Surprise stop on way to breakfast
Rick Scott left the Governor's Mansion at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Departing in darkness, he headed toward a waiting SUV, pausing when a reporter asked whether he was ready for the day.
"I'm ready; hopefully the state is," Scott said.
He spent an hour at Florida A&M University behind closed doors at an unannounced private breakfast. Florida Baptist Witness editor James A. Smith tweeted that many of those attending were Southern Baptist Convention pastors.
Later, at a larger prayer breakfast, Scott, his wife, daughters and mother listened to a blunt-speaking Charles "Chuck" Colson, the former Watergate conspirator who became a born-again Christian who ministers to prison inmates throughout the country.
Scott told the crowd, "I am respectful of all religions" and asked for the wisdom of Solomon, saying that being governor was not the same as being king.
In a somber speech, Colson said America has lost its way to self-indulgence, greed and materialism. The answer, he said, is a renewal of the sense of shared sacrifice and civic duty.
Keep playing guys, it's not time yet
The swearing-in program started at 11, but it moved too fast, forcing the Florida National Guard Army Band to play patriotic music for more than 20 minutes as officials waited until noon when Scott could officially take office. Country singer Lee Greenwood helped pass the time singing Aaron Tippin's Where the Star and Stripes and the Eagle Fly. Greenwood had helped open the ceremony with God Bless the USA while several politicians, including Scott, sang along.
The ceremony opened with the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus singing the national anthem. Then the Florida Cabinet members were sworn in: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi. Scott's lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, a Republican former state lawmaker from Jacksonville, made history after being sworn in as Florida's first black lieutenant governor.
Prime seating goes to the lobbyists
As is always the case, lobbyists had some of the best seats in the house at the inauguration.
Front row center: Brian Ballard, who co-chaired the inaugural fundraising committee. Close by were U.S. Sugar lobbyist Bob Coker, Florida Power and Light CEO Armando Olivera, South Florida lobbyist Ron Book, Blue Cross' Mike Hightower, Barney Bishop of Associated Industries, and Scott's close friend, Fort Lauderdale lobbyist (and lifelong Democrat) Bill Rubin.
"I'm excited," Rubin said from his front-row perch. "I didn't think I'd ever be here. Never."
Others, many of them donors, couldn't get seats and spilled out onto the street.
The who's who of Florida political elite on stage: House Speaker Dean Cannon; Senate President Mike Haridopolos; former Gov. Wayne Mixon; former Gov. Claude Kirk; former Gov. Bob Martinez; former Gov. Buddy MacKay; former Gov. Jeb Bush; former Sen. Mel Martinez; Sen. George LeMieux; Sen. Bill Nelson; and of course, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Gov. Charlie Crist. Bush got a rousing ovation when he was introduced and hopeful shouts of "Sen. Bush."
Letting in sunshine, but not reporters
On the 22nd floor of the Capitol, where the view of Tallahassee is stunning and the floor-to-ceiling windows let the sunshine in, Scott held his first official event after being sworn in. He hosted the Let's Get to Work Leadership Lunch with an invitation-only crowd that included a couple of dozen GOP lawmakers. Sen. Gary Siplin and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda, both Democrats, also were there.
Absent, however: the spirit of the state's Sunshine in Government laws. With so many elected officials, this was technically an open meeting. But a traveling pool reporter was escorted up only when Scott arrived, after the luncheon began. Reporters without approval were escorted out.
Basset hound is Pam Bondi fan
Of all the Cabinet members, Tampa's Pam Bondi received the largest applause when she was sworn in at 11:30 a.m. Watching was Tampa resident Noel Flastersetin, 41, who brought along his basset hound, Stubby. "He's here for Pam Bondi," Flasterstein said. "She's a dog lover. The dog was not going to miss it." Later, Bondi walked the parade route in black suede pumps sporting a good 3-inch heel. When asked if she planned to walk the whole route in those shoes, she said: "It's only three-fourths of a mile."
Moving along, no donkeys here
All over Tallahassee, it was a Republican love-fest. Phil Phunn from Sarasota was peddling buttons with Rick Scott's image and such sayings as "Hot Chicks Vote Republican" and "Original Right Wing Extremists," which included images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. The parade included a handful of circus elephants. As Edward Minchin, a University of Florida professor and longtime friend of the state's new CFO Jeff Atwater, watched them go by, he speculated there would be no donkeys in the parade. "The elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party and the donkey is not," he said. "Plus they would stop and hold up the parade."
Placing hope on new governor
GOP fundraisers Al Austin and Don DeFosset, watching the parade, remarked on Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's political potential as he walked by. "There's future governor material," DeFosset said. Austin was not a Scott supporter during the primary. "Hardly anybody was," Austin said. "But once he won the primary, he was our man." Austin said he has high hopes that Scott will perform well. "He's a business man with a businessman's approach," he said. "We've got to see how it works out."
Tallahassee resident Mark Studley echoed similar sentiments while watching the parade with his wife, Susan, and their 3-year-old grandson, Jacob. Studley said he expected the new governor to bring "prosperity" to the state. "Hopefully, running the state like a business will help him do that," he said.
Having a ball, staying up late
At the inaugural ball, Scott addressed the crowd around 9:30 p.m. and promised to "stay up late, something I don't normally do." Then the First Couple danced to Have I Told You Lately. Afterward, ball guests swarmed Scott seeking autographs and snapping pictures.
How it played in the Twitter-verse
#flinaug was a trending topic in Tampa on Twitter during the inauguration. A sampling:
• I appreciate the sincerity of @gov_RickScott — he is truly committed to this mission of jobs.
•"And now, we've got $3 million. Let's party!!"
• @cspan All the HUGS for the KING of MEDICARE Fraud! Incredible!
• Scott again urges supporters to "write Letters to the Editors." Seems to be a frequent line as of late.
• Scott: "We'll get rid of the agencies." Then: "That will get in the paper. That wasn't part of the script."
• @gov_rickscott is wearing cowboy boots for the big day.
Times/Herald staff writers Michael C. Bender, Steve Bousquet, Mary Ellen Klas, Katie Sanders and Janet Zink contributed to this report, which also uses inauguration pool reports.