TALLAHASSEE — It’s been a launching pad for astronauts who shuttled into space and the playground of an entrepreneur who dreamed of building a “magic kingdom.”
Through the years, Florida has been the landing spot for refugees fleeing tyrants in foreign lands and for Americans seeking a respite from winter cold.
“We’ve always been a destination for dreamers, the place where somebody with a big, new idea could get started,” Rick Scott of Naples said Tuesday after he was sworn in as the state’s 45th governor during a ceremony on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.
During a 20-minute address to the hundreds in attendance, Scott, 58, said that as governor, it’s his job to make sure Florida remains the state where dreams can come true, encouraging the “modern tinkerers, the out-of-the-box thinkers.”
“We’re going to tell the world,” Scott said, “if you can dream it, it’s easy to make it happen in the great state of Florida.”
Calling the day a “high tide” for Florida, Scott, placed his hand on the family Bible and swore to uphold the constitutions of the United States and Florida. Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady swore Scott in.
“This is the time we can do great things together,” Scott said. “If we have the courage to act, our children and grandchildren will someday thank us for it.”
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also were sworn in during Tuesday’s ceremony. Former governors Charlie Crist, Jeb Bush, Bob Martinez and Claude Kirk sat on stage with Scott and the Cabinet, as did former U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and George LeMieux.
As governor, Scott promised a lean and limited government and to be responsible with taxpayers’ money. He said it was his mission to create private sector jobs for Floridians — he’s promised 700,000 over seven years — at a time of 12 percent unemployment, but called it “magical thinking” to expect government to create prosperity.
He promised fewer taxes and less regulation, while calling for more choices for citizens, better services, and increased use of free markets. While Scott is now the head of Florida’s government, he clearly sees himself as separate from it.
“When government does the buying, when government chooses what services are available, the truth is, he pays the piper who calls the tune,” Scott said. “Now we’re going to call the tune, not the government.”
Lavigne Kirkpatrick, a Naples resident who attended the swearing-in, called Scott, who has never run for political office before, “one of us.”
“This is a new dawning for us,” Kirkpatrick said. “We have somebody now as governor that has never been a politician. That’s exciting for me.”
Tuesday’s inauguration caps a rise to the governorship for Scott that was as impressive as it was improbable.
Scott, a wealthy businessman and former health-care executive, was barely a blip on the political radar when he entered the race in April. He previously headed the advocacy group “Conservatives for Patients’ Rights” to fight President Obama’s health-care initiative, but had no electoral experience.
Scott dropped more than $70 million of his estimated $200 million fortune on his campaign, plastering TV and radio with ads, knocking out then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in a nasty Republican primary fight, and narrowly ousting then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the general election.
Along the way, Scott peppered voters with ambitious promises, including job creation, an Arizona-style immigration crackdown to Florida, cutting prison costs by $1 billion, ending the state’s business tax, implementing school choice, and even selling the state airplane.
He vowed to begin implementing executive orders almost immediately after taking office. He lived up to that promise Tuesday by announcing the creation of a State Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform.
On Tuesday, Scott also signed executive orders freezing new regulations, requiring state agencies to verify legal immigration status, establishing a “tough new ethics policy,” and reaffirming prohibitions regarding discrimination in employment, according to the Governor’s Office.
Collier County was well-represented during Tuesday’s festivities.
Naples resident Chuck Colson, a former special counsel to then-President Richard Nixon who has dedicated his life to Christian prison outreach, spoke at the inaugural prayer breakfast. Kirt Anderson of Scott’s hometown Naples Community Church gave a benediction at the swearing-in ceremony.
Five Collier high school bands – Barron Collier, Golden Gate, Immokalee, Naples and Palmetto Ridge – performed in the inaugural parade. They followed the Florida A&M Marching 100 band.
The parade passed in front of the Old Capitol, down Spanish moss-lined Monroe Street – changed to “Rick Scott Way” for Tuesday’s inauguration.
Other well-wishers from Southwest Florida were evident in the crowd.
“Naples can feel a great amount of pride because Rick is from Naples,” said state Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples. “But he is going to be the governor of the entire state of Florida.”
