TALLAHASSEE — A committee looking for a new president for Florida State University will now cast a net that extends beyond powerful state Sen. John Thrasher, the head of the panel announced late Tuesday.
Ed Burr, chairman of the FSU Presidential Search Advisory Committee, said an outpouring of interest in the position led to the decision to delay the conversation with Thrasher, which was scheduled for June 11. The St. Augustine Republican and FSU alumnus has been considered the front-runner for the position, particularly after the committee voted last month to interview only Thrasher before moving forward.
At the time, members of the committee said Thrasher's desire for the position had kept other potential candidates from applying. But the move to limit the search upset students and faculty, and a protest was planned for the day of the interview.
Since then, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and others have put their names forward as candidates.
In a message to committee members, Burr wrote that "recent events have made me increasingly optimistic that a traditional search process now appears more feasible than anticipated at our last meeting."
Thrasher, an influential figure in state politics who served as House speaker from 1998 to 2000, currently serves as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. He also is chairman of Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign and previously served as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
But his opponents have pointed to Thrasher's lack of an academic background and his legislative record, which includes voting to largely eliminate teacher tenure.
FSU provost Garnett Stokes has been serving as the institution's interim president.
The university is looking to replace former president Eric Barron, who stunned the FSU community when he agreed in February to take the same position at Penn State.