The committee leading the search for the next president of the University of West Florida met Tuesday to start the process of reviewing candidates and coming up with a short list of names. The informal deadline for candidates to apply was Monday, and that’s when a very high profile resume was added to the pile: former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz.
Bob Barrett talked to Senator Gaetz about why he wants to be the next president of UWF. In the interview, Gaetz said:
- "The University of West Florida is my university. I have worked closely with faculty and staff and trustees over the last 15 years in building the university's academic programs, helping to fund them with over 90 million dollars in projects that I was able to get resources for. And also I've had a chance to work with departments of the university in specific...research projects that benefit the economy and benefit education in our area."
- "I'm not looking for a job. I'm not passing through the chairs from dean to provost to president. And I'm not on my way from the last university to the next university. And I certainly don't expect a reward for past service, but I do believe that the University of West Florida is poised, perhaps, for greatness. To become the driving force behind the economy and culture of northwest Florida.
- "[I have] been asked to assume the leadership of organizations that needed to perform against measurable objectives and then did perform, in education, in government and in business." He says his service in the senate and on the education appropriations committee has given him insight into a lot of the issues that the university has to contend with. "The fact that now, the single greatest variable in funding and resources for our state universities is performance. Academic performance. making sure that students have an opportunity and all the support they need to complete their courses of study. And that their education will turn into qualifications for real jobs in the real economy."
- While making the decision to apply for the position, Gaetz says he talked to people at the university "not asking for their support but asking for their criticism. To ask them to evaluate me and to evaluate the university's needs. And give me a candid analysis on whether they believe I could add value." He says he found an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and support to go forward.
- He says he is not looking to rearrange the organizational chart at the university. Gaetz calls himself a fan of outgoing President Judy Bense, and of present university Provost Martha Saunders, who has also applied for the president position.
Candidates on the short list for president of the university will be invited on campus for face to face interviews on August 29 and 30. The final decision will be made at a Board of Trustees meeting on September 15.