John Thrasher Can Help FSU Gain Ground on UF and Miami

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: May 24, 2014 3:55 AM
John Thrasher

John Thrasher

John Thrasher, a longtime champion of Florida State University, is about to become the next president of his alma mater.

To be sure, there has been controversy about the choice of Thrasher to lead FSU as the tenured bureaucrats are up in arms about it. Most of it has focused on process but there have also been questions about Thrasher’s background. Ignoring his juris doctorate from FSU -- and, yes, a J.D. is a professional doctorate -- the professors’ union is questioning Thrasher’s academic credentials and claiming his political influence is at work as he is the only candidate being considered.

But Thrasher has a long history of being in FSU’s corner. Long before he led the Florida House and became, to use Don Gaetz’s phrase, the conservative “lion of the Senate,” Thrasher graduated from FSU and eventually went to law school there. Thrasher led the FSU board of trustees and, during his years in the Legislature, proved a valued ally to the university. There’s a reason the FSU Medical School building is named after Thrasher.

Thrasher has tackled education during his long political career. He got his political start back in 1986 when he was elected to the Clay County School Board. Thrasher currently sits on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and he did put in time as the vice chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

The professors’ union might not like it, but politicians have proven successful leading colleges and universities in Florida. Despite her time in higher ed, Donna Shalala’s success at the University of Miami has relied more on her years in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet. After eight years as Jacksonville mayor, John Delaney has done well at the University of North Florida. Even at a lower level, politicians can help a college move in the right direction, like Joe Pickens leading St. Johns River State College. And, of course, Frank Brogan won applause at Florida Atlantic before moving on to become chancellor of the Florida universities and now chancellor for Pennyslvania’s state system for higher education.

While he led the Republican Party of Florida and is a leading conservative in the Senate, Thrasher is shrewd enough to play ball with the Democrats. There’s a reason Sandy D'Alemberte, a former FSU president and a prominent Democrat, backed Thrasher even as the senator chairs Rick Scott’s re-election effort. Thrasher’s connections with the Republicans who reign in the Legislature and who aren’t going to be dislodged anytime soon can only help FSU, even if Charlie Crist beats Scott in November. 

And FSU needs the help. Unlike other states on the East Coast, Florida’s schools have generally been late bloomers without the pedigree of schools in the Northeast or even states in the South like Virginia and the Carolinas. FSU is a distant third in the Florida pecking order. Cracking the U.S. News and World Report top 100 rankings in recent years (being ranked 91 in 2013), FSU is still well behind the University of Florida and the University of Miami. No matter what the football rankings show, FSU is far from No. 1 in Florida.

Catching Florida and Miami will be a challenge for FSU, but Thrasher -- who served as an Army captain in Vietnam -- has shown he can win uphill fights. Thrasher steered George W. Bush’s Florida campaign in 2004. Despite predictions of a repeat of the 2000 mess, Bush beat John Kerry by 5 percent. Inheriting the mess left by Jim Greer, Thrasher led the RPOF to big wins in 2010 in spite of an ugly primary between Scott and Bill McCollum and a nasty attorney general primary.

Though 70, Thrasher still has tons of energy as anyone who has seen him work the Senate and on the campaign trail can attest to. With his record, Thrasher can be relied on to shepherd funds to FSU and he is a proven backer of the university. Despite the faculty union’s protests, Thrasher has the background to lead FSU as it tries to make up ground on Florida and Miami.

Tallahassee-based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.


Comments (9)

Jim barker
5:34PM JUL 12TH 2014
Betty Castor became president of USF I believe with a teaching degree from "prestigious" state teachers college in N.J. do not believe she had an earned doctorate. OK for liberal dems
Why not?
5:26PM MAY 24TH 2014
Why not? When they term limit out and Lord Know John "Trasher" should have been gone years ago like so many others.

