Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Politics

Who will lead state's university system?

He has the business background, political connections and the pedigree. Could Marshall Criser III, the president of AT&T in Florida, be the next chancellor of Florida's state university system?

Criser's name is coming up most often during whispered conversations about the job and who may apply.

Criser, who lives in Coral Gables, declined to speak with the Times/Herald on Monday. Board of Governors spokeswoman Kim Wilmath said eight applications and a number of inquires have been fielded already but declined to identify Criser specifically.

"The pool of applications already includes a wide range of individuals with experience in higher education, business and government," she said via email.

Several folks with knowledge of the process say Criser is the man to beat, though they are still keeping an open mind that an even stronger candidate could surface before Oct. 31.

Criser has worked for AT&T or one of its predecessor companies his entire career. One of Florida's most visible businessmen, he serves on the Florida Chamber of Commerce board, the Florida Council of 100 and Enterprise Florida board. He is also the former chairman of Florida TaxWatch and was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to serve on the state's Transportation Commission.

He earned a bachelor's in business administration from the University of Florida in 1980 and later completed some management training in France. The lack of any advanced degree could lead to lukewarm support from university professors and faculty members.

However, no one seems to think it will be held against Criser. The chancellor's job is largely managerial and political. He has a strong working relationship with Gov. Rick Scott and is well-liked by lawmakers. Besides, his supporters say, Criser could rely on a strong academic as his No. 2.

He won't have to go far for advice: His father, Marshall Criser Jr., was UF's president from 1984 to 1989.

Hispanic outreach

A former aide to state Sen. Anitere Flores was named Florida state Hispanic director for the Republican National Committee.

Alex Garcia, who will work closely with the state GOP, is among three staffers the RNC will have in the state as it seeks to build ties with Hispanics, a group Republicans have struggled with. The RNC said Monday that it had hired staffers in seven states.

Other Florida staffers: Jeannette Quinones-Hernandez is the Hispanic field director for Central Florida. She worked with Marco Rubio's 2010 Senate campaign and with Mitt Romney's Hispanic outreach efforts. Lourdes Aguirre is the Hispanic field director for South Florida. She was previously executive producer of Eres America, a TV, radio and Internet-based program.

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