State Politics

Scott puts two Manatee residents on team

MANATEE -- Gov.-elect Rick Scott has appointed two Manatee County residents to serve on a “Good Government Transition Team” that will look for ideas to make government leaner and smarter.

On the team are Steve Knopik, president and chief executive officer at Bealls Inc., parent company of Bealls Department Stores Inc., Bealls Outlet Stores Inc. and Burke’s Outlet Stores. The Bradenton-based retailer operates 535 retail stores from Florida to California.

Also on the team is Pat Neal, president and chief executive officer at Neal Communities Inc., a developer based at Lakewood Ranch who has built more than 7,000 homes in the area.

Neal served 12 years in the Florida Legislature, and has won many builders’ awards as well as a number of awards from environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Florida Audubon Society.

A Manatee resident on another of the governor-elect’s transition teams is Caleb J. Grimes, a partner at Grimes, Goebel, Grimes, Hawkins, Gladfelter & Galvano, P.L., of Bradenton.

Grimes, whose legal specialties include real estate and project development, commercial transactions and business planning and bankruptcy cases, will serve on a transition team addressing regulatory issues, said his law partner, former state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who is a member of the governor-elect’s transition team.

“He’s going to use his vast experience in dealing with government on behalf of job creators, private businesses, to find what is working, and what is not,” Galvano said of Grimes.

“The governor’s plan is to get Florida back to work,” Galvano said.

But Florida’s new governor has yet to name a single person to his administrative team five weeks after the election. Instead, he has named almost 200 advisers to his transition teams.

He has yet to pick his chief of staff or name the heads of any of Florida’s nearly 30 state agencies under his control, including those that oversee Florida’s 102,000 prison inmates, 582,000 elementary school students or 2.5 million people on food stamps.

At this time 12 years ago, newly elected Gov. Jeb Bush had selected secretaries of labor, health and children and families, named a chief of staff, a legislative affairs director and a communications secretary. Four years ago, Gov. Charlie Crist had named his chief of staff and was distributing daily agendas of his transition team schedule.

Scott’s longtime lawyer and confidante, Enu Mainigi, is controlling much of the selection process, searching for new hires with corporate experience. She said the first significant appointments could still be weeks away.

“A few weeks here and there isn’t going to make a difference,” Mainigi said. “We want to have the right people in place and are not going to make appointments for the sake of making appointments.”

The list of appointments will only grow after the first of the year, when the terms of nearly 300 appointed positions -- from the state Board of Education to mosquito-control districts -- expire.

Scott has charged the “Good Government Transition Team” with three tasks: Finding ways to reduce the government, discovering more effective operations procedures and providing better service, according to a statement from his office.

“I’m excited to have such a distinguished and experienced team working with me to make good government a top priority in my administration,” Scott said in the statement.

The team has a “very tight timetable” because it must present its recommendations by Dec. 22, Knopik said.

Neal said he had labored throughout the weekend to produce a report in an effort to help the team get off to a quick start. “The administration has broken the executive branch down into several areas, and one the Good Government Transition Team is going to look at is more general efficiency in government,” Galvano said Monday.

The team also will explore overcoming obstacles to creating jobs, he said.

-- Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.