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Rick Scott goes blue collar to clean up Tallahassee

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Gov. Rick Scott hit the streets of Tallahassee Wednesday, picking up piles of fallen tree limbs and other debris and tossing them into the beds of Florida Department of Transportation trucks for disposal.

Wearing jeans, work gloves, and a Navy bill cap, his shirt sleeves rolled up, Scott got to work on the city’s southside, on a street lined with neat bungalows and big piles of detritus from Hurricane Hermine.

“This is going to be a good day for the city,” he told volunteers who gathered Wednesday morning in a parking lot outside the state DOT headquarters to accompany the governor during his workday.

Later Scott planned to move to additional neighborhoods for cleanup duty.

The Republican governor has been fretting publicly about the hardships that followed Hermine.

Tallahassee is proud of its tree-lined streets, but in a windstorm those trees pose a direct threat to the city’s power grid. City officials, including Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, have been taking heat from critics, including Scott, for what seems to many an over-long pace of repairs.

As of late morning, 7,260 customers were without power, according to city utility records.

But Scott did not embrace the idea of burying power lines underground in areas at high risk of hurricane damage when asked about it by a reporter.

“We can always look at what we can do better,” he said. “We also live within our means. One of the reasons we’ve added 1,160,000 jobs since I got elected is because we cut taxes 55 times.”

He added: “I think about my Mom. If she’d been out of a job for six days, she’d have had a tough time. If her utilities went up $20 or $30 or $40 per month, that’s be pretty hard, too.”

Once at work, Scott and his crew made quick work of filling up first a pickup and then a succession of huge, orange DOT trucks with tree limbs and branches. At one point, the governor took a rake to fallen pine needles.

The neighborhood appeared appreciative.

“That’s nice,” said Tim Green. “We needed that help. It was a disaster out here.” His power was restored Tuesday, he said.

“All the debris that they’re picking up on both sides of the road came out of my yard,” said Angie Woodberry-Footman, a state worker. “That was a lot of cleanup.”

Now that things were getting back to normal, she praised Gillum: “He’s new, and you have to give him a chance to accommodate everybody. I think he’s doing a good job.”

She also praised Scott: “I’m grateful for everything that everybody’s doing — all the help that’s coming out,” she said.

“I have life. I thank God for life. It could have been a lot worse,” she said. “Like in Louisiana, where people lost everything in the recent floods. At least I still have a roof over my head.”

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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