ORLANDO — When Gov. Rick Scott moved into the Governor's Mansion, he left one of the wealthiest parts of the state. His new neighbors are middle-class, ethnically diverse and overall more like the people he represents.
That's not to say that the governor's new Tallahassee digs are shabby. The 15,000-square-foot, 30-room Governor's Mansion has a swimming pool, cabana, exercise room, tennis courts and a greenhouse. The Greek Revival mansion was designed in the mid-1950s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
But it's hard to compete on the opulence scale when looking at his old Naples neighborhood. There Scott owns a 1.3-acre residence, purchased in 2003 for $11.5 million. His 3,400-square-foot mansion abuts the Gulf of Mexico and has a swimming pool with a view. To the north is a red-tiled mansion valued at $29 million. To the south is an 8,200-square foot mansion that is for sale for $21.9 million. Other multimillion-dollar mansions stretch up and down his street, Gordon Drive.
The neighborhood is third-wealthiest in Florida out of 3,155 tracts analyzed by the Census. Tracts are subdivisions within a county, with between 2,500 to 8,000 people. The new neighborhood in Tallahassee is listed as the 1,873rd richest, according to Census data released earlier this month.
Neighbors of the Governor's Mansion are pedestrian by comparison. They include a tire store, a computer technician business, a property management business, a gun-and-jewelry store and an Episcopal church. The Governor's Mansion borders on a historically black neighborhood known as Frenchtown and is just a few blocks away from Tallahassee's main north-south artery.
His Naples neighborhood is almost 98 percent white. The 1,730 residents in the Census tract include a single black resident, 21 Asians and 33 Hispanics. The Tallahassee neighborhood is 73 percent white, 20 percent black, almost 6 percent Hispanic and 2.5 percent Asian. Those figures are more in line with the statewide population.
The Tallahassee neighbors are substantially less wealthy. The per capita income for the 2,004 Naples neighbors is about $154,000 — only tracts in Palm Beach County and one in the Florida Keys are wealthier in Florida. The per-capita income is around $22,000 for the Tallahassee neighbors, and statewide it is $26,503. Only a half-percent of residents in the Naples neighborhood had an income in the previous year that was below the poverty line. That was true for about 24 percent of the residents in the Tallahassee neighborhood, about double the statewide rate.
The Naples neighbors are about twice as old as the Tallahassee residents, and much more likely to own their homes. The median age for the neighbors around the Governor's Mansion is 31 while it is 62 for the Naples neighbors. More than 70 percent of the Tallahassee neighbors rent. Almost all of the occupied homes in the Naples neighborhood have owners dwelling in them, although two-thirds of them are used as vacation homes.
Scott returns to his Naples home once or twice a month.
"Of course he loves his home in Naples. He enjoys walking around the city, and in the neighborhoods there," Scott's press secretary, Lane Wright, said in an email. "But Governor Scott has already grown to love Tallahassee, too. He loves the friendly people in Tallahassee, going on walks here, visiting state parks that are so close by and going to churches and restaurants in the area."
University of Central Florida historian Edmund Kallina said the public is aware that Scott is a self-made millionaire who built a chain of hundreds of hospitals. But the wealth of his Naples neighborhood may undermine his campaign for average Floridian.
"He is a maverick and tries to have this populist touch but … where he lives raises certain questions about that," Kallina said.
Wright took issue with that conclusion, saying Scott grew up poor and was living the American dream.
"Just because a man lives in a wealthy neighborhood, that doesn't mean he can't see how high taxes and too many regulations are killing jobs in this state and raising the cost of living for the average Floridian," Wright said. "And being wealthy doesn't blind you from seeing the challenges we face in educating our children."