October 20, 2014

FSU trustees approve John Thrasher's contract

@tbtia

A delay caused by technical difficulties with the conference call phone line took almost as long as the meeting itself. But Florida State University's Board of Trustees has approved John Thrasher's contract, including a $430,000 base salary.

The board made some small changes, such as clarifying that a potential $100,000 annual bonus will be tied to Thrasher's ability to meet performance goals approved by him and the trustees. But members generally agreed on the substance of the contract (detailed here) and approved it unanimously.

Thrasher is expected to start work Nov. 10. The state Board of Governors must sign off on his contract first, but that should happen during its meeting Nov. 5 and 6.

Once that happens, Thrasher has promised to step down from the state Senate.

FSU Provost Garnett Stokes served as interim president but was unsuccesful in her bid for the permanent job. The Tallahassee Democrat reported last week that she agreed to stay on under Thrasher as his second-in-command and head of academic affairs. 

Thasher is expected to focus on fundraising and working with elected officials in obtaining more resources for FSU, leaving many of the day-to-day operations in Stokes' hands.

October 14, 2014

FSU trustees expected to approve Thrasher contract, $430K base salary on Monday

@tbtia

A draft version of the contract between state Sen. John Thrasher and Florida State University shows that they have negotiated a five-year term starting Nov. 10.

The FSU Board of Trustees plans to meet via conference call Monday to discuss and likely approve the proposed contract. Thrasher, who expects to be re-elected to the Senate on Nov. 4, said he would step down from his Senate seat as soon as the Board of Governors confirms him. That formality should occur when the group meets Nov. 5 and 6.

Thrasher will have a $430,000 base salary with an opportunity to earn more through bonuses and deferred compensation. State law limits the use of public dollars for university presidents’ salaries to $225,000, so the rest will come from the FSU Foundation and Seminole Boosters.

Continue reading "FSU trustees expected to approve Thrasher contract, $430K base salary on Monday" »

September 24, 2014

John Thrasher steps down from Rick Scott campaign

@tbtia

In his first official action since being named Florida State University's next president, state Sen. John Thrasher fulfilled a promise and stepped down as chairman of Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign.

Thrasher said he told Scott about his decision in person Tuesday night just hours after the FSU Board of Trustees voted to make him president.

“I talked to the governor last night and verbally submitted my resignation and told him it would be announced today," Thrasher told us today.

Although he is off the Scott campaign, Thrasher still is running a campaign of his own. Because the state Board of Governors like won't ratify his selection at FSU until Nov. 6, he has decided not to leave the Senate immediately. Because of that, residents in the heavily Republican district that includes all of St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler counties and part of Volusia will decide Thrasher's successor later this year or in early 2015.

If he had stepped down before the Nov. 4 general election, Republican Party leaders in those counties would have decided who the candidate would be.

"I don't think it's fair to voters in my district to have a replacement who would maybe have two or three weeks to try to campaign, my name still being on the ballot," Thrasher said.

Scott released a statement just now praising Thrasher.

"John Thrasher will make a great university president. He's a good friend, a wonderful leader, and a fierce advocate for FSU," Scott said.

September 19, 2014

John Thrasher's FSU foes point to political links with Koch brothers

@tbtia

One of the latest lines of attack against state Sen. John Thrasher becoming Florida State University's next president: Tying him to the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers.

But Thrasher's ties to the political activists — whose name at FSU is especially radioactive since a controversial gift several years ago — are not as clear as some are suggesting.

Thrasher has accepted campaign donations from the Kochs and attended events with other conservatives that were sponsored in part by Koch dollars. But Thrasher's conservative politics have conflicted with Charles and David Koch's libertarianism.

"I have been saying I've never met them, I've never talked to them and I wouldn't recognize them if they walked into the room," Thrasher told the Times/Herald Thursday.

Thrasher's campaign received a $1,000 check in February from Koch Industries, the Kansas-based company that made the brothers billionaires. He received another $1,000 from the company in 2012.

Thrasher raised nearly $847,000 in total during those two campaign cycles.

Read more here.

August 26, 2014

Ex-Lt. Gov. Carroll rips Scott, others in new book

In a new book, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll describes the misery of being in a “boys’ club” led by Gov. Rick Scott, who showed no interest in her ideas to reach out to black and Hispanic voters and whose staff members treated her shabbily.

Carroll, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, was the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Florida and held the largely ceremonial job for more than two years. She's now a political analyst for WJXT, Channel 4 in Jacksonville. Her 174-page book, "When You Get There," is published by Advantage, a South Carolina company.

She describes Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, as "even more ruthless" than his predecessor, Steve MacNamara, a control freak who choked off access to the governor and shut her out of important meetings. She describes being "ambushed" on March 12, 2013, the day Hollingsworth and general counsel Pete Antonacci forced her to resign because of her past public relations work for a veterans' group linked in an internet cafe fraud investigation.

Carroll was not accused of any wrongdoing. Her story hits bookstores on Wednesday -- her birthday. By coincidence, her grievances about Scott will spill into public view on the very day he will launch his general election campaign for a second term.

Working with Clarence McKee, a black political consultant, in the 2010 campaign, Carroll said she devised a plan to reach out to black voters with local newspapers, radio and phone calls and that despite the campaign’s objections, she attended a forum in Miami hosted by Bishop Victor Curry, a radio host and prominent voice in Miami’s black community. “The campaign didn’t want it, but I did it anyway,” she writes.

