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Smokey Bear, orange juice and a light agenda mark new Florida Cabinet's first meeting

TALLAHASSEE — The first meeting Wednesday between Gov. Rick Scott and his fellow Republicans on the Florida Cabinet included a photo with Smokey Bear and decanters of orange juice but little official business.

Despite the light agenda, a crowd of about 200 witnessed the historic meeting: It was the only time in more than a century that the governor and all the Cabinet members attended their first meeting as new officeholders.

Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi were elected to their first public offices this year.

Bondi's fellow Cabinet members, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, are veteran politicians, but both are new to their current jobs.

As if to underscore the greenness of the Cabinet that will now meet about twice a month for the next four years, Bondi scanned the room unsure of where the American flag was located when everyone stood for the traditional Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the meeting.

Putnam, Atwater and Bondi, all University of Florida graduates, gave the moment a first-day-of-school feel. They arrived early, smiled for pictures in front of a UF banner and posed with an alligator head. Atwater wore an orange and blue tie for the photos, but changed into a more traditional red one before the meeting.

"We all work well together," Bondi said of the new Cabinet. "We were all on the campaign trail together, so we got to know each other. We all get along, which is great."

Scott avoided the casual scene, taking a private staircase into the Cabinet room, arriving promptly at 9 a.m. Scott's wife, Ann, attended the meeting and watched from the front row.

But Scott interacted casually with the Cabinet during the meeting. After sliding on a pair of glasses to read a prepared welcome message to the Cabinet, Scott asked the members if they would like to address the audience. He referred to "Jeff" and "Adam" instead of using their formal titles, as he did for Bondi.

With decanters of orange juice decorating the dais, the first vote of the new Cabinet was a resolution honoring the 75th anniversary of the state's forest system. After the vote, Scott and the Cabinet took a photo with Division of Forestry workers and a Smokey Bear mascot.

The Cabinet, which oversees several state departments and shares some executive power, approved Scott's appointment of Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard. It also voted to accept a perpetual conservation easement for 82 acres of farm land in Gilchrist County and approved a submerged lands lease for a Fort Myers Beach marina.

Smokey Bear, orange juice and a light agenda mark new Florida Cabinet's first meeting 01/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 11:23pm]
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