Bathrooms, Tax Cuts And Tractor Trailers: Jeb Bush Releases Emails From Time As Governor

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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“The governor’s bathroom door is the smallest in Florida,” Jeb Bush, a month into his first term as governor, fired off in a February 1999 email to a reporter. “It requires a sideways twist to make it in.”

“The water pressure up here is great,” Bush told Brian Crowley of The Palm Beach Post. “Great showers!”

On Tuesday — 16 years after he sent those emails — Bush released the first chapter of a forthcoming E-book, told through selected emails with staff, reporters and constituents at the time. It comes as Bush is gearing up for a Republican run for president in 2016.

“This year I am releasing an ebook that uses my emails with Floridians as a guide to my eight years as governor,” Bush explained Tuesday. “Here’s a sneak peek at Chapter 1.”

The 45-page chapter, from January 1999, is called “Please Make Happen.”

“So you’ve been in office a month,” Crowley wrote Bush, with a bunch of questions. “What’s it been like? What’s the biggest surprise? How is being governor different than being a corporate titan? Is the door to the bathroom in the governor’s office the smallest one you’ve ever seen? What’s been the most fun? The worst moment? What’s the quirkiest thing about the governor’s mansion? What’s been your toughest decision?”

Many of these emails had already been obtained by Democrats, including the liberal opposition research outfit American Bridge, through a public records request and posted online. But Bush is using the emails to portray himself as an approachable, email-obsessed chief executive.

“Everyone could email me,” Bush said of his time as governor in his e-Book. “So they did. Millions of emails came in through our website, but it was when I made my personal email — jeb@jeb.org — public that I earned the nickname ‘The eGovernor.’”

“And as much as I could, I emailed back,” Bush wrote. “My staff estimated I spent 30 hours a week answering emails, either from my laptop or Blackberry, often while on the road. Otherwise, I answered emails very early in the morning, late at night, or on Saturday. I tried (but didn’t always succeed) to reserve Sundays for my family.”

The first chapter of the e-Book begins in January 1999, when Bush first took office as governor.

“My emails will give you a sense of what those early days were like for a new governor, determined to fulfill campaign promises but trying to balance many new and unexpected challenges while also being accessible to Floridians,” he said. “At all hours!”

On Jan. 20, a woman named Carol Markett emailed Bush at 9:06 a.m. “Who do I write about the problems the tractor trailers are causing now that they are not allowed in the left lane of I-75?”

She added: “By the way, are you really Jeb or a staff member? Just curious.”

By the next morning at 6:47, Bush replied: “I am jeb. You can write Secretary Barry at the DOT in Tallahassee. Jeb Bush.”

Other emails released by Bush include his interactions with staff. At one point, he was preoccupied with updating the governor’s official website.

“We need to get the web page upgraded as a high priority,” he wrote to aide Cory Tilley. “Use your creativity on how we get this done. Some suggestions….we have raised the bar and each day of doing nothing, we are not reaching it. If the campaign had the best web page in the country, why shouldn’t the Governor’s office?”

Bush later followed up with an email to Tilley and aide Sally Bradshaw about the issue. “We need a major upgrade,” he said. “When will I see the plan to upgrade our web page and how long will it take. How will it be interactive with the rest of Florida. I believe it should be the leader in the nation. If you disagree come and tell me why. If you agree, help me make it so. Jeb.”

That same month, a woman named Lois Horowitz emailed Bush about his plan for tax cuts, saying: “I am not interested in receiving $100.00 back” from the state of Florida when the funds could be used for education, which she said “sorely needs it to build new schools and attract better teachers.”

Bush replied: “Lois, thanks for your email. Our budget calls for a significant increase in education funding. And, our tax relief proposal will help small businesses and working families and seniors on fixed incomes. We can do both and we should do both. Sincerely, Jeb Bush.”

In his emails to Crowley of The Palm Beach Post during his first month in office, Bush described what had been a tough part of his job: “The toughest decision has been in the appointments process. Friends who were expecting jobs have not gotten what they want and while I will always do what I think is right, it’s not fun to disappoint.”

Bush then told Crowley to keep the emails coming: “There is much more but I need to move on. Keep prompting me.”

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Alex Pappas