Florida A&M University is one of three state universities searching for a new president with an aggressive timeline to vet and interview candidates over the holiday break.
On Monday, former state Sen. Al Lawson formally applied for FAMU's opening, joining a crowded field of 43 other candidates.
There could be even more by the time the Board of Trustees starts reviewing applications Jan. 6. The board hopes to select a winner at its Jan. 9 meeting.
If Lawson gets it, he'll add to the growing trend of politicians being hired to lead public universities.
Lawson, 65, is an alum of FAMU and one of its most prominent advocates. In fact, the school's gymnasium is named after him. In addition to serving 10 years in the Florida Senate and 18 in the state House, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010 and 2012. He recently announced that he would not run again in 2014.
Lawson of Tallahassee has a budding career as a lobbyist but said the bulk of his professional experience is as an insurance agent and broker.
He said he reached the decision to apply for the FAMU presidency last week after being encouraged by others to apply. The school needs an apt fundraiser who can help recruit students and has connections among elected officials who control the purse strings at the Capitol, he said.
"I don't know anyone who can do that any better than I can," Lawson said.
Lawson said he has some ideas for moving FAMU forward. For example, he thinks the state's only historically black public university should be reaching out to students who normally wouldn't consider enrolling.
"FAMU is at a critical point to move forward in creating more diversity in the student body," Lawson said, adding that the school should look to enroll more "non-minorities." FAMU is about 95 percent African-American, according to collegedata.com.
Another name that has been floated as a potential candidate at FAMU is Ava Parker, the interim leader at Florida Polytechnic University. That school is in the process of picking its own permanent head, which means Parker is looking for her next role.
If she doesn't apply at FAMU, there is also a chance she could apply to become the next president at Florida Atlantic University. That school is in Boca Raton, which would put her closer to her husband, state Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach.
Then again, we hear she might have to battle former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux for the FAU job.
Of course, there are others who believe FAMU trustees should make interim president Larry Robinson the permanent leader after he guided the school through a tumultuous period that included academic and administrative problems along with the fallout from the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.
For a list of all the FAMU applicants so far, go to tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.
Scott hits $25 million
We were wrong. Back in August we were skeptical that Rick Scott would actually accomplish what he told National Review: "I will have $25 million in the bank by the end of the year and will use it in early 2014 to define my opponent."
With $13.2 million on hand as of July 31, it just seemed too much of a reach for Scott to raise another $12 million in five months that included November and December.
Well, as of Friday, Scott's Let's Get to Work Committee had raised $25,727,642 since January 2011 and spent $3,629,000 — which leaves him with just shy of $23 million.
That averages out to Scott raising roughly $88,000 a day since Aug. 1. Every hour of every day since Aug. 1, contributors stepped up to give the multimillionaire governor's committee more than $3,600.