Strong Hopes for the Future…

- October 8, 2021 -

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Like intriguing characters woven into a page-turner adventure novel with each chapter more astounding than the next, a collection of diverse life journeys leap into focus from a dazzling, mile-long resume and demand attention.  

There’s the 16-year-old who hired his football buddies to hammer nails after school until 2 a.m. each night for his startup construction company and the high school track star doubling as a standout college tennis player who graduated early.  

The phlebotomist in the mix drew blood from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. before university classes each morning and fixed cars by moonlight in an assisted living facility’s parking lot.  

Deeper into the story, you’ll discover a dedicated middle school science teacher and a 26-year-old night administrator for Tampa General Hospital who bolstered the helicopter program there before flexing entrepreneurial skills in data system analytics. 

A school board member, competitive sailor, and pilot all season the pages of this robust book of life. Including an accomplished academic holding advanced degrees in public health, epidemiology, and business administration.  

While this dizzying kaleidoscope of colorful achievements and careers would reasonably flow from an army of people – a collaboration of over-achieving individuals – they actually belong to just one man: Dr. Scott Hopes. 

“I know it may be hard to believe this is all from one lifetime,” said Hopes, Manatee County’s Administrator and a father of three. “But I look back at all my experiences in education, business, technology, medicine and see them as a unique opportunity not many people have to give back through public service, especially after the state of Florida has invested so much in me.” 

With a diverse arsenal of expertise guiding his decision-making. Hopes, a native from Houston, Texas, who finds stress relief flying his four-passenger Mooney airplane cross-country, discovered his dream job just when he thought retirement might lure him out of the workforce and onto a sailboat. Responsible for carrying out the policies of the Manatee County Commission as well as the development and management of the county’s annual operating and capital improvement budgets, Hopes jumped into the role of County Administrator last spring and has not stopped running. 

“He is an asset to the commission because he has the background and experience for the position,” said Manatee County Commissioner Kevin VanOstenbridge. “We put an emphasis on wanting someone with both public and private sector experience like him, and he’s done a very good job reaching out to everyone, including each commissioner individually, to determine what their districts need.” 

With the ink barely dry on his hiring contract on April Fool’s Day, Hopes guided the county into declaring a state of emergency in response to the breach at the former Piney Point fertilizer processing facility and dedicated weeks navigating the county’s course of action. Looming red tide and a churning hurricane swirling off the coast marked his first few days, including controlling an ongoing pandemic. After a deluge of fast-paced, high-pressure careers, this position put his knowledge and experience to the test. 

“Dr. Scott Hopes is a distinctively talented, senior policymaker, administrator, complex system, and data analyst,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean at the Morsani College of Medicine and associate vice president at USF Health. “He brings a rich and diverse, hands-on history in both public and private organizations in Florida and internationally. His experience, knowledge base, and practical understanding of public policy make him a very distinctive asset to the community.” 

Wolfson emphasized Hopes’ solid decision-making stems from a deep respect for data, noting Hopes created and applied software analytics that permitted a detailed understanding of hospital finance, operations, and the impact of policies in Florida. Hopes, at age 26, brought this capacity to his role as evening and night administrator of Tampa General Hospital, a 1,000-bed public teaching hospital, in 1986 before establishing his national consulting practice. 

“Scott’s knowledge and experience in complex, often highly politically charged public and private organizations has always been grounded in his belief that policies and practices need to be driven by valid and measurable data and that in the public sector, transparency is essential to reducing ambiguity and creating consensus,” Wolfson said. 

Coupled with his strengths in data analysis, Hopes’ epidemiology background has proved especially helpful if not serendipitous in stifling several COVID-19 outbreaks that roared through county buildings and threatened to pause the day-to-day operations of local government. 

“We’ve had three or four outbreaks (internally), and with the data I collected, I could see where I needed to take action to stop the spread,” said Hopes, who also noted this is essential to keeping government services flowing to the community. “We know the measures to take and what needs to happen to stop the outbreaks, and we’ve been successful in doing this.” 

As a kid growing up in the oil boom years of late-1970s Texas, Hopes first sparked a fascination for science while peering from the sidelines and watching his mother work as a medical assistant to the Houston Astros. 

“I thought it was really cool to meet the baseball players coming in to be evaluated by the orthopedic surgeons,” said Hopes, who never missed a day of school from kindergarten to sixth grade and keeps a copy of Control of Communicable Diseases Manual on his desk. 

