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Sandy D'Alemberte Knows: John Thrasher Is an Excellent Choice for FSU

May 27, 2014 - 6:00pm

Sandy DAlemberte is right. John Thrasher is well-qualified to become Florida State Universitys next president.

Despite what faculty and students may believe, institutions of higher learning dont need academicians leading them, they need chief fundraisers because the lifeblood of any college or university is money.

Whether that money comes from private donors or government coffers doesnt really matter in the long run, because without money top-notch professors, outstanding researchers and quality students will not come.

But if weve learned anything its that politicians do make excellent university presidents and both Sandy DAlemberte and T.K. Wetherell are shining examples of individuals who were a bridge to strong leadership and prolific fundraising. Admittedly, both Sandy and T.K. were also educators, the former as the dean of the FSU Law School and the latter as president of Tallahassee Community College. But, if youve forgotten how much they were criticized for not being academicians, you cant have forgotten about their significant accomplishments on behalf of FSU.

Why do politicians do so well as university presidents? For one, they know very well the time and dedication to fundraising it takes to be successful. In both professions it is the predominant function that they must undertake. Further, they understand insightfully that you have to be someone who can schmooze with other people with the ability to walk into a room and find a friend in every corner, and successful politicians have that innate ability.

They also have to have the ability to influence the legislative and executive branches of government, because as a public institution it depends greatly on the influx of dollars from the state budget. No one understands better the legislative process than a former speaker who, while in command, pulled the levers to make anything and everything happen.

Inasmuch as there is no chance that the GOP will lose control of either chamber -- in fact my bet is that they will only increase their numbers -- whom better than a staunch Repub who has the respect of his peers and knows how the appropriation of dollars works in Tally? From some recent stories in the press, it seems that President Barons one dislike was the legislative bargaining that goes on, and thats understandable, given that sausage-making is not a prerequisite for being a good academician.

Everyone knows what Presidents DAlemberte and Wetherell did for FSU during their tenure and Sen. Thrasher has every opportunity to follow successfully in their footsteps. The fact that he has raised tens of millions of dollars both for his own races and that of his colleagues; that he secured millions of dollars for FSUs medical school; that his colleagues in both chambers will listen respectfully when he comes to see them on behalf of FSU during session -- all are reasons why Sandy was right in recommending Thrasher for the job.

FSU deserves the best candidate. Someone from academia and another state will have a long and arduous training period and at a time when FSU has been designated for pre-eminence, along with the University of Florida -- this is not the time to train a new president in the ways of Florida. Its time to seize the moment and advance the cause of the university with the one person best-suited for this time in its history.

John Thrasher will be an outstanding university president. We would be short-sighted to look further than our own backyard. Academics will still reign supreme with an excellent provost and the skilled department chairs. But its not necessary to have an academic as a university president. This politician, nominated by a former FSU president, who is on the other ideological side, by the way, is a testament to his ability to see through the clutter and make an informed recommendation.

Great leaders know who the other leaders are and I readily agree with the president that John Thrasher is a superb choice who will help bring FSU to the next level.

Barney Bishop III, one of the most familiar faces within the state business community, is CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting LLC in Tallahassee, and president and CEO of The Florida Smart Justice Alliance.

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