If selected by the presidential search committee later this month, Atwater would relinquish what is considered a safe seat on the Florida Cabinet as the state's chief financial manager, creating the only open seat on the three-member Cabinet this election.
Atwater was elected CFO in 2010, after serving two years as Senate president, and was expected to seek re-election. He has also been frequently mentioned as a candidate for governor in 2018.
In an email to senior staff Saturday morning, Atwater said that he has "been approached by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) regarding the search for their next president. After much thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to place my name into consideration for this position."
The university is seeking to fill the post vacated by Mary Jane Saunders in May after a series of embarrassing public relations developments. Saunders initiated and then reversed a decision by the univeristy to sell naming rights to the football stadium to the private prison company the GEO Group. The school also faced national ridicule after a teacher conducted a classroom exercise in which students were asked to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper then step on it and another professor suggested that the Boston Marathon bombing and the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., may have been hoaxes.
Atwater's links to the school include having three children attend or graduate from the university and representing the school's three campuses when he served in the legislature from 2000 to 2010. Atwater, a banker by trade and a graduate of the University of Florida, spent much of his legislative career focused on insurance and banking issues and was not known for his work on education issues. His profile says he focused on preserving funding for early childhood education and raising student performance standards.
The 15-member search committee is expected to meet on Monday to come up with a list of finalists and make its decision by Jan. 17.
Here is the note he sent to top staff after rumors circulated last night about his decision: