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More than 130 letters pour in to support Rick Baker's run at SPC presidency

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker's application to be the next president of St. Petersburg College is 237 pages long and includes letters of recommendation from Charlie Crist, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Bill Nelson and more than 130 others.

The application takes up nearly a third of a 5-inch thick binder released Thursday that includes the applications of 23 prospective candidates.

The next largest application — by Northwood University (Mich.) provost Rose Bernadette Bellanca — is 39 pages.

A search committee began to sort through the applications Thursday but eliminated no one.

Baker's letters spanned political parties and interests. His list includes six area principals, community and business leaders and politicians in Pinellas County, Tallahassee and Washington.

"I can think of no greater individual to lead St. Petersburg College to its next great accomplishments than Rick Baker," Bush, the former governor, wrote on Baker's behalf.

Added U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young: "Rick would be an outstanding ambassador for the college, not just through his ability to raise funds to support its operations, but through his already well-developed reputation with government leaders at the federal, state and local levels."

The search committee, which includes college trustees Ken Burke and Dick Johnston and Pinellas County Commissioners Susan Latvala and Ken Welch, said it hopes to narrow the field to eight semifinalists at a meeting Jan. 7.

Three to five finalists could be named two weeks later, if the college's time line holds, and the five member Board of Trustees could select a new president as early as March 1.

Baker, who has no formal work background in education, focused his application on his work in middle and high schools while mayor. He also touted the partnerships he helped the city build with research firms SRI International and Draper Laboratories, and city partnerships with area colleges and universities, including St. Petersburg College.

"The experience gained while successfully leading and managing a major city will translate well to the effort to build on the many past successes of the college in order to advance toward an ever greater future," Baker wrote.

He is seeking to replace Carl Kuttler, who announced in July that he was retiring after 31 years as SPC president.

. Fast Facts

Writing on Baker's behalf

U.S. Sens. George LeMieux and Bill Nelson; former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez; Florida legislators Jeff Atwater, Mike Bennett, Mike Haridopolos, Will Weatherford, Jim Frishe, Peter Nehr, Bill Heller; county commissioners John Morroni, Karen Seel, Neil Brickfield, Nancy Bostock; former U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler; business executives James P. Gills, Jeff Lyash, Tom James, Chris Sullivan; educators Julie Janssen, Gary Mormino, Don Pemberton; former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott.

More than 130 letters pour in to support Rick Baker's run at SPC presidency 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:12pm]
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