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Frustrated regent may step down from board

A member of the Florida Board of Regents says he may leave the post early and ask Gov.-elect Jeb Bush to appoint someone from Pensacola in his place.

Julian Bennett Jr., whose term ends in August, said he is frustrated that regents don't evaluate university presidents and frequently approve proposals with little discussion.

"I'm thinking about it. I haven't made up my mind yet," said Bennett, who was appointed by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles. "I have become a little disenchanted with some of the fellow members of the board. And they with me. I believe regents need to work harder and spend more time on their duties."

Bennett also said he is concerned about the lack of a regent from Pensacola. Bennett was appointed in 1993 to succeed Pensacola's Pat Groner. Before Groner, the previous three regents were all from the Panhandle city.

Rep. Jerry Maygarden, R-Pensacola, said he hopes Bennett's replacement will live nearer to the University of West Florida in Pensacola. Bennett is from Panama City.

"I think (Bennett) has pretty much had enough," Maygarden said. "Julian is a fine fellow. But 100 miles away? I have told Chancellor (Adam) Herbert I would hope the next regent would be from UWF. It's not like this part of the state has someone looking out for the university."

Regents are unpaid and do not represent a specific university. But during a board meeting in August, several said they are more sensitive to the schools they live near.

Many issues on the board's agenda could impact the University of West Florida, especially after a new three-tier system for higher education was approved in November. Under the system, UWF is in the lower tier focused on undergraduate education, while larger schools such as Florida State are in a top research tier.

Bush would not be required to appoint someone from northwest Florida to fill the vacancy.