Gov. Rick Scott’s continuing public relations make-over will bring him to the Flagler County and St. Johns County chambers of commerce on Monday for hour-long meetings with members of each. He’ll have a breakfast meeting with the Flagler chamber on Airport Road, beginning at 8 a.m., then a lunch meeting with the St. Johns chamber at noon, at the Markland House on the campus of Flagler College.
Sunday evening, he was at the Golden Lion restaurant, in Flagler Beach.
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Doug Baxter, the Flagler chamber president said the governor had initiated the meeting, and that “the press is invited,” though he expects the gathering to be standing-room only. The meeting is expected to focus on economic development and the governor’s jobs agenda.
The hour he’ll spend at the local chamber, part of the group’s business leaders’ roundtable, will be double the amount of time he devoted to Flagler in June, when he stopped by for a brief look at the then-raging wildfires in a visit that never took him outside the county’s emergency operations building.
The governor, battling approval ratings that have had him competing for the worst-governor spot in the country, has been on an intense campaign to remake his image, visiting with news outlets he shunned before, holding more chats with reporters, and sitting in for more appearances choreographed to soften his image. This month he briefly pretended to be a doughnut shop worker in Tampa, then pretended to be a lunchroom attendant at an Orlando elementary school. The stunts were intended to draw lavish attention from television cameras. They did. Scott also sent news organizations a new picture of himself–more smile than skeletal–in an attempt to project a more approachable figure. Some, including the St. Augustine Record, are playing along.
Visits to chambers aren’t particularly new: the governor maintains tight relations with the Florida Chamber of Commerce–he was at a chamber event in Orlando in June for several hours before the drop-in in Flagler–but the visits with smaller chambers such as St. Johns’ and Flagler’s are somewhat out of the ordinary.
“The breakfast is only open to chamber members,” Dan Parham, chairman of the local Democratic Party, wrote local members–inaccurately, as it turned out–some of whom were interested in protesting the governor’s appearance, “but you should be able to get a glimpse of him entering and leaving. At that time you may pose any questions you have for him, or offer any suggestions as to how he should approach the issues that concern you.”
Unless Scott, never a friend of either improv or sunshine, has also changed his method of skirting in and out of buildings as rapidly as possible, it’s not likely that he will stop for questions outside the chamber’s board room, where the breakfast meeting will take place. Several local politicians are expected to attend.