FSU hires new firm as it restarts presidential search

Florida State University hired a new search consultant Wednesday with hopes of moving past the acrimony and mistrust that has plagued its hunt for a new president.

Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates got the FSU job almost by default. Bill Funk submitted his resignation as search consultant Monday and the university’s second choice is now working for the University of Florida.

Search committee Chairman Ed Burr said the panel remains “committed to hiring the best president possible ... in the most open and thorough process” but did not specify a timeline.

Storbeck/Pimentel helped New College of Florida choose a president in 2012 but has relatively little experience in the state.

Applications from 17 people are in play, including Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston and state Sen. John Thrasher, a powerful FSU alum considered the front-runner.

The committee will meet with its new search consultant to review the job description and job listings in trade publications and websites. Faculty and students had complained that Funk posted the job with altered language compared to what the committee and FSU’s Board of Trustees approved.

“It’s a good step at the moment,” said Professor Eric Walker, a member of the committee and chairman of FSU’s English department. “We’ll just see how things go from this point.”

One issue a new search firm may not be able to solve is the long shadow that Thrasher’s application appears to be casting on the search. Before his resignation, Funk told the committee that qualified candidates were choosing not to apply because they believed the job is Thrasher’s to lose.

Faculty and students have advocated hiring a president with academic credentials that Thrasher does not possess. Tampa businessman and FSU alum Hoyt Prindle III took a day off from work Wednesday to drive to Tallahassee and speak during public comment.

“This wasn’t just the faculty and the students being upset about how things are going,” he said afterward. “The perception is that Sen. Thrasher has the appointment locked up.”

Prindle said most alumni prefer a president with academic experience but wouldn’t mind if the right politician got the job. He doesn’t believe Thrasher has a strong enough resume compared to former governors and federal agency heads hired to lead other top research universities.