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Rick Baker says he's interested in becoming St. Petersburg College president

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Baker said Tuesday he's interested in replacing Carl Kuttler as president of St. Petersburg College.

"As I said before, I strongly believe and support the mission of St. Pete College," Baker said in his first public comments since Kuttler announced plans to retire last month. "I love the college. They provide people with education opportunities, career opportunities that are often peoples' first chance to get that. I like that as a mission."

Baker's name had been linked to the job ever since Kuttler said he would be retiring. Kuttler went as far as to suggest Baker as possible replacement.

But Baker had been on a family vacation in North Carolina and unreachable.

Back in St. Petersburg this week, Baker did little to stop speculation about a career switch. Baker's second and final term as mayor expires at the end of the year.

"I'm interested in being part of the college," said Baker, 53.

SPC's five-member board of trustees will meet Aug. 11 to discuss how to replace Kuttler, the college's president since 1978.

Kuttler, 69, is credited with expanding the college's reach inside Pinellas County, and also throughout the state. If he were to become president, Baker, a Republican with ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Charlie Crist, likely would be asked to lead the fight for state funding and continue Kuttler's aggressive growth campaign.

He would do so, however, without an academic background. A lawyer with an MBA, Baker has touted education programs while mayor but has no traditional education credentials.

At least one trustee, Pinellas Clerk of the Circuit Court Ken Burke, said the college's next president should have a teaching and academic background.

Others have seemed more open to a politician-president, in the mold of Betty Castor or former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney.

Aaron Sharockman can be reached at asharockman@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2273.

Rick Baker says he's interested in becoming St. Petersburg College president 08/04/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 11:15pm]
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