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Baker out in St. Petersburg College presidential search



ST. PETERSBURG — Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is out as the next president of St. Petersburg College.

The school's presidential search committee dropped him as a semifinalist with a 7-6 vote Thursday, after more than an hour of maneuvering by faculty members and a pair of college trustees who sought to oust him from consideration.

"I feel the president of the college should be an academic," said college trustee and search committee member Ken Burke, who became the de facto leader of the group opposing Baker's application.

"I like Rick. He has a lot of great credentials. I told him to run for attorney general. I'd vote for him, I'd work for him," Burke said. "But I think it's important to have an academic background to lead the college."

Baker was ranked third after a first round of voting. But the 13-member search committee ultimately decided to move forward with four different finalists — two sitting college presidents and two college administrators. Those finalists will be forwarded to the board of trustees.

When it was clear Baker would not be named a finalist, more than two dozen faculty members attending Thursday's meeting erupted in cheers.

"Obviously I'm disappointed, but I remain a big fan of St. Petersburg College," Baker said Thursday evening. He declined to elaborate, or discuss his future.

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