TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Rick Scott donned plastic gloves and packed glazed, sprinkled and chocolate doughnuts into bags early Wednesday morning during his first of many planned "workdays," in which he will spend time doing jobs with regular Floridians.
"We have to highlight the importance of every business, large and small, in this state," Scott said.
Scott said he's taking a page from the playbook of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham — a Democrat — who performed hundreds of "workdays" during his eight years as governor and 18 as a U.S. senator. Scott has renamed the plan to coincide with his campaign slogan and own personal mantra: "Let's Get to Work" days.
Scott's office said the governor plans to perform the workdays on a monthly basis. Future workdays include spending time with a journalist, at a grocery store and at a hospital.
Wednesday's visit to Nicola's Donuts and Bakery held special significance to Scott: as a young man, he bought a doughnut shop for $7,500.
Scott talked of those days while at the Tampa shop. He spent half of his time behind the cafÉ's counter, and the other half posing for photos, signing autographs and speaking with customers.
Stephen Barsoum, 40, of Lutz, brought his two children ages 10 and 11, to see the governor, who has struggled to gain favor with voters since he was elected in November. Polls show voters disapprove of the Republican's job performance by more than a two-to-one margin.
"I think he's misunderstood in his policies," said Barsoum, who counts himself as a fan of Scott's. "I think this is awesome. It show's he's human and that he's not one of those Washington guys."
But Scott's morning also included a handful of protesters who entered the doughnut shop and took issue with his politics. About a dozen people stood in the parking lot, wearing shirts that said "Pink Slip Rick" and yelling "We want jobs, not doughnuts."
"Thank you for what you're doing for public education. You should be ashamed," Diane Fojaco, a 62-year-old retired teacher from Tampa, told Scott as he stood behind the doughnut counter.
Fojaco said she blamed Scott for cutting funding to certain programs and for teacher layoffs. Her daughter, who is a teacher, had to use her own money to buy school supplies for her classroom this year.
"Scott's going to bring down public education," she said.Comment on this story
After working at the doughnut shop for about four hours Wednesday — he also worked a few hours Tuesday night, making the pastries — Scott held a press conference. He said he welcomes criticism from Floridians, especially those who are angry about the state's unemployment rate.
"I think about jobs every day. We're going to be the state that wins. Because we are doing the right things," he said, adding that he's generated 85,500 jobs since taking office. "We're doing the things that make businesses want to expand."
Later in the day, Scott was scheduled to visit the Department of Veterans' Affairs.