Naples Councilman Gary Price made the drive up for the swearing-in ceremony, as did Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.
With a more conservative Cabinet, and with Scott at the helm, Price said Floridians can expect smaller, more efficient government, with less taxation and fewer regulations.
“I think we’re in an era when people are demanding that,” Price said. “I think that’s easier to get done now because people have had enough of a big bureaucracy.”
Although the mood was generally upbeat Tuesday, a small gaggle of protesters gathered across Monroe Street holding signs. At one point during the inauguration, a heckler called out, briefly disrupting the service.
Max Haas, 18, a Tallahassee Community College student, held a sign reading “Governor Voldermort,” referring to the bald villain from the Harry Potter books and movies. Haas wants to be a teacher, and doesn’t agree with Scott’s education policies.
“If Rick Scott stays, I’d rather live in Georgia,” Haas said. “I never thought I’d say that.”
At one point in his speech, while talking about requiring state agencies to be accountable for the money they spend, Scott slipped up, accidentally saying he would “get rid of the agencies.” Scott’s transition team has called for merging some state agencies, but Scott hasn’t yet endorsed the recommendation.
“We’ll get rid of the agencies – the agencies – we’ll get rid of the programs that don’t work and expand the programs that do,” Scott said, correcting himself. “That will be in the paper. That wasn’t part of the script.”
After the parade, the governor’s mansion was open to the public. Scott closed out the evening by reviving the traditional inaugural ball.
With his hand on the family Bible, Rick Scott of Naples swore to uphold the constitutions of Florida and the United States during the noon hour today, becoming Florida’s 45th governor.
During a 20-minute inaugural address, Scott promised to create jobs and cut back on government red tape
“We’re going to tell the world that if you can dream it, it’s easy to make it real in the great state of Florida,” he said.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater also were sworn in.
Scott and the Cabinet were sworn in by Chief Justice Charles Canady of the Florida Supreme Court. It was a sunny, yet chilly morning, with temperatures in the low 50s.
As one of his first acts, Scott signed an executive order creating a state office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory reform to examine all proposed and existing regulations to see how they affect the creation of jobs.
Among those in attendance at the festivities was Naples City Councilman Gary Price, who said he expects Florida will have a new perspective on government that will be more efficient, smaller, with less taxation and less regulation.
“I think we are in an era when people are demanding that,” Price said. “I think that this is easier to get done now because people have had enough of big bureaucracy.”
Naples resident Lavigne Kirkpatrick, also in attendance, was buoyed by the fact Scott doesn’t have political experience.
“This is a new dawning for us. We have somebody new as governor who has never been a politician. That is exciting to me. It’s like having a real person, who is one of us — people representing the people.”
The ceremony capped a rise to the governorship that was as impressive as it was improbable.
Scott, 58, a wealthy Naples businessman and former health-care executive, was barely a blip on the political radar when he entered the race last April. He previously had headed the advocacy group “Conservatives for Patients’ Rights” to fight President Barack Obama’s health-care initiative, but has had no previous electoral experience.
Even in Naples, his adopted home for the past eight years, Scott was anything but a household name. He was, however, well known by many of Southwest Florida’s movers and shakers.
Scott dropped more than $70 million of his estimated $200 million fortune on his campaign, knocking out then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in a nasty Republican primary fight, and ousting then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the general election.
Along the way, Scott peppered voters with ambitious promises, including creating 700,000 new jobs in seven years, bringing an Arizona-style immigration crackdown to Florida, cutting prison costs by $1 billion, ending the state’s business tax, implementing school choice, and even selling the state airplane. He has vowed to begin implementing executive orders almost immediately after taking office.
Media, security staff, elected officials and well-wishers from across Florida have swarmed Tallahassee this week to partake in the inauguration.
Tuesday’s festivities started with an inaugural prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University. This afternoon there will be an inaugural parade in front of the Old Capitol, and down the Spanish moss-lined Monroe Street.
Today, however, Monroe Street has been renamed Rick Scott Way, while nearby Jefferson Street was renamed Jennifer Carroll Way, after the new lieutenant governor.
At 7 p.m., Scott is reviving the traditional inaugural ball, which is being held at the Leon County Civic Center.