TALLAHASSEE — Florida State University hired a new search consultant Wednesday with hopes of moving past the acrimony and mistrust that has plagued its hunt for a new president.
Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates got the FSU job almost by default. Bill Funk submitted his resignation as search consultant on Monday, and the university's second choice is now working for the University of Florida.
Search committee chairman Ed Burr said the panel remains "committed to hiring the best president possible … in the most open and thorough process," but he did not specify a timeline.
Storbeck/Pimentel helped New College of Florida choose a president in 2012 but has relatively little experience in the state.
Applications from 17 people are in play, including those of Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston and state Sen. John Thrasher, a powerful FSU alumnus considered the front-runner.
The committee will meet with its new search consultant to review the job description and the job listings in trade publications and on websites. Faculty and students had complained that Funk posted the job with altered language compared with what the committee and FSU's Board of Trustees had approved.
"It's a good step at the moment," said professor Eric Walker, a member of the committee and chairman of FSU's English department. "We'll just see how things go from this point."
One issue that a new search firm may not be able to resolve is the long shadow that Thrasher's application appears to be casting on the search. Before his resignation, Funk told the committee that some qualified candidates were choosing not to apply because they believed the job was Thrasher's to lose.
Faculty and students have advocated hiring a president with academic credentials that Thrasher does not possess. Tampa businessman and FSU alumnus Hoyt Prindle III took a day off from work Wednesday to drive to Tallahassee and speak during public comment.
"This wasn't just the faculty and the students being upset about how things are going," he said afterward. "The perception is that Sen. Thrasher has the appointment locked up."
Prindle said most alumni would prefer a president with academic experience but wouldn't mind if the right politician got the job. He doesn't think Thrasher has a strong enough resume compared with those of former governors and federal agency heads hired to lead other top research universities.
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