Trustees of the University of West Florida voted Friday to make provost Martha Saunders the school's next president, bypassing a better-known finalist for the position, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
The vote was 9-4 with Saunders getting nine votes and Gaetz four.
Saunders will succeed Judy Bense as president of the Pensacola university. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the state university system's Board of Governors.
Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County school superintendent, school board member, and chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee on education, was seeking to be at least the fourth political figure in Florida to head a state university.
The decision followed a meeting at which students, faculty and community representatives all testified about the selection. The Pensacola News Journal reported that 366 UWF students signed a petition opposing Gaetz's appointment.