In early February of 2011, just weeks after being sworn in as Florida’s 45th governor, Rick Scott followed through on a campaign promise to sell Florida’s two state airplanes – a Cessna Citation Bravo and a Beechcraft Super King Air 350 turboprop. The airplanes had become the focal point of taxpayer ire after a series of reports about state officials, including then-governor Charlie Crist, abusing the privilege by using the airplanes for controversial reasons, including travel to a fundraiser in Miami, and excessive trips by family members.
Of course, the sale of those airplanes had little impact on Scott, who owns a Cessna Citation jet himself. During the past five and half years in office, Scott has logged hundreds of hours of air travel at his own expense. Almost certainly, he is the most well-traveled governor in the state’s history. His mobility enables him to pop in, even just briefly, at a public event, then return to the state capital in a single day, avoiding the controversy associated with taxpayers funding such trips.
But in just over two years, Florida will choose a new governor, who’ll be faced with the decision of how to travel to remote locations, attend events, meet with Florida’s 21 million citizens, and conduct state business as efficiently as possible.
The Capitolist interviewed Scott and asked him what travel advice he had for Florida’s 46th governor, in light of the fact that he or she wouldn’t have immediate access to state-owned airplanes. The interview took place over the phone, and Scott pointed out that at that very moment, he was driving, not flying.
“Right now, I’ve got a two-and-a-half hour drive to Naples. It’s a great state to travel.”
But what about the notion that he sold the state airplanes? How is the next governor supposed to be as accessible as he’s been to the people of Florida?
“I think the next governor should travel as much as possible. Talk to as many people as possible,” Scott said. “See how you can have a positive impact on people’s lives. I’ve got a long drive right now. It’s enjoyable. I’ll end up stopping a few times and I’ll see people, talk to them.”
Indeed, Scott makes a frequent habit of popping into Starbucks coffee houses across the state to order what he characterizes as his “one vice:” green chai tea. Given the frequency of those stops, and the only known negative incident to result, who knows? Perhaps the next governor will follow Scott’s advice and eschew the use of air travel. On the other hand, we probably don’t need more encounters like the one in the video.