By Jim Turner
News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE | Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday named communications director Jackie Schutz Zeckman, who has worked with him since his first year in office, as his next chief of staff.
The appointment came a day after Kim McDougal announced she would exit the $170,000-a-year chief of staff job July 1, a little more than a year after being tapped as the governor’s top-ranking aide.
Describing Schutz Zeckman as a “trusted adviser,” Scott praised her for “conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses.”
She will be Scott’s sixth chief of staff.
Scott’s announcement was made a short time after he told reporters attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony at an Anheuser-Busch facility in Jacksonville that the chief of staff appointment would be made “soon.”
Schutz Zeckman, who earns $135,000 a year in her current role as Scott’s communications director, attended the Tuesday morning event.
The change in jobs for Schutz Zeckman follows a legislative session in which state lawmakers rejected the governor’s requests to boost spending on tourism-marketing and to provide money for business-recruitment incentives and Lake Okeechobee dike repairs.
Throughout the tumultuous session, Schutz has been a loyal spokeswoman for Scott.
As House leaders moved to impose budget cuts and new rules for the management of the state’s tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida in February, Schutz Zeckman defended Scott’s call to increase the agency’s funding as a way to protect jobs.
“Unfortunately, some politicians in the Florida House think fighting for jobs is simply hysteria and don’t understand that jobs are not expendable to families who have to put food on the table,” she said at the time.
A month later, Chris Hart abruptly left his post leading Enterprise Florida, claiming differences of opinion with Scott on the future of the public-private agency.
Schutz Zeckman retorted, “It is odd that Chris Hart never shared any differences of opinion or vision with the governor until we first read that he had them in his resignation letter.”
McDougal had replaced Melissa Stone, who now works for Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” political committee. Stone was also recently named executive director of New Republican, a “super PAC” Scott is chairing.
Stone and Schutz Zeckman temporarily left the governor’s communications office in 2014 to work on his re-election campaign.
Schutz Zeckman initially joined Scott’s office in September 2011 as a deputy press secretary and later served as press secretary under Stone.
Schutz Zeckman was named Scott’s chief spokesperson in December 2014, a month after he was re-elected.
A St. Pete Beach native, Schutz Zeckman graduated in 2008 with majors in political science and religion from Florida State University. She also studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Schutz Zeckman interned in the press office of former Gov. Jeb Bush, in former President George W. Bush’s scheduling office and for the Bush/Cheney presidential campaign in 2004.