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Leaders in the community, education and business created their wish list for the next president of St. Petersburg College during a two-hour public forum Monday to start the college's first presidential search in more than 30 years.

The college's board of trustees is searching for someone to succeed longtime president Carl Kuttler, who in July unexpectedly announced plans to retire.

The themes most repeated Monday: collaboration, vision, a working knowledge of Florida and experience leading.

Speakers differed on whether that leadership needed to come from academia.

Gus Stavros, the chairman emeritus of the Pinellas Education Foundation, said the next president should have connections in the community and a working knowledge of Pinellas.

"We need a man or woman who has experience managing a large institution," said Stavros, who also is a member of the Florida Board of Governors, the group that oversees the state public university system. "This might be an educator. But to limit the search to academicians is shortsighted."

But Earl Fratus, president of the St. Petersburg College faculty senate, said nearly 93 percent of faculty members believe it is important the next president have higher education experience. Almost 80 said they wanted a president with a Ph.D.

Ray Tampa, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, said he thought an academic background was essential. So did Phil Nicotera, a current St. Petersburg College provost.

Kuttler, the school's president since 1978, does not have a doctorate degree. He holds a law degree.

Julie Janssen, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools, asked trustees also to remember that the best applicants might already be near the college. Janssen was a deputy superintendent for Pinellas schools before being promoted last year.

"Sometimes we overlook some of those great people that are very near and dear to us," she said.

Four of the five trustees attended Monday's forum. Trustee Deveron Gibbons, a former St. Petersburg mayoral candidate, said he is recusing himself from the presidential search because of his friendship with Mayor Rick Baker, a possible applicant for the job.