Wednesday, April 01, 2009

King has desire to be crowned chancellor

King has desire to be crowned chancellor

Morris News Service
Publication Date: 04/01/09

State Sen. Jim King said Tuesday he wants to be the next chancellor of Florida's State University System, an announcement that jolted an already crowded race to succeed the Jacksonville Republican in Legislature and drew largely positive reviews from the higher education community.

"I am going to apply," King said after a committee meeting Tuesday morning.

"I'm going to go through all the hoops. I have no idea whether I'll even make the short list."

King, 69, has no background in education beyond his work during 23 years in the Legislature. He doesn't see that as an obstacle.

"I am not an academician," he said, "but I am a pretty good politician."

King would replace Mark Rosenberg, who retired this year.

The Florida Board of Governors will select the next head of the system, which includes 11 schools with more than 300,000 students.

Term limits would have forced King out of the Senate in 2010. Instead, the candidates preparing for an election to replace him faced the real possibility that a special election to fill the seat could take place much earlier than expected.

Former House Speaker John Thrasher, the Orange Park Republican who intends to relocate to Jacksonville to seek King's seat, said he would run even in a special election.

"It would accelerate everything, obviously," he said.

Trasher has yet to file to run but said, "Everything would have to be moved up quite a bit."

King said he decided to seek the position after educators approached him about the idea a couple of weeks ago. The former Senate president said he thinks he could bring political savvy to a job whose occupants haven't always had smooth relationships with the Legislature.

"Instead of being in compliance, we're at war," King said. "I think I can bridge that gap. I would like to have an opportunity to do so."

Rep. Bill Proctor, St. Augustine Republican who chairs the House State Universities and Private Colleges Appropriations Committee, agreed that King's experience in the Legislature could be an asset.

"I have found him to be a very sound thinker in my limited work with him," Proctor said.

John Delaney, University of North Florida president and acting chancellor, said he considers King "a friend" and thinks. "He has a lot of assets he'd bring to the table."

Henry Thomas, president of the United Faculty of Florida's UNF chapter, said he thinks King would make a good chancellor, although many faculty members might be leery because they'd prefer to have an academic leader at the helm.

Thomas pointed to Delaney, the former mayor of Jacksonville, as an example of a politician who can lead an academic institution.

"It might take them some time to warm up to the idea," Thomas said. "But I think they would eventually get behind him."

The Board of Governors, which has been running ads in trade publications, set Tuesday as the deadline for applications but not as a hard-and-fast date. Candidates may still apply.

Bill Edmonds, spokesman for the Board of Governors, said the search committee won't comment on the search until later in the process.

Delaney, who is not on the search committee, said numerous applicants -- including elected officials, sitting presidents and former chancellors -- have indicated their interest either verbally or by submitting an application. A compete list will be made public when it is compiled.

If he does run for King's seat, Thrasher would become the fourth Republican in the race. The other three likely candidates said they would also run regardless of the election's timing.

"We'll be ready for everything that comes our way," Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham said. "It's just like everything else - you've got to adapt."

"We're committed to this race," said former Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. "We're in regardless of whether it's a regular election or a special election.

"It's appealing, rather than running a marathon, to run a sprint."

Businessman Dan Quiggle said a special election would boost his prospects, particularly with voters still remembering his work to defeat proposed tax increases in Duval and St. Johns counties.

"I think a special election benefits us," he said, "because Florida families are tired of career politicians, they're tired of higher taxes, and I am a job creator and a proven tax fighter."

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