Maybe he got some mucho millions for them like Ray Sansom did his college. No matter what he done he like Allan Bense, Charlie Dean and so many othesr before them will never have anything to worry about forever. They now have an irrevocable license to steal. Who would have thought Ray Sansom would be running a charter school just 5-6 years ago? No one in the right mind! We all thought he would go to the federal pen where he belongs for like! But, he's the man!

The Rader Group
Ray Sansom
Vice President for Human Resources and Administration
Mr. Sansom has a B. S. Degree in Political Science from The Florida State University and a Master Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida.
He was Principal of the Learning Academy of Santa Rosa, a 6-12 Drop-Out Prevention School in Santa Rosa County Florida. He also served as a Dean of Students at the Okaloosa Academy a Drop-out Prevention school for middle and high school students in Okaloosa County Florida.
Mr. Sansom also served as the Director of Community Affairs and Executive Director of the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation for the Okaloosa School District from 2001-2008.
Mr. Sansom is a former Okaloosa County Commissioner, serving from 1992-2000. He served as Chairman for four years. In 2002, Mr. Sansom was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. In 2008, he became the 84th Florida Speaker of the House.

Now watch what these goons do to this Florida State Representative Charles Van Zant from Keystone Heights who has dared to tell the truth about Jeb Bush's Common Core agenda. The goons will come out of the woodwork and take this well meaning Christian apart at the seams.

That's what Aggressive Compassionate Conservatives like Jeb Bush do. They destroy their enemies! And FRANK who was it that pushed "the big lie?" If I recall correctly it was the man that Prescott Bush financed to built his Third Reich; none other than Adolph Hitler (the first!)
Phil Leary
3:16PM MAY 24TH 2014
Without question, John Thrasher would be an outstanding choice for President of FSU! He is a born leader, brilliant strategist, highly intellectual and has an unparalleled passion for his alma mater.
And yes, just look at what John Delaney and Joe Pickens have done at their respective colleges.
The professors union has not a clue of what Sen. Thrasher is capable of and will do. They need to get off their arrogant academic high horse and get behind Sen. Thrasher's appointment!!
Michael Stuart
12:02PM MAY 24TH 2014
The lead political writer for sunshine state news writes this. Says it all right there. Turn yet another Florida university presidential search into a political campaign conducted by and for fellow politicians. Ask yourself this, why are the few president jobs in the system so often taken by politicians?
C Breeze
10:16AM MAY 24TH 2014
"John Thrasher"; The absolute "Right Choice" for President of FSU, at the "Right Time" in Florida's history. We know he cares about Florida, and we are certain that he cares about FSU; his 'history', in BOTH arenas, already shows that. GO JOHN THRASHER !
9:13AM MAY 24TH 2014
Michael clearly doesn't know john thrasher. I am struck by the fact that somehow because Michael mAy not see the world exactly as thrasher or others do that he envisions those opposing views being forced on those at fsu. It's funny that conservatives are far more accepting of liberals in the actual classroom teaching. I'm guessing moderates and conservatives looked past the meaningless question of dr Barron's political views when selecting him. Perhaps Michael will rethink his position and at least try to give john thrasher a shot. If he turns fsu into a public version of liberty university - or even tries - i will join with Michael and the rest of the university to fire him. But please, before you jump to the conclusion that thrasher is a right wing but job, give the guy a chance. I've been wrong in the past, but surely so has Michael and those who see this issue today the way he's articulates in his response to this editorial. Go Noles!
8:46AM MAY 24TH 2014
Ah yes. A young earth creationist rabidly right wing polititician will do wonders for FSU. He probably will ask the Koch Brothers if they would be interested in naming rights for the University with CATO then setting the curicullum and selecting the faculty. A public version of Liberty University.
9:12AM MAY 24TH 2014
Oh, of course, how could we forget that only psycho liberals are supposed to be involved with universities.
9:11AM MAY 24TH 2014
Oh, of course, how could we forget that only psycho liberals are supposed to be involved with universities.

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