP fundraiser and BellSouth lobbyist Mike Hightower, state GOP vice-chair Deborah Coxe-Roush, Scott lawyer and lobbyist John French (on crutches nursing a torn quadricep), House budget chair Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, and former Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham.
Incoming Cabinet members, Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam also were there. Bondi was given a video introduction and handed the microphone for the women’s event.
She recalled campaigning and having teen-aged girls surrounding her.
“Young girls would come up to me, 14, 15, and 16 and say ‘I want to go to law school because of you. I want to be attorney general because of you,'” Bondi said, although she added, “it’s not all about me.”
“I tell you there is no glass ceiling,” she said. “Because of people who have come before.”
The breakfast’s featured speaker was Fox News host Greta Van Susteren. She derided Washington as home to the “Hatfields and McCoys” because of its partisan divide.
“You can either mimic Washington with this ridiculous gridlock we’ve had, or you can do better,” Van Susteren told the crowd.
Florida’s 12 percent unemployment rate — “that’s bad. That’s horrible.” But she said if bipartisan work can bring the jobless rate down a couple points — to say, 10 percent, that’s success.
“People aren’t looking for miracles, they’re looking for progress,” she said. “If you can bring it down, you can own that one.”
Van Susteren touted bipartisanship to the almost exclusively Republican gathering.
“It’s a team sport,” Van Susteren said of governing. “You can either be on the team, or off the team. Sometimes you have to compromise.”
Carroll was also honored and she also took up the theme of empowerment for women.
“I know I will be making a way for other women to one day walk in my shoes,” Carroll said.
“It is because of a forward thinking man, a political outsider who is secure in who he is, that I stand before you today,” Carroll said.
By John Kennedy
The News Service of Florida