By JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
The search for Florida State University’s next president has so far attracted six new hopefuls since getting tangled earlier this year over the desire of a powerful state senator for the job.
While additional resumes are expected be filed by a Tuesday deadline, it is still to be determined if any of the job seekers can fulfill 12 desired areas of focus envisioned by the school’s search committee and search consultant.
The areas range from enhancing the university’s academic reputation and being an “energetic fundraiser” to “providing leadership for a highly successful intercollegiate athletics program.”
Jennifer Proffitt, president of the FSU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, expressed optimism that a candidate meeting such attributes could be found to replace former President Eric Barron.
Barron, an academic with a track record in fundraising, left to become president of Penn State University in April.
However, Proffitt believes lobbying for the job by Sen. John Thrasher, a former House speaker who is currently chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign, continues to impact the search.
“I do not think Mr. Thrasherâs desire for the job itself will keep qualified academic candidates from applying; it is the appearance of the fix-is-in political cronyism that is the problem,” Proffitt said in an email.
The six recent applicants are in addition to Thrasher, Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston, state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and 14 others who had initially expressed a desire for the job earlier this year.
The search process was paused May 21 so the search committee could consider only Thrasher for the job. The move came after search consultant Bill Funk told committee members that such an “irregular” step was needed because Thrasher was casting a “long-shadow,” keeping other qualified candidates from wanting to apply for the job.
But that created an outcry from faculty and students and ultimately led to the resignation of the search consultant and a reopening of the application process a month later.
Trustee Ed Burr, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Search Committee, and current search consultant Alberto Pimentel did not respond to requests for comment regarding the ongoing search.
The more recent applicants range from the dean of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and a professor of management and business ethics at Texas A&M International University to a training specialist with Zaxby’s Franchising Inc., and a Florida Department of Environmental Protection consultant.
The deadline to apply is Tuesday, and a new president could be named by the university’s Board of Trustees on Sept. 23.
The search committee is set to review the cover letters and resumes of all who have expressed interest in the job on Sept. 5.
A whittled-down pool will be asked to come to Tallahassee for interviews Sept. 8 and 9.
A smaller group of finalists would be asked back for additional interviews the week of Sept. 15, during which time the finalists would also meet with groups on campus.
The committee is scheduled to make a recommendation to the board of trustees on Sept. 22.
The board, which would still have to forward its selection to the Florida Board of Governors, is scheduled to meet Sept. 23.
The timeline could also have an effect on a Northeast Florida Senate race in which Thrasher is seeking re-election. FSU trustees are scheduled to meet after a Sept. 20 deadline for supervisors of election to finalize general election ballots.
After that date, a replacement candidate would have to run with the prior candidate’s name still on the ballot.
In Thrasher’s Republican-leaning district, which includes all or parts of Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties, having the senator’s name on the ballot may not be handicap for a GOP stand-in.
Thrasher, who easily won a primary Tuesday, is being challenged by Democrat Kathleen Trued and independent Greg Feldman.