Gov. Jeb Bush was universally acclaimed for his steadfast leadership during the torrent of hurricanes that ravaged Florida during his terms in office. And, indeed, he deserves everyone’s praise, because he did a remarkable job preparing Florida for hurricanes. But then he really shone by getting into the details of helping communities recover post-hurricane.
Interestingly, Jeb wasn’t a professional politician but a businessman.
That’s why it’s so disturbing to notice that when Florida got hit again with a hurricane, the first in 11 years, that another Republican businessman -- Gov. Rick Scott -- again showed that business experience is vital.
Every governor goes to the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Southwood when a hurricane approaches because it is the place to be in order to gather the facts and then be able to coordinate all facets of assistance that government and the private sector can provide.
But the mettle of any person isn’t measured in what they do before a natural disaster, it’s what they do after that actually counts.
In that regard, Gov. Scott is clearly the second coming of Gov. Bush when it comes to rallying the state government infrastructure to provide assistance and then marshalling the resources to make something happen.
But the mainstream media, which has never liked the governor, haven’t said a thing about how well he performed in an emergency.
Now, I don’t expect the Florida press to do so, because it’s against their nature. They’ve never warmed up to any Republican governor.
In talking with people who were inside the emergency center, however, it’s clear the governor did his job, and more.
Ordering the Florida Department of Transportation to provide assistance in removing fallen trees was critical to helping the electrical crews get their trucks close enough to work on the power lines.
Unless that happened -- and quickly -- the potential of getting power back to the state capital would be unnecessarily delayed, even more than it already was.
No one can argue with the fact that we Tallahasseans treasure our tree canopies and that we have a beautiful “Old South” landscape, with massive live oaks and hanging moss everywhere.
So, when a hurricane comes through the state capital for the first since 1985, as Hurricane Hermine did, our beautiful trees are going to be an easy target for the high winds and soaking rains that make their tree limbs heavier with the wet moss.
The city has what appears to be an extensive tree limb cutting program on all major thoroughfares so that these limbs don’t fall on power lines and knock out the electrical grid.
In driving around after the storm, it was evident that the tree limb removal program while successful didn’t go into the individual neighborhood streets where most trees fell.
Much of the damage was done by individual, stand-alone pine trees that are very susceptible to falling and these were huge trees that would very expensive to remove. In fact, so expensive that it wouldn’t be possible for any city to predict which trees would fall which way to cut off the electricity. As a result, you’re forced to wait and see which trees are the dangerous ones.
That’s where the governor’s action, and his common sense, came in handy.
There were so many trees down on what seemed like every neighborhood street that it would be impossible for utility trucks to get close enough to the power lines to begin their work.
While the city apparently had agreements with other municipal utilities for mutual aid, all of this would be for naught if they couldn't get their bucket trucks close enough to the poles.
That’s when Gov. Scott realized the FDOT crews could be of immense help if they just could cut up the trees and move them so the utility trucks could begin their tasks.
It was a brilliant move because it saved time.
He went one step further.
He released a three-color chart that was simple and easy to understand, and it provided accurate and timely information which all of us desperately needed. (See chart below).
The chart clearly showed what neighborhood streets had already had their trees cut up, which streets they were working on -- and smartly projecting the completion time frame, and what streets they would go to next.
This key information gave us what we needed to know: that progress was being made, that there was some semblance of priority and it would be accomplished.
Leadership. Timely information.
A couple of days later, Gov. Scott asked all of his agency heads and senior managers to show up ready to work to help clean up Tallahassee.
They cut limbs, collected debris and showed that the state can indeed play an important role in post-recovery efforts.
Maybe there was a silver lining to the Hermine storm clouds that hit the city where state government is headquartered, because it gave the governor a chance to show his respect for capital citizens and demonstrate how state resources can be leveraged to help local government.
Now that Matthew is churning in the Caribbean and Floridians are getting ready in case it hits our state, rest assured our governor is prepared to lead the state again when a disaster strikes.
No one else is saying it, Governor, but we appreciate your out-of-the-box thinking and the results that helped us get back electricity faster than we would have otherwise.
Barney Bishop III, one of the most familiar faces within the state business community, is CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting LLC in Tallahassee.