ST. PETERSBURG — No one knows who St. Petersburg College's next president will be, but we do know this:
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker really wants the job.
Baker, who has a little more than a month left in his second and final term, has been working until 1 a.m. some nights on his application for the college's top job, he said this week.
He's also seeking out the help of friends and colleagues, who have begun a letter-writing campaign to support his candidacy.
Baker, who said supporters came forward as they heard about his prospective candidacy, has even asked a political consultant to help coordinate the letters.
Nick Hansen, who was campaign manager for mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons, has been collecting and organizing the letters. Baker says he plans to turn the letters in as part of his application, which is due Monday. He declined to say who has written letters of support, or who provided references.
"I want to work hard to demonstrate that I'm capable of doing this," Baker said. "I'm spending a considerable amount of time on the resume and application and everything that goes along with it.
"But I recognize it's up to the board (of trustees)."
About 20 people already have applied for the college's top job, which is available because current president Carl Kuttler is retiring. Kuttler has been the school's president since 1978. College trustees say they hope to have permanent successor chosen by spring.
Among the current field of applicants — which is sure to expand over the weekend — is only one current college president, and no one currently working in the Tampa Bay area.
Most of the applicants are mid- or high-level administrators at community colleges across the country.
One applicant, Richard Federinko, is a senior vice chancellor at Troy University, a four-year school in Alabama. Federinko also has been a community or junior college president three times, and received his Ph.D. in higher education from Florida State University.
For Baker, the St. Petersburg College application is the first job application he's filled out since his second year of law school.
Bob McIntyre, past chairman of the Pinellas Education Foundation, wrote friends and colleagues recently, asking them to endorse Baker.
"I am supporting Rick Baker because he has been a great leader for our community," McIntyre wrote in an e-mail. "Rick Baker's record as a fiscally responsible mayor, his unparalleled involvement as the 'Education Mayor,' his ability for raising money for education, his doctorate of law degree and his many years as a successful businessman make him the ideal candidate for the Presidency of St. Petersburg College."
McIntyre then included talking points for people writing on Baker's behalf. The talking points stress Baker's ability to raise money privately and from state and federal sources, and his leadership experience in government, business and the community.
"The college requires a leader that not only understands the academic needs of our community," McIntyre wrote, "but more importantly, a leader who has the business acumen and experience of managing a large budget."