Smith: Gov. DeSantis, stand your ground. Rescind all those lame-duck appointments by Rick Scott.

If he likes some, feel free to reappoint those.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the crowd Tuesday in front of Florida's Old Capitol during his inauguration. (SCOTT KEELER  |   Times)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the crowd Tuesday in front of Florida's Old Capitol during his inauguration. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)
Published Jan. 10, 2019|Updated Jan. 10, 2019

As parents and campaign consultants like to say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

That's why Gov. Ron DeSantis would do well by rescinding the last-minute appointments ex-Gov. Rick Scott foisted upon him.

In his final days as governor, Scott made dozens of political appointments to state agencies and boards, including more than 70 late Friday. Nothing to see here, handlers and allies said. Just routine vacancies being filled.


Either because he wanted to stick his thumb in the eye of his successor or because he couldn't resist giving last-minute rewards to political allies and donors or because of simple arrogance, Scott snubbed DeSantis and had to know it.

Related: It's not going over well with DeSantis

DeSantis is just introducing himself to Floridians. His appointments so far show competence and governing experience are a higher priority with him than rigid conservative ideology. He remains undefined as a leader, but pushing back against Scott would demonstrate his independence and backbone.

In 2007, new Gov. Charlie Crist withdrew a whopping 238 Jeb Bush appointments not yet confirmed by the Florida Senate. It signalled he would be no lap dog to the Bush-dominated Tallahassee establishment.

"People made a choice, they'd like a fresh start and some new blood, and we're going to give it to them," said then-Republican Crist, who, much like DeSantis in 2018, praised his two-term predecessor during the campaign.

Maybe DeSantis is happy with Scott's picks, be it Andrew Pollack, father of Parkland victim Meadow, to the state Board of Education, or developer Carlos Beruff to the Wildlife Commission. Fine. Rescind the lame-duck appointments and promptly reappoint those he likes.

It's not easy to shake off bad first impressions. It took Scott six years to turn around the mostly negative view most voters had of him.

Even with a Republican-controlled Legislature, it's easier to push through an agenda as a popular governor than as an unpopular one.

DeSantis showed a down-to-earth style in dispatching with the post-inauguration parade. His inauguration speech, though, veered more toward pretentious rhetoric than a concrete agenda.

"I will not be a rudderless vessel in this endeavor. My compass will be the principles reflected in the constitutional oath I have just taken, and for which Americans have given their lives: that our rights are endowed by God, not government."

That happens to be incorrect, as a veteran Tallahassee sage and provocateur could not resist noting on Twitter.

"The oath is actually to 'support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States and of the State of Florida', i.e. rights endowed by government, not God. The only mention of God — 'so help me God' — is optional," tweeted J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, a Republican lobbyist and chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez.

Still, a pretty strong start for our new governor all in all.

Not so much for Scott.

For one of his first acts as senator, he presided over a black tie fundraising reception for his political committee — during a government shutdown.

Florida's new governor may find he is better off paying Florida's new senator as much respect as Scott shows him.