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Chief of staff shake-up in Governor’s office suggests Rick Scott Senate run imminent

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office saw a changing of the chief of staff position Monday, presaging what Scott says is a “big announcement” on Facebook Live on April 9.

Brad Piepenbrink takes over as Chief of Staff. Jackie Schutz Zeckman “resigned yesterday and will be pursuing other opportunities,” according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Schutz Zeckman is widely expected to jump to Scott’s political operation as he gears up for a U.S. Senate run against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, in office since 2001.

Piepenbrink “most recently served as deputy chief of staff … where he oversaw policy development over the environment, health care, transportation, law enforcement and emergency management and was also the director of the Office of External Affairs,” the news release said.

“Brad has done an incredible job in the many important positions he has held throughout my administration,” Scott said in a statement. “He effectively ran … thousands of events across the state and has led the development of significant policy initiatives throughout my time in office.

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“Brad also oversaw the appointments process of individuals to more than 600 boards and commissions,” Scott said. “He was also a key component of my successful re-election efforts and has been critical to carrying out my agenda to make Florida the best state for families and job creators.”

Schutz Zeckman “has been on my team since my first year in office and has been a trusted and loyal adviser,” Scott added, mentioning her work on communications, legislative strategy, and as a traveling press secretary.

“She has been dedicated to implementing my agenda throughout my time as Governor, and I know she will continue to do great things for our state.”

Reaction to the move was laudatory and critical, in turn.

Christian Ziegler, a GOP state committeeman and candidate for Sarasota County Commission, tweeted that Scott “is going to make the best U.S. Senator. Self-made businessman (need more of those in DC) and has run the best state in the union. Looking forward to working to get him elected.”

Joshua Karp, spokesman for American Bridge, issued a statement: “For seven years, Rick Scott has played politics like the wealthy insider he is — an untrustworthy politician who only cares about his own ambition and making money for himself and his wealthy cronies.”

American Bridge is a progressive Super PAC founded by David Brock in 2010.

“During Rick Scott’s time in office, his net worth has gone up by millions while a majority of Florida counties have failed to recover from the recession,” said Karp, a former spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party. “In November, Floridians will reject his failed record.”

CFO Jimmy Patronis, a friend and political ally of Scott’s, tweeted that Scott “couldn’t have picked a finer leader for COS! Brad Piepenbrink is an outstanding, loyal friend to our state.”

Piepenbrink now is Scott’s seventh chief of staff since he took office in 2011, following, in orderMike Prendergast, Steve MacNamaraAdam HollingsworthMelissa Sellers (now Stone), Kim McDougal, and Schutz Zeckman.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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