Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With a touch of class, Gov. Charlie Crist prepares to bid Tallahassee farewell

As Charlie Crist welcomed a group of reporters into the Governor's Mansion Thursday for a year-end interview, he realized he'd lost track of press secretary Sterling Ivey.

"Where's Sterling? Uh-oh. I'm unstaffed," Crist said. "Better get used to that," he quickly added.

Indeed, in a few weeks the many trappings of power will all be gone for Florida's 44th governor. No more staffers at his beck and call. No more nights spent in the elegant mansion on Adams Street in Tallahassee. No more squads of state agents opening doors and escorting him everywhere.

Crist so alienated himself from his former party, you can almost hear Republicans across the state screaming "Good riddance!"

Yet, in these final weeks of his topsy-turvy term of office that is ending on a down note, Crist seems remarkably at peace with his circumstances. He's a guy who arrived with a 70 percent approval rating, and departs as someone who left the Republican Party and suffered a humiliating defeat as an independent U.S. Senate candidate, but he's doing his best to look good on his way out the door.

"Charlie's a classy guy. He's amazingly resilient," said George Sheldon, the secretary of the Department of Children and Families who once ran against Crist (for education commissioner).

In the interview, Crist uttered words that seem ill-suited to this ultimate career politician: "Winning an election isn't everything. There's a lot more to life." Crist is going out with a touch of class, his dignity intact for a possible political comeback.

What people forget is that Crist has lost before. He lost his first bid for elective office as a state Senate candidate in 1986 and he took a shellacking as a U.S. Senate candidate in 1998 against Bob Graham, though that loss laid the groundwork for his future statewide victories.

This time, Crist has a wife, Carole, to help him deal with the emotional wallop of a crushing defeat and the reality that he'll likely never be a United States senator, as well as the endless second-guessing that maybe he should have run for re-election as governor after all.

Crist, ever the gracious host, welcomed his successor, Gov.-elect Rick Scott, and his wife Ann to the mansion for a menorah lighting ceremony to mark the start of Hanukkah. Rabbis and others congratulated him for his demonstrated inclusiveness.

On Wednesday, dozens of staff members in the governor's office lined up with their spouses and kids on a chilly December night to shake Crist's hand and be photographed with him and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.

He helped to throw the switch to illuminate the mansion Christmas tree, a 35-foot Douglas fir festooned with hundreds of LED lights.

Shaking one hand after another, he delivered a stream of Crist-isms: "Good to see ya." "It's a pleasure." "Doing great, thanks!"

On Thursday, Crist hosted his last reception for the capital press corps, and next Monday he will repeat the gesture for the more than two dozen chiefs of state agencies under his command, some of whom will soon be unemployed.

"It's like a farewell tour, but that's life," said Bob Brown-Barrios, a health-care budget expert in Crist's office.

"Life will take you to unexpected places," he said. "When you get there, embrace it."

With a touch of class, Gov. Charlie Crist prepares to bid Tallahassee farewell 12/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What you need to know for Friday, Aug. 18


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Read 'Hellfire from Above,' inside the Tampa Electric Co. power plant accident that left five people dead. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  2. Tampa is training ground for Team USA inline skating

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The United States once dominated the sport known as international outdoor inline speed skating.

    Cotton Yarborough is one of five people from the Tampa Bay area on the national inline speed skating team. The team is competing in the world championships Aug. 27 in China. [Courtesy of Frank Holland]
  3. Grocery and hotel deals in reach for Tampa Encore project

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — After failing to land both Publix and Walmart, the Tampa Housing Authority says it is close to a deal to bring another well-known grocer to its Encore project.

    The Tampa Housing Authority's Encore project has housing like The Reed, pictured, but no retail. It is in talks to bring a grocer and two hotels to the site on the west side of Nebraska Avenue close to downtown Tampa.
  4. Epilogue: Former Salty Sisters captain Ernestine Mittermayr, 92

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Ernestine Mittermayr was proud to be a Salty Sister, one of a group of women sailors in the city.

  5. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.