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St. Petersburg College trustee Deveron Gibbons told college officials he will recuse himself from selecting a new school president because of his personal relationship with prospective applicant Mayor Rick Baker.

Gibbons said he was removing himself from the decisionmaking process based on the advice of personal counsel.

Gibbons, who finished third in last week's St. Petersburg mayoral primary to replace Baker when his term expires, did not attend a trustees meeting Tuesday to select a consultant to lead the presidential search.

The move is odd, fellow trustees and college officials said, because another close friend of Baker's is trustees chairman Terry Brett - who has no plans to recuse himself. Although Baker has said he is interested the job, he has not said he will apply.

"To say we have a conflict with someone who hasn't even applied for the position ... all of our best friends could apply for this job," trustee Ken Burke said. "They probably won't. But they could."

The disqualification, if it holds, leaves four trustees in charge of replacing Carl Kuttler, the longtime president who recently announced plans to retire.

Trustees said they plan to hire Jeff Hockaday, the former interim president of Hillsborough Community College, to help guide the process as a search consultant.

Trustees also sketched out a road map that might result in a new president by spring. That process could launch with a public forum in the next weeks.

Still to be decided are the educational and experience requirements for the job.

Hockaday, now a consultant based in Sanford, N.C., has run presidential searches for about 70 colleges, he said. Recently, he was the consultant for the State College of Florida (formerly Manatee Community College) when trustees there hired St. Petersburg College provost Lars Hafner.

Kuttler, 69, announced in July his plan to retire but remain in his positionfor some time while trustees search for his successor.