TALLAHASSEE -- The pay's good, and the title of the job sounds nice enough -- chancellor of the state university system.
But Florida's next leader in higher education will inherit a job that requires a soft touch, keen political savvy and the dexterity to manage many bosses.
The 17-member Board of Governors hires and fires the chancellor and sets the agenda. The governor and Legislature make the rules and control the purse strings. Then, there are 12 universities, each with different sets of leaders and ambitions.
Chancellor Frank Brogan announced last week that he's leaving the post Sept. 30 to take a similar position in Pennsylvania.
Who fills his shoes could help cement the job as an important cog in the management of Florida's higher education system, or continue a power shift from Tallahassee toward individual universities.
"It's not like it used to be because the board delegated most of the power, almost all of the power, to the individual campuses," said Charles Reed, who served as chancellor from 1985 to 1998 when the state had a more powerful Board of Regents. "And there needs to be some compromise, some happy medium, between giving away all
of the authority and having it all centralized."
Reed says now more than ever the chancellor must keep the state's interests in mind.
When Brogan took the job in 2009, the Board of Governors was in a protracted power struggle with the Legislature. He helped iron out a compromise and focused on improving coordination with the schools.
In an interview with the Times/Herald, he said the next chancellor will need to pick up where he left off. For example, the state needs to implement a new initiative that ties university funding to performance. But he also leaves behind a track record worth studying.
Brogan left his job as president of Florida Atlantic University to become chancellor, but his resume also includes a series of elected offices, including lieutenant governor and education commissioner.
Some say he brought a politician's approach to the job, avoiding confrontation and conflict to a fault. Brogan said politics is part of any job, but that is not why he chose to stay above the fray.
"You can always catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar; that's not a political style, that's a life experience and a philosophical bent that I take," he said.