By Pat Sabiston; Photos by Katie DeSantis
You would think when the First Lady of Florida walks into a room, she would command attention. But Ann Scott, wife of Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, gives attention to each and every person she meets, with a firm handshake, magnetic smile, and animated eyes. At a recent event hosted by Panama City Living Magazine and local business woman Cindy Schwartz, Ann Scott talked about her family, her firm belief in strong values, community involvement and the power of a good education, which she credits her parents for instilling in her.
“I was born in Mobile, Alabama but spent much of my life in Dallas, Texas. My father valued hard work and always told me that anything worth doing is worth doing well. That’s probably where I got my perfectionist tendencies,” she admits with a laugh. “My mother was always there for us, teaching us to live by the Golden Rule, through treating others the way we’d like to be treated. She always made sure we went to Sunday school and church, which was very important to her, as it is to me. I learned a lot from my mother and she was my role model. Like her, I was a soccer mom, room mother, PTA helper and I volunteered in all the activities our daughters, Allison and Jordan, participated in.”
When it came to an education, Mrs. Scott’s parents told her that if she wanted to go to college, she would have to pay for it herself, so she took a year off to save for that sought-after education.
“Rick and I were accepted at the same college, but became engaged to be married, so I went to secretarial school in order to support him . About five years later, I was able to focus on my degree, since I continued to support him during his law school years .”
Ann and Rick Scott were high school sweethearts. With animation, Ann Scott describes the first time they met. “I spotted him across the library and thought he was cute. I was sitting with his best friend and learned that Rick had been checking me out, too. The friend asked, ‘If he asks you out, will you go?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ but then it took Rick all week to
call me,” she remembers with exasperation. “Normally, if a young man had called me on a Thursday night, I would have ‘been busy,’ but with Rick, I made an exception. He was sweet, kind, considerate, fun, and had a good sense of humor. He told terribly corny jokes, but he was a great conversationalist, which was a good thing since we both were on the shy side.”
When his schooling was over, Rick Scott joined the Navy, which continued a tradition Mrs. Scott was very familiar with. “My father was in the Pacific in WWII, my brother was in the military for thirty-five and a half years, my grandfather was in WWI and, currently, my brother’s grandson will go into the Marines.” The dedication to the military is engrained in the First Family’s own history which explains their affinity for all sacrifices military families have to endure and their high regard for discipline.
As First Lady, Mrs. Scott’s day is just as disciplined . She shares details about her day with our readers. “I get up at 5:30 every morning and work out with a trainer for an hour. Then I take time to do cardio and try to burn at least 400 calories with that routine. Once I get dressed, I spend time answering texts and phone calls and usually get to my office by 10 a.m.”
As vegans, the Scotts have found that they feel much better without meat in their diet but do occasionally enjoy fish. “We started this program two years ago and I can honestly say we are much healthier.”
Another of Mrs. Scott’s passions is interior design and she has done a lot of work to improve the “People’s House,” the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee. “When we got to the mansion, it was important to me to preserve the legacy and history. One of the most interesting pieces in the mansion is a very large painting by Christopher Still. It hangs in the entrance hall. The painting is documenting Florida’s last 500 years. It portrays Ponce de Leon, a Seminole tribeswoman, and items that represent Florida—shells from all four corners of the state, sponges from Tarpon Springs, Apalachicola oysters, citrus fruit, The Yearling and key lime pie are included as well as olive oil jars and antique pottery, plus artifacts from Spanish shipwrecks and treasures depicted from Mel Fisher’s exploration. It’s really an extraordinary piece of work that you’d need to see to appreciate.”
When asked what she believed was the biggest challenge for the First Lady of the fourth most populous state in the nation, she jokingly admits, “Getting over the fear of public speaking.”
Another of Mrs. Scott’s passions is the promotion of literacy. “I didn’t grow up with a lot of books, but we certainly took advantage of the local library. I’d challenge myself each summer to see just how many books I could finish. I’d even time my reading and look up new words that I wasn’t used to seeing. I was trying more than anything to impress my brothers and sister (Jim, John and Jan), not realizing that I was learning.”
She continues “Reading and literacy really must start early. We must make certain our children can be ready by the time they start school, which is why I’ve always conducted our Summer Literacy Adventure, which really encourages children to read over their summer vacation. They make a pledge to read, and then they can read more if they so choose. They are encouraged to set their own goals and are so very proud of their accomplishments. I visit the schools that end the summer with the greatest number of books read and deliver prizes for the readers . We give the children small things like park passes, but the schools receive 100 books each.” The Summer Literacy Adventure is a joint venture with the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Education, and the Florida Lottery.
Mrs. Scott also introduced her pet project—the Love. Read. Learn!™ Baby Journal, which is distributed through hospitals. “We started working on this the first year Rick was in office. We wanted a baby book that would encompass reading and literacy, which would also incorporate a healthy lifestyle. Parents can record their baby’s milestones: vital statistics, foot and hand prints, and first sounds. There are suggested recipes for all age groups, infants to five years . Parents can record their child’s favorite activities and bedtime stories. There is a list of book suggestions for parents and there is also room for personal records like immunization notes, tips on parenting, important phone numbers, and sites to learn about nutrition, as well as a growth chart to see where the child would fall within the national percentiles.”
When reading to her beloved grandchildren, Mrs. Scott favors The Berenstain Bears, Corduroy, and Thomas the Train.
It was her work with the Christian humanitarian aid, development and advocacy organization World Vision that brought the entire Scott family a feeling of fulfillment. “World Vision had asked if we would sponsor a healthcare project in Kenya. We did that for four years and sponsored eight children. We made the trip to the Bunyala region of Kenya because we wanted our girls to see it. The trip really had such an impact on them, they even wrote their college essays on the experience. The experience resonated with our daughters because the children, and most of the women, had no clothes. I gave the women my outfits. They were so very gracious to us and were sacrificing so much, since many of their men had been killed in battle, and yet they wanted to host us. It would have been an insult to have rejected their generosity. When we returned home, our girls really appreciated, even more, all they had, and ever since then they have always wanted to do more for others.”
When asked about her future once she and the Governor believe it’s time to retire, her bucket list is quite simple: “We traveled quite a bit, especially when our girls were young, so now we simply want to take time to focus on our family and friends .”
Spending time together is what life is all about for this devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, but the Forgotten Coast is where she’d like to spend more time in the future.
“When I was young, my family had relatives on the Emerald Coast, so I was used to coming here. There’s just something really special about this part of Florida. Something draws me to the Gulf and provides me with a nice respite from daily political life. I like to come here and sit on the beach with my girlfriends. I like to stop in at Avenue Sea on Harrison Avenue since I love interior design. I love long walks on the beach, or just sitting, relaxing, and listening to the waves. Oh, and I am also a huge people watcher . It’s so much fun to walk, ride a bike, then get cleaned up and hit all the neat shops and just walk around. This is my ideal getaway, because it’s not as crowded as other areas of Florida and the people are so nice! It just feels like home.”
As we said goodbye to Mrs. Scott and reflected on her visit with us, it became apparent that she has a full understanding of what constitutes dedicated-servant leadership—where it’s about the mission and not one’s own importance, which matters. After time spent with Mrs. Ann Scott, you realize she’s authentic and passionate about every mission she undertakes on behalf of the state of Florida.
Teatime with Florida’s First Lady
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