Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Florida State names state Sen. John Thrasher its new president

Republican state Sen. John Thrasher touted his fundraising prowess in his application and was selected by the board of trustees by a vote of 11-2.
Published Sep. 24, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — A search that began in March and stalled over the summer because of the long shadow cast by a powerful state senator ended Tuesday when the Florida State University board of trustees named Sen. John Thrasher the school's new president.

"I am honored to have been selected by the board of trustees to serve as Florida State University's next president," Thrasher said in a news release. "I look forward to leading the university to even higher levels of excellence. My goal is to advance the faculty and the research, service and teaching mission of this university. I want Florida State to be the best place for students to receive an education, so they can realize their dreams."

Board of trustees chairman Allan Bense, who worked alongside Thrasher in the Florida House, led the 11-2 vote. Faculty Senate president Gary Tyson, a computer science professor, and trustee Peggy Rolando, a Miami real estate lawyer, cast the only dissenting votes.

"I think he has the skills, and it's not all about money, but money is the big thing," Bense said after the vote.

Supporters say Thrasher, 70, is the best person to help FSU reach its $1 billion fundraising goal and aspirations to become one of the top 25 public universities.

Opponents say the fix was in from the start and no one else ever had a chance. Some students chanted "FSU is not for sale" immediately after the vote naming Thrasher president.

"It was absolutely disgusting; I'm ashamed of this school," said FSU junior Regina Joseph from Miramar.

Though FSU officials said early in the day that whoever was selected president would be available to reporters after the vote, Thrasher did not return to campus Tuesday evening.

The board of trustees interviewed all four finalists Tuesday. Thrasher, former West Virginia University provost Michele Wheatly and Richard Marchase, vice president of research and economic development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, all appeared in person. Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System, was interviewed via videoconferencing due to recent surgery to repair a detached retina.

The state Board of Governors must sign off on the selection, though in the past that has been a formality. But first, FSU trustees must finalize a contract with Thrasher.

Former president Eric Barron's salary was $395,000, and he also received fundraising bonuses.

Thrasher is running for re-election to his northeast Florida Senate seat. If he does not step down until after the November general election, Gov. Rick Scott will call a special election to find a replacement to serve the remainder of his four-year term. If he steps down before the election, Republican leaders in Thrasher's district will appoint someone to replace him on the ballot.

"While I am hopeful that the BOG will accept the trustees' decision, that final decision will not be known until November," Thrasher said in a statement. "In the meantime, I intend to continue to campaign for re-election to the Senate and will continue to carry out my commitment to the people of my district. If I am ultimately selected to lead FSU, this will allow the voters to select who will be the next senator from the 6th District."

Thrasher, who earned a bachelor's degree in business and a law degree from FSU, said all along that his political and business connections made him the best man for the job. But opponents, including faculty and students, cited his lack of academic credentials and conservative politics as reasons not to select him.

The board of trustees disagreed. Many of the members have supported Thrasher politically over the years and most were appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. Thrasher is chairman of Scott's re-election campaign.

During his final interview Tuesday morning, Thrasher stressed his humble beginnings and ties to his alma mater, where the medical school building is named after him.

"If I've had any success whatsoever, I owe it to Florida State University," Thrasher said.

A lawyer and lobbyist by trade, Thrasher served in the U.S. Army between his stints at FSU and earned two Bronze Stars in Vietnam.

He served eight years in the Florida House, including two as its speaker. He returned to the Legislature in 2009 when he won a special election for a Senate seat. Thrasher also served for a year as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

The FSU board of trustees said it expects Thrasher to step down from Scott's campaign in the coming days.

A portion of Thrasher's interview with the trustees focused on his tenure as the first board chairman and his long history raising funds for the university. When he mentioned having helped establish the College of Medicine, trustee Emily Fleming Duda chimed in: "I think you're being modest, you had a lot to do with it."

Later, trustee Andrew Haggard praised Thrasher's tenure when he served as the board of trustees' first chairman from 2001 through 2005.

"I can't compliment you enough, John, as chairman," Haggard said. "If you can do that same job as president … ." His voice trailed off without finishing the sentence.

Contact Tia Mitchell at tmitchell@tampabay.com. Follow @tbtia.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
  2. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, filed a bill, HB 1161, to implement online voter registration in 2018.
    This week, GOP senators rallied support around Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, to become Senate president for the 2023 and 2024 legislative session.
  3. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, right, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. SUSAN WALSH  |  AP
    Experts on foreign policy said it was ridiculous to think that one person could turn a country “bad.”
  4. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP) SAUL LOEB  |  AP
    Almost 9 in 10 think the House impeaches Trump but the Senate won’t convict.
  5. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker speaking during 2016 graduation ceremonies at the Florida State University College of Law. [Florida State College of Law] Florida State College of Law
    The ruling, if it’s not overturned, means that President Donald Trump will not automatically be first on the 2020 ballot in Florida.
  6. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pensacola.
    Prosecutors say Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for...
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Panama City City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. His wife Casey DeSantis is pregnant with the family's third child. He joked that the family will have to transition from "man-to-man to zone defense." (Joshua Boucher/News Herald via AP) JOSHUA BOUCHER/ THE NEWS HERALD  |  AP
    The federal judge had ordered that 17 felons not be removed from the voter rolls before a lawsuit goes to trial next year.
  8. In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary...
  9. The Capitol is seen in Washington on. Impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump come at the very time that Capitol Hill usually tends to its mound of unfinished business. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
  10. This March 7, 2016, file photo shows the Trump National Doral clubhouse in Doral. WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    A party spokeswoman confirmed to the Miami Herald Thursday that the annual event, to be held over several days in late January, will take place at Trump National Doral Miami, located near Miami...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement