By Marty Clear
At first, the passengers filing off of the United Airlines plane and into Tampa International Airport thought the announcement was a recording, or maybe even a joke.
"Welcome to Tampa," said the voice coming through the speakers. "This is Gov. Rick Scott."
But then they caught sight of the man who had just greeted them. Standing at the gate was indeed Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
On Friday, April 13, the governor conducted his eighth "Letís Get to Work Day" at Tampa airport.
Coincidentally, it occurred the same day that President Barack Obama landed at TPA in Air Force One for an event at Tampaís port to talk about Latin American trade.
The Republican governor took time out of his day to greet the president at the tarmac.
But he spent most of that Friday working alongside employees in the Tampa airport communications center, at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter and as a skycap for United Airlines.
"It was a great day," said Jonna McGrath the Tampa station manager for United.
Although the governor took time to pose for photos with employees and passengers, he did get to work. For United, he helped two wheelchair passengers disembark from planes and collect their bags.
Adriana Momoc, 79, was understandably surprised when the governor started wheeling her through the airside.
"I came here to push the most important person on the plane," he told here.
Momoc assured the governor her son had voted for him.
Those who worked with the governor described him as "warm," "cordial" or "down-to-earth."
Sandy McJuary worked with Gov. Scott for a portion of the two hours he spent at the Southwest ticket counter, where he checked passenger identifications and slung luggage onto the baggage belt.
"I thought he was probably going to be standing around and chit chatting, but he actually worked," McJuary said. "I was quite impressed. He was very personable. People were excited to see him here."
Danielle Ross spent part of the morning with the governor in the airportís communication center. The governor made a couple of passenger announcements and answered some phone calls in his hour or so he was there. It was kind of like having a first-day trainee in the center, Ross said.
"He was very personable," she said. "He was friendly, not as business-like as youíd expect someone in such a position of power to be like."
The governor also had lunch with three airport employees.
"He wanted to do what the employees do, so we ate in the employee cafeteria," said Barbara Barton, an office assistant in the records department.
The governor went through the buffet line and purchased a plate of salmon and vegetables.
John Nicholson, a project manager in planning and development, also dined with the governor. Nicholsonís son, Michael, is a U.S. Marine who lost one arm and both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan.
Nicholson and the governor talked about Scottís fundraising for the Wounded Warrior program.
"I thanked him for doing that," Nicholson said. "We didnít talk politics. Heís just a very down-to-earth personable guy."
Barton serves in the National Guard Reserves, and she mentioned that to the governor.
"Then Iím your commander-in-chief," Gov. Scott said.
"He was very nice," Barton said. "He did most of the talking. I felt very at ease with him. He was just plain, down-to-earth kind of man. I guarantee you thatís how he was."
Gov. Scott also met with airport CEO Joe Lopano to discuss the airportís role in economic development, as well as the possibility of new international flights to Panama, Colombia, Brazil and Germany.
"Working at the airport today helped me identify ways our tourism industry can grow," Gov. Scott said. "Tampa International Airport and all of Floridaís tourism industry partners help make our state the top travel destination in the world."