In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: For FAU prez, a hack makes the cut

FAU’s finalists, most of them, offer academic resumes that knock your socks off.

Among the 10 candidates who made the final cut in Florida Atlantic University’s search for a new president, we’ve got university provosts, we’ve got vice presidents, we’ve got deans of business schools and a dean of a law school. The finalists even include a former FAU vice president for research, working lately as a distinguished biological and environmental research professor out in Texas.

And then there’s George LeMieux, political hack.

A typical line from the CVs submitted to FAU trustees described a candidate ranked second in the world “for research on university entrepreneurship and Number 760 in the world among academic economists,” along with authorship of seven books and 101 articles.

That was not from George LeMieux’s resume.

Don’t confuse LeMieux with the candidate who authored "10 books and numerous articles and book chapters" on cultural interactions.

An outsider, perhaps someone from a state that prefers to fill academic leadership vacancies with actual academics, might be surprised to find someone like LeMieux among the final 10 of 61 applicants.

Except Florida universities have a sad tradition of providing superannuated politicians cushy employment, even their top jobs. I’m guessing having “Speaker of the House of Representatives” on his resume might have helped T.K. Wetherell snag a job as president of Florida State University. Betty Castor landed the presidency at the University of South Florida after a stint as state education commissioner. Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney parlayed his political juice into the presidency at the University of North Florida.

Former Lt. Governor Frank Brogan had that nice six-year stint as president at FAU, but at least the former education commissioner and school superintendent had educational credentials on his resume.

Not that LeMieux is the only pol on the list. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater also made the final 10 announced Monday. George, however, has distinguished himself from other elected officials looking for a sop college job as a politician who never actually won an election. He lost a state House election in 1998 and dropped out of the U.S. Senate primary in 2012.

Of course, George still introduces himself as Sen. LeMieux, referencing the appointment he wormed his way into back in 2009, after U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez resigned. Gov. Charlie Crist had planned to appoint John Delaney to take Martinez’s place, but Delaney was sabotaged by a nasty, “anonymous” website put up by LeMieux’s surrogates. George, Crist’s chief of staff, got the job instead.

His 16 months in the U.S. Senate didn’t amount to much, but that didn’t stop him from establishing the “Senator George LeMieux Center for Public Policy” at a bible college in West Palm Beach, his tenuous tie to academia.

Lately, George has been doing what most washed-up Florida politicians do — working as a lobbyist.

But surely, after such a distinguished career, he deserves that $345,000 job in Boca. Why should FAU want some dean or provost or distinguish professor when the university could land an old fashioned Florida hack?

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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