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Rick Baker among nine semifinalists for St. Petersburg College president

ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Rick Baker is among nine semifinalists to be the next president of St. Petersburg College.

A college presidential search committee on Thursday forwarded the names of Baker and eight academicians as possible replacements for president Carl Kuttler, who retired Dec. 31.

Baker, 53, is the lone candidate without higher education experience. He failed to win the support of the search committee's three faculty representatives, who each backed other candidates.

No one on the search committee explained their reasoning.

The semifinalists are:

• Baker, who was St. Petersburg mayor for nearly nine years until term limits forced him to leave this month.

• Brad Bartel, president of Fort Lewis College in Colorado. Bartel, 60, also is a finalist to be dean of the graduate school and international education at the University of Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

• Lance Bolton, 43, president of Northeastern Junior College in Colorado.

• Joseph Bragin, former provost of Missouri Western State University. Bragin, 70, retired in June and recently had applied to be president of the University of Central Arkansas.

• Richard Federinko, senior vice chancellor of Troy University in Alabama. Federinko, 58, applied in October to become chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system.

• Paula Gastenveld, assistant to the chancellor of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Gastenveld, 56, was removed last June as president of Owensboro Community and Technical College after two years.

• Thomas Keegan, 51, president of Peninsula College in Washington.

• Bill Law, president of Tallahassee Community College. Law, 61, served as a vice president at St. Petersburg Junior College from 1981 to 1988.

• B. Kaye Walter, 55, chief learning officer of Valencia Community College in Orlando.

Semifinalists will be asked to answer three questions on video for the search committee to review. The committee hopes to send three to five finalists to the college's Board of Trustees next month, with the idea that a new president could be selected by the end of March.

The 13-member committee did not rank the semifinalists by preference at its meeting.

Each member voted for eight candidates. The group decided to keep a ninth semifinalist because the voting resulted in tie.

Law and Keegan received the support of all 13 members. Baker received support from eight of the 13. Unofficially, that would place him in a tie for fourth among the remaining applicants.

Some people, including SPC trustee and search committee member Ken Burke, question whether Baker has the experience to lead a college. Burke did not support Baker's application. Neither did search committee member and Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala.

Others say Baker's knowledge of St. Petersburg and Florida politics, as well as his education initiatives as mayor, make him an ideal candidate. Among those selecting Baker were former St. Petersburg Mayor Bob Ulrich, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and college trustee Dick Johnston.

Rick Baker among nine semifinalists for St. Petersburg College president 01/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 9:41pm]
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