Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018 to Pensacola Friday morning. It was one of the final stops on his 10-day, 22-city bus tour.
Unlike most of the previous appearances around Florida, such as his announcement in his hometown of Bartow, there was no cheering crowd to greet the 42-year-old Putnam in downtown Pensacola. Instead, it was a roundtable discussion with small business leaders at the Dog House Deli.
“[The discussion] ranged from human resource management; to health care to the law to insurance agencies,” said Putnam. “It was a good cross-section of a community’s economy.”
And the common themes, says Putnam, lie squarely in the areas of an educational system that needs to produce more graduates who are prepared to enter the workforce with the necessary skill sets.
“The ‘soft skills’ like showing up on time [and] being professional; and the ‘hard skills’ – automotive repair [and] office management,” said Putnam. “If we’re going to rebuild the middle class in Florida, we need to produce a workforce that’s graduating with employable skills for any number of industry sectors.”
Putnam wants to emphasize more cooperation between K-12 and Florida’s community colleges. But in the just-completed legislative session, lawmakers approved cuts in the education budget In Escambia County, it comes to $27 per student, translating to about $1.2 million dollars.
Putnam calls that a “squandered opportunity.”
“We have a $3 billion budget surplus in Florida; we are not in a recession,” said Putnam. “Why you would cut education per-pupil funding in this economic climate makes no sense at all.”
During Putnam’s 10 days on the road, residents and voters in both major cities and small towns across Florida are hearing him explain who he is and what he represents. On the flip side, Putnam’s getting plenty of feedback as well.
“Everywhere that we’ve stopped we’ve had a good crowd,” Putnam said. “We are bringing our state together. It’s not north Florida vs. south Florida; it’s not the coast vs. the interior. We are one state, one team, one jersey.”
After visiting Pensacola, Adam Putnam’s bus tour made stops Friday in Destin and Graceville. They wrap it up Saturday in O’Brien.