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Rick Scott: A governor and his boots

Scott shows off his “governor” boots. His bootmaker has tooled leather for presidents including Jimmy Carter.

JANET ZINK | Times

Scott shows off his “governor” boots. His bootmaker has tooled leather for presidents including Jimmy Carter.

TALLAHASSEE — Cabinet meeting or church. Blue suit or black. There's one thing you can always count on from Gov. Rick Scott.

He's wearing cowboy boots.

Custom-made of alligator skin with "governor" stamped in gold. Or, black calf skin, embossed with the colorful seal of Florida, "45th Governor," and American and Florida flags.

Scott has six pairs in all. Size 10.

"I'm a boot guy. That's all I wear," he said. "Not when I go to the beach though. I'll wear sandals. Or I go barefoot because it feels good."

Scott started sporting the special-made "Governor" alligator boots before his inauguration, and last month in Washington, D.C., he showed off the new calf-skin pair to FOX News' Greta Van Susteren.

"They said the seal was really hard to do," Scott said Tuesday as he pulled up a pant leg to reveal the art.

The bootmaker to the stars created the most recent additions to Scott's collection.

That's Rocky Carroll, owner of RJ's Model Boots in Houston, who has tooled leather for every president since Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama, though, isn't getting a pair. "He's giving our money away," Carroll complained.

Carroll, 73, said he was put in touch with Scott by the governor's director of external affairs, Spencer Geisseinger, whom he describes in his Texas drawl as, "a friend of mine, used to work with President Bush."

"He called me and asked me to get a pair for the governor and then he called me and asked me to do a second pair," Carroll said.

Cowboy boots are somewhat of a "thing" in Tallahassee.

The House of Representatives for several years has hosted a "Boot Day" where lawmakers compete for the flashiest set.

Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston, won in 2009 with a pair like Scott's that boasts the Florida seal. But Sands has only the one pair.

"That's why he's the governor," Sands said. "I'm from Brooklyn. Boots are not big in Brooklyn. Not those boots anyhow. Not cowboy boots."

Carroll wouldn't say how much Scott paid for the boots or if he paid for them at all, but pairs like Scott's run from $500 to $2,500.

He said he never charges presidents: "I can't buy the advertising."

And that Florida seal? "Oh my god it was hard. It's so intricate."

The time it takes to make a pair of custom boots can vary.

"Depends who you are," Carroll said.

President George W. Bush ordered a pair on a Monday for a Kenny Chesney concert at the White House, and Carroll had them done by Wednesday.

"My favorite I think would be I did the boots for the inaugural for George W. and his dad. I made them tuxedo boots. They're patent leather on the toe, patent leather on the heel, and the vamp part of the boot is suede," Carroll said. "It makes it look very dressy. It goes with a tux."

Carroll's father opened the business in 1938, crafting boots for Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and other Hollywood and Nashville stars. Carroll's high-profile customers have included Queen Elizabeth (red alligator with an outline of Texas), Prince Philip (black ostrich), Elizabeth Taylor (a diamond-studded, $40,000 pair), Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

"I still work 18 hours a day. I love what I do," he said. "I'm very lucky."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Rick Scott: A governor and his boots 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 10:55pm]
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