FORT LAUDERDALE — Rick Scott got to work Thursday setting up his transition office, launching a website and promising an open administration focused on creating jobs.
The Republican governor-elect and his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Jennifer Carroll, held a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, where the transition operation will be based for the next nine weeks until they are sworn in on Jan. 4.
"It's a real honor to be responsible and represent all 18 million Floridians, and we take it seriously," Scott said. "Our whole focus is to get this state back to work."
Two trusted Scott advisers will head the transition. They are Enu Mainigi, a Washington health care lawyer who represented Scott when he worked in the hospital industry, and Mary Anne Carter, a Tennessee lawyer who directed Conservatives for Patients Rights, the Scott-funded political action committee that opposed President Barack Obama's health care mandates.
The site www.scotttransition.com was launched so people can apply for jobs in the new administration. Scott said the political backgrounds of applicants will not be a factor. He said he's seeking people of high integrity who are hard-working and optimistic and share his vision of more private-sector jobs and less government.
As governor, Scott will serve as one of three trustees overseeing the state pension fund, and the multimillionaire investor has a sizable investment portfolio. He said he was mindful of the potential for conflicts of interest.
"I'll do the right thing to make sure that I don't have any conflicts, whether that's blind trust or whatever I need to do," Scott said. "I'm not going to be in a position where I have conflicts. I'm not taking the chance."
Scott, who defeated Democrat Alex Sink by fewer than 60,000 votes, emphasized his desire to be inclusive and to listen to different points of view. He said improved customer service to Florida taxpayers is a high priority.
Since his victory, Scott said, his cell phone has been overloaded with calls from business executives offering to work for him at reduced salaries. "I've got lots of people that want to run things for me," Scott said.
He also announced the formation of a nine-member transition board, dominated by political insiders, to advise him on how to carry out his agenda.
The committee includes several old hands to Florida government who know how to work the Legislature and the Tallahassee bureaucracy, as well as some outspoken voices who have challenged the GOP leadership. The group also includes three people with close ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush:
• Toni Jennings, Bush's former lieutenant governor. She also served in the Legislature for 25 years.
• Sally Bradshaw, Bush's former chief of staff. Her husband, Paul Bradshaw, is a founding partner in Southern Strategies, one of the largest lobbying firms in Tallahassee.
• Kathleen Shanahan, another former Bush chief of staff and onetime chief of staff for former Vice President Dick Cheney. She served on the transition teams of both Jeb Bush and Gov. Charlie Crist. She is the chairman and CEO of WRScompass, an environmental management and civil construction company that does a lot of work with the state.
• Former six-term Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, the lone Democrat in the group. A U.S. Senate candidate who lost in the primary, he endorsed Scott and criticized the Democratic Party for not being inclusive.
• Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono, a rising star in Republican circles who endorsed Scott early and was mentioned as a possible running mate.
• U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, who was Gov. Crist's campaign manager and chief of staff for his first two years.
• State Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, who went against GOP House leaders to vote against the controversial teacher tenure plan to link pay to student performance. He endorsed Scott in the primary.
• State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, a lawyer who has served as House rules chairman and played a pivotal role in negotiations on property tax and gaming legislation.
• State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, a maverick state senator who criticized Senate leadership for its support of the SunRail high-speed rail plan, teacher tenure reform and other initiatives.
Dockery, whose brief campaign for governor was derailed by Scott's candidacy last spring, said she was approached about two weeks ago about helping with the transition. She said campaign manager Susie Wiles told her on Election Day that she would be on the advisory panel if Scott was victorious.
"I think he's put a good mix of people together," she said. "I think it shows a very confident person. … He wants to know what works and what doesn't work."
Dockery has been a fierce critic of what she calls waste and inefficiency in the Department of Transportation. "I think there are some areas there that can be streamlined," she said.
At the news conference, Scott was asked to address the 2.5 million Floridians who voted for Sink, and he briefly slipped back into campaign mode. "I'm running, I'm going to be responsible for all 18 million Floridians. I'm going to do the best job I can every day," he said.
Scott said he and Crist have traded phone messages but have not talked. He said he was eager to hear his predecessor's advice.
"I like people who give me their ideas," Scott said. "It doesn't mean I'm going to go down their path. I didn't do this to go down somebody else's path."
Scott is the first incoming governor in memory to have a transition headquarters outside of Tallahassee. It will be in his campaign headquarters on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Press aide Brian Burgess said it was an oversight that Tallahassee-based reporters had no way to participate by phone in the news conference, and he said it wouldn't happen again.
Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.