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Governor Scott Replaces Two On UWF Board Of Trustees

University of West Florida

Governor Rick Scott replaced two members of the 13-member University of West Florida’s Board of Trustees which appears to be related to attempts to expand industry statewide.

Garrett Walton, the CEO of Rebuild Northwest Florida and Susan O’Connor, president of O'Connor Management Group, have been succeeded by Greg Britton, CEO of Fort Walton Machining, and Bob Sires, founder and CEO of Bay State Cable Tires in Crestview.

Walton says higher education is undergoing a major transformation.

“Most of that transformation is technology-driven and has a major impact on how students are taught and how they will be taught in the future,” said Walton.

He predicts that some colleges and universities will close in the next 15-20 years after failing to adopt to changes in information technology. But Walton is quick to add that UWF is not one of them, and is in fact, one of the better-positioned schools in Florida.

“Because the University of West Florida started integrating [information technology] into their operations much earlier than most of the other institutions in the state university system,” Walton said.

New Trustee Greg Britton says higher education and manufacturing education can be joined together. He points to his own business, Fort Walton Machining, as an example.

“We’ve had a lot of young kids that have joined the manufacturing trade, and have worked their way through higher education,” said Britton. “So a lot of those individuals go on to get at least a two- or four-year degree in something other than just manufacturing.”

Although appointed by Governor Rick Scott, Britton says he has virtually no relationship with him, and what there is of one, is strictly business.

“I do a lot of help with the economic development in the region as well, and travel to different shows,” Britton said. “We get to see each other at those events; that’s about it. He did know that I was very interested in education, just from my work with the Northwest Florida Manufacturers’ Council.”

Since he’s just beginning his four-year term on the Board of Trustees, Britton says for now his main focus is getting up to speed on procedure and the issues before the board.

“I’ve got some learning to do; I want to understand what’s going on with the university right now,” said Britton. “I’m not out to change the world right now, I’m just out to learn and absorb some things that are going on.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Lewis Bear was also contacted for this story, but did not return calls requesting an interview. Bear did tell the Pensacola News Journal that the Governor’s action of replacing board members is fairly routine.