A state senator with connections to several trustees is among four finalists to become president of the University of West Florida.
A presidential search committee on Tuesday narrowed its field of candidates to a list including current university provost Martha Saunders, Senior Vice President of the College Board of New York Frank Ashley and University of Akron Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development Mike Sherman, the Pensacola News Journal reported. It also included a fourth name among its list of finalists: Republican State Senator Don Gaetz.
Gaetz's candidacy had been debated before he even put his name in the running for the presidency at the last minute in August. The News Journal reported his political campaign -- or that of his son, who is a state representative in Florida running for a congressional seat -- received financial backing from at least seven of 20 presidential search committee members and six of 13 university trustees. Gaetz was also the only one of 19 candidates to be considered who has never worked for a higher educational institution.
Gaetz's background in education includes time as a school district superintendent and school board member. He also co-authored Florida legislation awarding funding to universities meeting certain metrics. He is reportedly barred by state law from lobbying in Florida for a university for two years after he leaves the Legislature.
When he applied for the president position, Gaetz, said he was only interested in the University of West Florida.
"Northwest Florida is my home, and northwest Florida is not just where my home is, but it’s where my heart is," he said, according to the News Journal. "I'm not looking to be at a college institution in Minnesota or Daytona or anywhere else."
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