With Florida International University prez Mitch Maidique retiring, talk around town has Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a potential candidate to succeed him.
Maidique told the Herald he's heard the rumors that the Republican congresswoman is interested. But Ros-Lehtinen today sought to squash them, saying she's not putting her name in the running.
"Folks keep spreading that rumor. And everytime I hear of it I say 'NO' as loudly as I can," she said in an e-mail. She suggested the rumor circulates because she holds two degrees from FIU and in 2004 earned a doctorate in education from the University of Miami. But, she said, she's not interested in giving up her congressional seat.
"I love this Congressional job because I get to help constituents," she said. "I want to continue helping constituents as a member of Congress."
Staffer Alex Cruz noted the "hands-on congresswoman never stops. Right now she is touring the Coconut Grove Post Office and will then meet with the Miami postmaster, a Grove Commissioner and residents to try and help settle a dispute between residents and the post office."
Observers suggest Ros-Lehtinen would be a good fit as a university president -- she's gregarious and well-known, and a formidable fundraiser who could help boost the school's endowment.
Democrats eyeing her congressional district which includes Miami Beach and Key West would likely welcome her appointment to the post.
Maidique said there is no preferred candidate in the wings to replace him. He estimated the search could take a year and would require narrowing down a massive list of potential candidates by a search committee.
"We expect hundreds of very qualified people to apply,'' Maidique said. "There is no inside candidate. There is no deal or commitment to anyone. It's going to be a wide search, I can tell you that much.''
- LESLEY CLARK and LUISA YANEZ