Science and a love for the game of math lured him to achieve a B.A. in Biology from the University of South Florida before attaining a master’s in Public Health, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics, as well as a doctorate in Business Administration.  

While delving into university research and working on his degrees, Hopes responded to a critical shortage of science teachers in Florida’s public schools in the mid-1980s and taught eighth and ninth grade science in Hillsborough County, Florida. He fell in love with teaching and rose in one year to head of the department.  

Pointing across his office to a wall decorated with shimmering awards, Hopes zeroed in on a silver plaque that he considers the most special accolade of his decorated career. Etched words boast, “World’s Greatest Science Teacher, 4th period, Burns Junior High School, 1986.” 

“I have kept this plaque all these years, and I am honored to have it,” said Hopes, running his fingers across the list of engraved student names. 

A man of many hats with an insatiable desire to learn new skills, Hopes traded his teaching position for a career in large system data analytics and eventually started CliniLinc – a health and medical information services and technology company with offices in Miami, Sarasota, Tallahassee, and Dublin, Ireland. 

However, Hopes’ drive to give back through public service resurfaced when Florida Governor Jeb Bush tapped Hopes to serve at the agency of Health Care Administration, where he oversaw the Bureau of Certificate of Need and Financial Analysis. He moved on to serve as the director of Health Policy, which is responsible for developing and implementing health care policy, research, and legislation in the state. 

“Scott’s a data guy – data-driven, but he also understands what it takes to be a leader,” said Dr. Tim Novak, dean of the LECOM School of Health Services Administration, where Hopes teaches as an adjunct professor. “He understands the big picture of health care and always asks how it affects the patient.” 

Hopes has fought for nearly 30 years lobbying the legislature to improve access to primary care and hospital services, better public education, and to hold the government accountable to Florida citizens and taxpayers. 

Highlighting Hopes’ wide breadth of experience spanning both private and public sectors, Novak feels Hopes is perfect for the job of county administrator. 

“He really does check all of the boxes,” said Novak. “He has a great insight on how to maximize resources and help a community thrive, not just survive.” 

Hopes proved his ability to help a community thrive when the pandemic swooped across Manatee County in early 2020, shuttering schools and businesses. Hopes drew on his knowledge in epidemiology while serving as a school board member, helping to design and implement protocols to reopen schools. 

“Dr. Scott Hopes brought a high level of business acumen that he leveraged to best support our students and employees through improved financial planning and innovative educational programs,” said Manatee County School Board member Gina Messenger. “His master’s degree in public health, and experience in healthcare, proved to be especially valuable while reopening our schools in 2020. Dr. Hopes is a strategic planner with the ability to work as a team and serve as a leader.” 

VanOstenbridge also views Hopes as an effective leader at the helm of Manatee County. 

“He came into a county that was experiencing a lot of turmoil, and he very quickly calmed the waters,” VanOstenbridge said. “He took on a leadership role, and many people got behind him.”  

Beginning and ending each day with a swim, Hopes finds release in exercise. An avid biker, he carved out a 28-mile daily route during his business trips to Dublin. On weekends, you may find him marveling at sea life while scuba diving or scoping out a quiet anchorage to spend the night on his boat. Just a few weeks ago, he flew his plane from California to Florida. 

“When I fly, I truly can block everything out because I am so focused on everything from my flight plan to take-off and landing,” said Hopes, who learned how to fly when he realized he was renting a plane many days of the month, crisscrossing the country consulting with clients.  

Tucked in the suburbs and serenaded by the percussion sounds of booming construction, Hopes at 16 didn’t flinch when a contractor overwhelmed with work asked him if he’d like to start his own construction company. With a loan from his dad, newly purchased equipment, and a tribe of friends, Hopes created his first successful business, profiting $17,000 that summer in 1977. A drive to succeed and experience as many avenues in life ignited within him as he set out to take in the world.  

As County Administrator, Hopes views his life path as a full circle with the chance to serve Florida again – a state where he gained college degrees, carved out businesses, and raised a family. 

“This job is challenging, and I am exhausted,” said Hopes, his blue eyes peering over his glasses. “But it is absolutely the most fun I have ever had on a job, and it is a way for me to give back to Florida and Manatee County, a place I love living.” 

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