Scott Gets Advice; Still No Appointments

By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida
By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 16, 2010 --

Gov.-elect Rick Scott has been getting plenty of advice from interest groups, fellow politicians and policy wonks over the past few weeks, but with three weeks to go until his inauguration, he has not announced a chief of staff, any potential agency heads or other advisers.

Scott was in Tallahassee Thursday for hours of budget briefings from the current governor’s budget staff, while his transition teams continued to meet, discuss ideas and potential hires that could shape the next four years in the state of Florida.

But little picture has emerged of who will be helping run the show in the Scott administration. Four years ago, Crist had already named campaign manager George LeMieux his chief of staff. His predecessor Gov. Jeb Bush also named a number of staffers and agency heads ahead of taking office.

“Nobody’s been named, but that should not be construed to mean there’s not work being done on the issues,” said State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan, who is serving on the transition team.

In public at least, Scott’s transition team has been focused on big-picture policy ideas without getting into the nitty gritty process of running the state on a daily basis.

The governor-elect took a statewide tour to talk about jobs with his new constituents. The education transition staff, Brogan said, has spent roughly 30 hours in conference calls trying to synthesize ideas to formulate an education plan for Scott.

A spokesman said in the next few weeks he will be speaking to the heads of the various policy-area transition teams as he formalizes positions, makes hires and prepares to take office.

“I think the biggest question is who hasn’t he been talking to?” said Scott spokesman Trey Stapleton.

Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon said that he knew that he and predecessor Bob Butterworth were being appointed to run the department weeks before their positions were formally announced. The transition staff chose to keep it under wraps at first. That might be the case with Scott, as well.

“He’ll be fine,” Sheldon said. “He’s got some very bright people. I’ve been impressed with the staff that I’ve met who’s with him.”

Meanwhile, everyone in Florida politics wants their moment with the new governor to ferret out who will be doing what. Scott has been meeting with members of the Florida Legislature throughout the past few weeks as well as different policy advisers.

Florida TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro said that for Scott, “the learning curve is a lot sharper” because he does not have a background in state government and that it may take time to fill out his staff.

“They’re being very picky, which is not particularly a bad thing,” Calabro said.

Florida TaxWatch, a tax and spending watchdog group, released its third Governor’s Transition Decision Handbook Thursday, a publication designed to give the new governor and his staff advice on how to govern the state. The book details several policy issues that Scott will face upon taking office and provides advice from former governors and other elected politicians in the state.

Scott ran his campaign as an outsider, criticizing Tallahassee insiders throughout the summer and fall and implied during the campaign that he would rely heavily on outsiders to run the state. Current and former agency heads have largely been longtime state government employees or elected officials.

Scott’s pick to run the transition, D.C. lawyer Enu Mainigi, is virtually unknown to Floridians, but is a longtime Scott confidante.

Calabro noted that there are good things about bringing an outside perspective in and that Scott had “executive written all over him,” but urged Scott to also rely on insiders who are intimately familiar with the process and the issues.

“If you want to change something, you have to know what you’re changing,” he said.


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