No FSU prez candidate gets “special process,” says new search consultant

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Neither a powerful state politician — like Republican Sen. John Thrasher – nor  any other person who wants the job derail the search for Florida State University’s new president, according to the new consultant leading the search.

During an informal afternoon session with students and faculty on Tuesday, Alberto Pimentel, partner of the executive search consultant firm of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, said he would not make the same mistakes as the prior consultant, especially interviewing only Thrasher, a former Republican Party of Florida chair.

“There will be one process and one process only,” Pimentel told the group. “We’re not going to create a special process for some candidates and not for others. I think that you get in trouble when you do that.”

Pimentel believes additional attention should never reduce the chances of finding qualified candidates, regardless of academic or professional background, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

Pimentel’s job is to avoid the problems of the previous search, which “damaged the national reputation of FSU,” says Florida Board of Governors member Dean Colson.

After his firm has conducted nearly 2,000 university job searches nationwide, Pimentel said that every high-level recruitment process will have a “favorite son,” and no search will be without “hiccups.”

“In reality, what happened nationally is people are looking at this and saying, ‘We get the message, they’re looking now for an academic,'” Pimentel explained. “That doesn’t preclude others from applying. But it sends a message to those in academics that they’re welcome to apply.”

FSU students and faculty continue calling for candidates with strong academic resumes, as opposed to the politically powerful. The informal sessions were to put together a new job posting, focusing on the search for an individual who will not only guide fundraising efforts, but also to move the school toward the valuable top-25 national ranking for research and academics.

FSU brought in Pimentel after Bill Funk resigned on June 9, when he received a no confidence vote from the Faculty Senate.

Turner writes that Funk recommended the committee pause the search to interview former House speaker Thrasher, who currently chairs Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. Funk felt Thrasher’s interest in the job and the state’s Sunshine Law where the reason other potential candidates shied away from seeking the position.

After Thrasher’s application, other political names added their names for consideration, such as Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and Chief Justice Ricky Polston of the Florida Supreme Court. The new applicants lead the committee to postpone the interview with Thrasher, and resume the process.

Students are also pushing for diversity in the process, with more minority candidates having an educational background.

Last Friday, the search team announced a new timeline, where potential candidates have a Sept. 2 deadline to apply for the job by. Three days later, the committee would narrow the pool of candidates, and begin holding interviews the following week.

Finalists would then return for additional interviews doing the week of Sept. 15, and the committee should issue a final recommendation by Sept. 22.

Turner notes that before Pimentel was involved, there was no timeline.

Pimentel hopes to have “two to four candidates” visit FSU before making a final endorsement. The University’s Board of Trustees then presents the selection to the Florida Board of Governors.

FSU has not had a president since April, when Eric Barron left for a similar position at Penn State University.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.