Rick Scott names Jackie Schutz Zeckman as new chief of staff
Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday appointed his communications director and chief spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz Zeckman, to succeed Kim McDougal as chief of staff.
"Jackie has been on my team since my first year in office and has done a great job leading my communications efforts and conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses," Scott said in a statement. "Along with her work on my communications team, Jackie was an integral part of my reelection efforts and has continued to be a trusted advisor in all aspects of implementing our agenda for Florida. I have full confidence that she will do an outstanding job as my chief of staff.”
Schutz Zeckman, 31, is a trusted and visible Scott ally who has logged many miles with the two-term governor, both in state government and on both of his campaigns. She became communications director aftter the 2014 election when her friend, Melissa Stone, became Scott's chief of staff. Stone is a top political adviser to the governor.
A native of St. Pete Beach and a graduate of Tampa Preparatory School, she has a bachelor's degree in political science and religion from Florida State and a master’s degree in political communications from the London School of Economics.
She's an interesting pick, and it's worth noting that she called House Speaker Richard Corcoran "hypocritical" in a Times/Herald story a few weeks ago. It's rare for a governor's spokesman to attack a presiding officer of the Legislature by name, but it was a vivid example of her personal loyalty to the governor. As chief of staff, she'll have to deal, up close and personal, with Corcoran and his equally loyal inner circle of advisers.
UPDATE. Corcoran issued the following statement in response to Schutz Zeckman's promotion: "Jackie has served the governor capably and loyally. I congratulate her and wish her and her staff the very best."
Schutz Zeckman will be Scott's sixth chief of staff in six-plus years in office. She will take over at a time when his relations with fellow Republicans in the Legislature are at an all-time low as he's closing in on a decision about challenging three-term U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson next year.
It's seen as a virtual certainty that Scott will veto a massive amount of line-item spending in the budget in response to his three priorities being rejected by lawmakers. Scott has repeatedly criticized the Legislature's education budget as being inadequate, so his veto of the entire education budget is a realistic possibility. That would likely worsen tensions between the executive and legislative branches and would require a special legislative session before July 1.
McDougal earned $170,000 a year as chief of staff. Schutz Zeckman currently earns $135,000.
As for McDougal, it was widely assumed in the Tallahassee political world that she would have left before the 2018 legislative session begins in January. A sense of urgency was evident in the abruptness of her departure announcement on Monday (effective July 1), and it caught many insiders by surprise.
Few are as well plugged-in as Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who as the likely next Senate president dealt with many high-level issues in the closing days of the session. Galvano told the News Service of Florida that he was not aware McDougal was leaving and that he was disappointed to hear it.
“I always felt like she was doing a good job," Galvano told the News Service. "So we'll see where the governor's administration goes from here.”