As a result, Carroll writes, Scott got 6 percent of the African-American vote, according to 2010 exit polls, and had she not directed a “minority stealth” campaign, “Scott would have lost the election.”

McKee, a Scott supporter, said in interview that Carroll’s account was true and that she pushed for more outreach to Jewish voters in Broward and Palm Beach in the final weeks of the 2010 race, in which Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink by fewer than 62,000 votes.

Carroll describes Scott as overly controlled by his own staff and lacking in a personal touch, who ignored her birthday and showed no concern after she fainted and struck her head on the floor at a hot Greek church. “Clearly, something was missing there, some ability to make personal connections that he just didn’t have,” Carroll said of Scott.

In a parting shot, here's what Carroll has to say about her successor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who was chosen after a 10-month absence: "The new lieutenant governor is being treated even worse than I was from what I hear. He only has a small staff and he doesn’t have security. They gave him a car to drive himself around in. They haven’t given him much to do."

June 20, 2014

FSU sets new presidential search timeline

@tbtia

The Florida State University presidential search committee, with the help of its newly hired consultant, set a timeline for evaluating candidates that could have a new leader named by the end of September.

The application deadline is Sept. 2. Sen. John Thrasher, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston and others who have already applied remain in the running, but the search firm will spend the next two months recruiting additional candidates.

The advisory committee will meet Sept. 5 to discuss all of the applicants and select finalists to bring to campus for interviews on Sept. 8 and 9. 

Some or all of those finalists will be invited back the following week to meet with various stakeholder groups -- students, faculty, staff and alumni -- Sept. 15 through 18. 

The committee will reconvene on Sept. 22 to decide which of the finalists they will recommend to the FSU Board of Trustees, which is ultimately tasked with picking the school’s next president. The state Board of Governors must also sign off on the selection.

Whether the search committee sends one name or more to the trustees will depend on the candidates, Chairman Ed Burr said.

“We are hoping to have more than one qualified candidate to recommend,” he said.

The timing of the search also may have political implications, since Thrasher, the St. Augustine Republican considered the front-runner for the FSU job, is also running for re-election.

Continue reading "FSU sets new presidential search timeline" »

June 03, 2014

FSU search committee cancels John Thrasher interview

From the News Service of Florida:

A committee looking for a new president for Florida State University will now cast a net that extends beyond powerful state Sen. John Thrasher, the head of the panel announced late Tuesday.

Ed Burr, chairman of the FSU Presidential Search Advisory Committee, said an outpouring of interest in the position led to the decision to delay the conversation with Thrasher, which was scheduled for June 11. The St. Augustine Republican and rabid FSU alumnus has been considered the front-runner for the position, particularly after the committee voted last month to "pause" its process and interview only Thrasher before moving forward.

At the time, members of the committee said Thrasher's desire for the position had kept other potential candidates from applying. But the move to limit the search upset students and faculty members, and a protest was planned for the day of the interview.

Since then, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and others have put their names forward as candidates for the presidency.

In a message to committee members, Burr wrote that "recent events have made me increasingly optimistic that a traditional search process now appears more feasible than anticipated at our last meeting."

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June 02, 2014

FSU presidency appears to be John Thrasher's to lose

@tbtia

For three months, he tried to deflect attention.

State Sen. John Thrasher wants to become Florida State University's next president, but he demurred, steering questions about the job to other topics while acknowledging the buzz his name generated.

The 70-year-old Republican from St. Augustine has no choice now. A popular former FSU president nominated him for the prestigious position and the school's search advisory committee agreed to halt its work and interview him right away.

All before he formally applied.

Given Thrasher's lack of academic credentials, critics say this connected politician is being handed an exclusive, inside track to the presidency.

"I have to sell it to some people; I realize that," Thrasher said in an interview with the Times/Herald. "I don't take it for granted. I don't take it lightly."

Read more here.

John Thrasher's deep ties to FSU

@tbtia

To understand state Sen. John Thrasher's deep bond with Florida State University, start in the 1960s.

The Jacksonville native enrolled in the business school, earning his bachelor's degree. After a stint with the Army in Vietnam, he returned for a law degree in 1972.

His involvement in politics as a leader of the Republican Party provided a platform for him to give back. During an eight-year tenure in the Florida House, including two as speaker, Thrasher earmarked millions in the state budget for updating campus facilities and programs. One of his final acts as the outgoing leader in 2000 was overcoming powerful opposition to create a medical school at FSU; it's building was later named the John Thrasher College of Medicine Building.

"That was one of his babies," said former state Sen. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat who served with Thrasher. "The medical school was one that they wanted real bad, and John was very significant."

When Thrasher returned to the private sector, he started a lucrative lobbying firm that allowed him time to give back to FSU in a new way: as the first chairman of the university's Board of Trustees. There he suffered one of few defeats as he tried to establish a school of chiropractic medicine.

Read more here.

May 31, 2014

Thrasher's new competition: Ricky Polston, yes Supreme Court Justice

Ricky PolstonFrom the Associated Press

The chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court is applying to become president of Florida State University.

Ricky Polston, who was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Charlie Crist, submitted his application for FSU's vacant post on Saturday.

Polston's move comes at a time when the frontrunner for the position is state Sen. John Thrasher. A search committee has already voted to interview Thrasher and then decide whether to offer him the job.

FSU has been without a permanent president since Eric Barron left to lead Penn State University.

Polston has two degrees from FSU. In a letter to the search committee he said he is applying for the job out of loyalty to the school and a desire to help the school continue to improve. More here.