BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Another political figure is throwing in his hat to become the next president of Florida Atlantic University.
Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux announced Sunday he has submitted an application for the job.
“I was encouraged by members of the board of trustees, as well as members of the university community,” LeMieux told The Associated Press. “I look forward to talking to the selection committee about my vision for the school. I think it has tremendous potential.”
In a statement, Gov. Rick Scott praised LeMieux, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate to complete the term of former Sen. Mel Martinez in 2009. He served 16 months.
“George LeMieux’s pursuit of the FAU presidency is further proof that Florida’s high-caliber universities attract the best and brightest talent in the country,” Scott said. “FAU is fortunate to add to their list of presidency candidates someone like George who has a great vision for our state and would do an outstanding job as president.”
An FAU search committee is scheduled to meet Monday and select eight candidates for interviews.
LeMieux served as former Gov. Charlie Crist’s chief of staff when he was attorney general, and later ran Crist’s campaign for governor. LeMieux did not campaign to keep the Senate seat he was appointed to when the term expired, but did enter the Republican primary to unseat Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012. He dropped out before the primary, saying he couldn’t compete against Connie Mack IV’s famous name and party establishment support. Currently he is the chairman of the board of the Gunster law firm in Fort Lauderdale. He also leads the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
LeMieux joins a pool of nearly 50 candidates. One of his chief competitors is likely to be Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who announced his candidacy in an email to his staff Saturday. Atwater said he had a “unique and special affinity” with the Boca Raton-based school and had been approached to seek the post.
Public universities have a long history of choosing political leaders to run their institutions in Florida, where state schools are heavily reliant on state money and support from the legislature.
FAU has more than 30,000 students and has been without a permanent president since last May. Mary Jane Saunders resigned amid a series of controversies that had rocked the school. Saunders said at the time that “fiercely negative media coverage” forced her to decide to step down for the university’s benefit.
The problems included protests over a $6 million plan to allow a for-profit prison company, Geo Group, the naming rights at the FAU football stadium. Geo Group later withdrew its offer. Others problems were an instructor’s lesson in which students were told to stomp on papers containing the word “Jesus” and a professor’s suggestions that the Newtown school killings and Boston Marathon bombings were hoaxes.
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