Gov. Rick Scott named John Tupps as his new comms director Thursday, putting Tupps back into the office where his political career with the Republican governor sprouted.
On July 5, Tupps will take over for Jackie Schutz Setzman, another Scott loyalist who will assume the position of chief of staff after Kim McDougal leaves on July 1.
Thursday’s announcement sends Tupps back to his home roots in the governor’s office, where he served after Scott took over in 2011. Tupps previously held positions as Scott’s deputy press secretary, press secretary and then deputy director of communications.
The promotion might be viewed by some as the reversal of jumping from the frying pan to the fire.
Tupps is now the vice president of government relations for the embattled VISIT FLORIDA agency, under fire by House Speaker Richard Corcoran for spending decisions.
Lawmakers budgeted $25 million for the public-private agency for the next fiscal year, far short of Scott’s request for $100 million. Lawmakers also issued a new set of Visit Florida operational guidelines about travel and marketing contracts.
The tourism agency received $78 million for the current year, but has been under blasted by Corcoran and others over its $11.6 million sponsorship of a cooking show hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, a $1 million contract with rapper Pitbull, and ongoing sponsorship deals with London-based Fulham Football Club and an IMSA racing team.
Given Tupps’s long history with the Scott administration, the governor’s decision to promote the spokesman for an agency in House leadership’s crosshairs may have nothing to do with the governor’s fight with Corcoran. But some may interpret the move as an effort by Scott to reward those who stick up for his priorities.
“John has demonstrated an incredible commitment to supporting our mission of making Florida the top destination for businesses, families and visitors. He has been a part of my administration since my first year in office and over the past six years, he has worked tirelessly to serve our state. I know John will use this experience and dedication each day to lead my communications efforts as we continue to fight for Florida jobs,” Scott said in a statement.