Gov. Rick Scott's office quiet as report names top educator as LG candidate

Gov. Rick Scott’s office remains tight-lipped about the search for a new lieutenant governor as a published report says a leading candidate for the vacancy is one of his favorite educators: the superintendent of the Orange County Schools.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Scott is considering Barbara Jenkins, 52, for the position.

Jenkins could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday. The Sentinel quoted Orange County School Board chairman Bill Sublette as saying Jenkins was interested in the position, and that school board members had discussed the possibility of Jenkins leaving.

Scott, who has made public education the cornerstone of his agenda as he seeks a second term, is an admirer of Jenkins.

She attended one of Scott’s “leaders’ dinners” at the Governor’s Mansion, participated in a roundtable discussion with other superintendents and attended Scott’s annual State of the State address on March 5 at the Capitol, where he praised her.

“Barbara,” Scott said, according to the text of his speech, “would you please stand so we can honor your commitment to the teachers in your district and your dedication to student achievement.”

Jenkins would be an inspired choice: She’s a career educator and an African-American who oversees the nation’s 11th-largest public school system. A native of Winter Park with bachelor’s and graduate degrees from the University of Central Florida, she also could help Scott in the I-4 corridor in Central Florida that is considered crucial in statewide elections.

Jenkins also is a registered Democrat.

Scott, a Republican, has alienated some members of his party’s base by embracing an expansion of Medicaid.

Jenkins also would take a steep pay cut if she were to join Scott’s team: her salary as superintendent is $230,000, about twice the salary of lieutenant governor, which earns $120,000.

Scott’s communications director, Melissa Sellers, had no comment on the Jenkins report.

The governor’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, has said that the search for a new lieutenant governor would not take place until Scott completes action on bills that passed in the 2013 legislative session.

“We’re going to make the right decision at the right time,” Hollingsworth said.

Scott was in Illinois Wednesday attending the funeral of a childhood friend’s father and is due in Tallahassee later Wednesday because an execution is scheduled at Florida State Prison.

The office of lieutenant governor has been vacant since March 12, when Jennifer Carroll resigned after she was questioned by law enforcement agents as part of a broader investigation of a Jacksonville-area veterans’ group that authorities said was a front for a large gambling ring of Internet cafes.

Other names that have circulated as potential replacements include Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa; and Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota.