So the governor with the bald head and the bad poll numbers appears to be undergoing an extreme makeover.
Just this week, in fact, over a nice cup of coffee and a chocolate-covered doughnut, Gov. Rick Scott wanted to have a little visit with you. Well, not with you, exactly, but with the people who are supposed to ask questions on your behalf.
In a gesture that when he took office seemed about as likely as Scott throwing open his doors to a pack of scabby raccoons, the governor invited reporters into his inner sanctum for pastry, coffee, and some heretofore unheard-of elbow-rubbing. They talked immigration. They talked apple fritters.
Now this may not sound like much, an elected official making a gesture of openness to reporters despite the sometimes cats-and-dogs nature of the relationship. But it's pretty notable when you're talking about a millionaire businessman-turned-politician who has said he does not read Florida newspapers and who generally refused to meet with editorial boards — something Govs. Chiles, Bush and Crist all did in the regular course of their jobs.
This is a guy whose original policy on public records appeared to be: Oh yeah? Why do you want 'em?
Well. The newly remade governor says he'd like to meet with editorial boards and is making moves to start putting the "public" back in public records. It's amazing what poll numbers that peg you as one of the least popular governors in America can do. There's also the recent hiring of Tallahassee insider Steve MacNamara as his chief of staff to add some political savvy.
So the politician who seemed tone-deaf as he signed into law bills like one making it harder for people to vote now seems to be flashing the citizenry his sincerest smile.
And Gov. Rick — c'mon, we called the last guy Gov. Charlie, why can't he be Gov. Rick? — plans a series of Bob Graham-style regular-guy workaday jobs to connect with the real people of Florida.
(And yes, more than one person has suggested it might be a more realistic experience if he spent a day trying to find a job in Florida.)
Today, in fact, the governor is scheduled for duty at a Nicola's, a Tampa doughnut shop, a job reminiscent of his business beginnings in Kansas City. He even regular-guy talked about the best weather for doughnut sales at that nosh with reporters the other day. Foggy, in case you missed it. The governor reportedly plans other workdays selling groceries and yes, even delivering newspapers, maybe the very ones he did not read. No word yet on plans to throw on a short-sleeved checkered shirt and walk the state.
Do you suppose Gov. Kinder-Gentler is a tad calculated? No doubt. Realizing a lot of people do not like how you're doing your job — and by the way, you need their say-so to keep doing it for another round — can do that to you.
Still. Call me an optimist, but there is value in even espousing openness in government, and particularly in having as many face-to-face encounters with the people you govern as possible.
Meet them around the state, and maybe you think more about the real and human repercussions of taking a bite out of their paychecks for pensions or for refusing money and jobs for rail, that sort of thing.
Now that would be a new look for Tallahassee.