Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State higher education job requires political savvy, soft touch

Outgoing chancellor Frank Brogan said the next chancellor will need to pick up where he left off.

Outgoing chancellor Frank Brogan said the next chancellor will need to pick up where he left off.

TALLAHASSEE — The pay's good, and the title of the job sounds nice enough — chancellor of the state university system.

But Florida's next leader in higher education will inherit a job that requires a soft touch, keen political savvy and the dexterity to manage many bosses.

The 17-member Board of Governors hires and fires the chancellor and sets the agenda. The governor and Legislature make the rules and control the purse strings. Then, there are 12 universities, each with different sets of leaders and ambitions.

Chancellor Frank Brogan announced last week that he's leaving the post on Sept. 30 to take a similar position in Pennsylvania.

Who fills his shoes could help cement the job as an important cog in the management of Florida's higher-education system, or continue a power shift from Tallahassee toward individual universities.

"It's not like it used to be because the board delegated most of the power, almost all of the power, to the individual campuses," said Charles Reed, who served as chancellor from 1985 to 1998 when the state had a more powerful Board of Regents. "And there needs to be some compromise, some happy medium, between giving away all of the authority and having it all centralized."

Reed says now more than ever the chancellor must keep the state's interests in mind.

"What you have out there are 10 or 12 cats all running around trying to figure out what's best for each of them, not what's best for the state of Florida," he said. "The chancellor's job is to herd those cats all in one way."

When Brogan took the job in 2009, the Board of Governors was in a protracted power struggle with the Legislature. He helped iron out a compromise and focused on improving coordination with the schools.

In an interview with the Times/Herald, Brogan said the next chancellor will need to pick up where he left off. For example, the state needs to implement a new initiative that ties university funding to performance. But he also leaves behind a track record worth studying.

Brogan left his job as president of Florida Atlantic University to become chancellor, but his resume also includes a series of elected offices, including lieutenant governor and education commissioner.

Some say he brought a politician's approach to the job, avoiding confrontation and conflict to a fault. Brogan said politics is part of any job, but that is not why he chose to stay above the fray.

"You can always catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar; that's not a political style, that's a life experience and a philosophical bent that I take," he said.

But others wish Brogan were bolder during times of controversy, such as when Gov. Rick Scott requested that universities reject a 1.7 percent tuition increase tied to inflation.

Brogan told the university presidents what the governor wanted and why they should comply. But when they balked, he left it up to the universities to thwart Scott's campaign.

Privately, he feuded with former Senate budget chief JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, the notoriously prickly lawmaker. In 2011, Alexander slipped language into the budget that would have reduced Brogan's $357,000 salary and eliminated a third of his 57-person staff. The cuts did not make it into the final budget.

"After 35 years, the best part of my career has been building relationships," Brogan said. "Some have been easier to build than others, but at the end of the day they have all been memorable."

The Board of Governors will select an interim chancellor by its next meeting Sept. 12. Members will launch a national search to find a permanent replacement but may not make a hire until after the November 2014 election.

The reason? Quality candidates may wait to see who is elected governor, knowing that the governor will have a say in the ultimate appointment.

However, people are already thinking about what kind of person they want for the job. Sen. John Legg, the Trinity Republican who chairs the Education Committee, said the chancellor must be a problem solver, communicator and consensus builder.

He hopes the person selected will focus on better defining the role of each university under one statewide agenda.

"That would take leadership at the chancellor's position and some laying down of a little bit of pride by a couple of the universities," he said.

University of North Florida president John Delaney said he once disagreed with the decision to create individual trustee boards at each school, and then later he disagreed with the establishment of the Board of Governors. Now he believes they can all work together, with the chancellor's help.

"The Board of Governors has increasingly strengthened its grip over universities, and I view that as a positive," said Delaney, who served a year as interim chancellor.

Fast facts

Florida's state university system chancellors

Under the Board of Regents

J. Broward Culpepper (1965-68)

Robert B. Mautz (1968-75)

E.T. York (1975-80)

Barbara W. Newell (1981-85)

Charles B. Reed (1985-98)

Adam W. Herbert (1998-01)

Judy Hample (2001)

Under the Board of Governors

Debra D. Austin (2003-05)

Mark B. Rosenberg (2005-09)

Frank T. Brogan (2009-present)

Source: State university system

.fast facts

Chancellor's office

Total budget: $6.5 million. The vast majority is salary and benefits for 57 employees, but that amount also includes travel and expenses for the 17 volunteer members of the Board of Governors, who attend meetings around the state several times a year.

State higher education job requires political savvy, soft touch 08/15/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 15, 2013 10:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Large brush fire burning in Brooker Creek Preserve near Westchase


    A large brush fire is burning early Thursday morning in the Brooker Creek Preserve just north of Oldsmar near Westchase, but appears to be contained, according to reports.

  2. Clearwater confronts a new wave of homeless people, many addicted to spice

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Having lived on the streets since 2014, when he said God ordered him to go out and watch over the homeless, Scott Elfstrom has seen new faces brought out by the typical drugs, despair or plain bad luck.

    Clearwater police Sgt. Rodney Johnson talks to a group of homeless people near the Clearwater Police Department. Johnson has worked to decrease the amount of spice being used in the homeless population.
  3. Preservation group's efforts help revitalize Hudson Cemetery

    Human Interest

    HUDSON — Since the 1970s, the area's unhoused could count on Hudson Cemetery as a place to eat, drink and doze. They would crouch behind bushes on the 2 acres — sandwiched between an ABC liquor store and a shopping center — and leave behind beer cans, cigarette butts and rotting clothes. They would …

    Dennis Kingsley, former president of the Hudson Cemetery Preservation Association, looks at recently cleaned headstones at the cemetery. It got a new fence and was cleared of weeds and brush in June.
  4. Adam Putnam
  5. Forecast: Summertime heat, late-day showers soldier on in Tampa Bay


    The summertime pattern of hot temperatures and afternoon showers continues through the second half of the week across Tampa Bay.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]