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For Rick Scott, governing is surprising

Rick Scott's election as governor surprised a lot of people.

But it turns out nobody was more surprised than Scott.

Not that he won — he knew he would, as he said in the campaign. Rather, the shocker was the vast scope of the job.

Time after time, Scott has expressed surprise or outright shock at some aspect of being governor, and we've been keeping count.

You might call this column Rick Scott's Book of Revelations, and it began long ago.

"It's unbelievable, the number of cameras that showed up. I was shocked," Scott told a Tiger Bay Club crowd in Tallahassee in June 2010.

He had just submitted qualifying papers to run for governor and had no idea that so many TV stations wanted to capture the moment.

It wasn't just Scott who was blown away by the ramifications of being governor. Aides were, too, because most had no experience in Florida.

The morning after Scott beat Alex Sink, confetti still littered the floor of his victory hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and Scott got to work with a briefing on the Government in the Sunshine law that top press aide Brian Burgess remembers as "eye-opening."

Among the directives: It's illegal for the governor to discuss public business with the three Cabinet members in private because they comprise a body subject to the state's open meetings law.

"You can't talk to other Cabinet members," Scott said this week. "It's difficult because, in business, you can talk to anybody about anything."

On his second day in office, I was assigned to stake him out as he flew out of a general aviation airport, and I was there again when he returned later in the afternoon.

"Is this going to be a regular occurrence?" Scott asked.

Yes, sir.

At a Lincoln Day dinner in Pensacola in March, Scott voiced surprise at how many prisons Florida has — 144.

At the same event, he said he was shocked at how many people fill the halls of the state Capitol during spring legislative sessions (there were many more protesters this year than usual, largely because of Scott's policies).

As both a candidate and governor, Scott spoke repeatedly of his desire to eliminate "job-killing regulations," a theme that resonated with Republican crowds.

But Scott saw in the past legislative session that professionals such as interior designers will fight fiercely to be regulated, because it gives them a professional status and clarifies their scope of practice.

Another example is capital punishment.

Scott had a sense as a candidate that a governor had to sign death warrants, but he didn't give it much thought.

He recently experienced the unsettling fact that by affixing his name to a piece of paper, he determines the date and time a man dies for his crimes.

"It's a very difficult decision. You're changing somebody's life and their family's life," he said.

All of this is not to disparage Scott. It's simply another side of being an outsider: There's just so much to learn, as he has revealed many times.

In fact, in recent days, Scott has displayed a better grasp of his responsibilities and a sense of self-confidence that was not apparent earlier.

"One thing about this job is, things happen so fast," Scott said this week. "You sort of forget which day you did things."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

For Rick Scott, governing is surprising 08/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 6, 2011 1:18am]
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