Ann moved where her husband moved. They lived in a Kansas City, Mo., basement apartment. He worked on his bachelor’s degree and ran a donut shop. She went with him to Dallas. He got a law degree from Southern Methodist University. She got a bachelor’s degree in business administration from SMU in 1980 and worked as a corporate tax accountant. She quit her job when her daughters, Allison and Jordan, were born.
As Rick worked at a large law firm, he used his life’s savings in 1987 to start building a hospital company. Columbia Hospital Corp. grew from just two Texas hospitals into the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain. Ann got used to the hosting duties that came with being a CEO’s wife.
She was coming out of her “shy box,” Wiest said.
In 1992, on their 20th wedding anniversary, Rick bought Ann a new wedding ring.
She went with her husband from Texas to Louisville to Nashville. Her daughters asked where home was. She told them, “Home is where we are.”
Columbia merged with Hospital Corporation of America in 1994, but the success of the company wouldn’t last. Rick was forced out in 1997 amid a federal probe into the company’s Medicare billing practices, and Columbia/HCA paid a record $1.7 billion penalty. Ann watched him come under intense criticism during those years, and not for the last time.
From there she went with him to Connecticut, and then, in 2003, to an $11.5 million oceanfront home in Naples. She set up a small interior-decorating business after getting her own new home just right.
In Naples, her husband could not sit still. The president was proposing an overhaul of the country’s healthcare system that the Republican businessman despised.
The trek to Tallahassee
Rick first started a political committee, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, to attack the reforms. Then he got to thinking he could do more if he became governor of the country’s biggest battleground state.
“We talked about how it would be hard,” he said. “You look at what happens in politics. If you have any success, you get attacked by the media.”
Ann told him OK — she always did — with one condition: Don’t make her give speeches.
“That lasted about 30 days,” he said. “Then everybody wanted her to come talk about who I was.”
Ann was reluctant to be seen, but was with her husband at every step, even sitting for a TV ad about the “beautiful promises” he made for their future together on a page in her yearbook. Sounding sentimental but rehearsed, she looked at the camera straight-on and said that through all their years of marriage, “I’ve never seen Rick Scott give up.”
She traveled around the state with Rick and his mother, Esther, who was adored by crowds for calling Rick “a good boy” in commercials.
Victory brought a new focus on the family. On the day before Rick’s inauguration, a crowd of about 200 packed a Tallahassee museum to hear friends and family members pay tribute to Florida’s next first lady.
People get accolades when they build companies or run for office, the governor-elect said. “But your wife never does.” She never complained through all the things he put her through, he said. He planted a kiss on her.