The University of West Florida has selected Provost Martha Saunders to be the sixth president in the school’s history. Saunders beat out former Senate President Don Gaetz and two other candidates to take the top spot.
Don Gaetz was an early favorite to take over at the university, but after opposition from the faculty and students, the Board of Trustees chose the school’s provost, Martha Saunders instead. Trustee Gregg Britton spoke in favor of Saunders before the vote.
“Honestly, as a businessman, you’ve got a general that’s in charge already,” Britton said, “But I don’t think she’s had the opportunity to rise to the level that she can make key decisions.”
Saunders previously led universities in Wisconsin and Mississippi before becoming provost at UWF.
English professor Allen Josephs has taught at the school for nearly fifty years, and says he’s worked with every administrator in the school’s history.
“I’ve known all of them—scores and scores—many of them very distinguished educators, and some good friends,” he told the board members. “Of all of them without exception, our current provost has been the best, the most efficient and the most inspiring.”
Saunders received nine votes to Gaetz’s four. Many expected Gaetz to take the top spot after John Thrasher, another powerful republican lawmaker, became president at Florida State University.