Manatee School Board member eyes job in Gainesville

Scott Hopes and Joe Stokes discuss priorities before general election

Incumbent Scott Hopes and candidate Joe Stokes discuss their top priorities for the new school year. The candidates are competing for a District 4 seat on the School Board of Manatee County.
Up Next
Incumbent Scott Hopes and candidate Joe Stokes discuss their top priorities for the new school year. The candidates are competing for a District 4 seat on the School Board of Manatee County.

School board member Scott Hopes is among nearly 60 candidates to become the new president at Santa Fe College, a public institution in Gainesville.

Its current president, Jackson Sasser, will officially retire in February 2020 after nearly two decades of service. Hopes said a University of South Florida professor nominated him for the position, and that two members of the search firm, Fred Moore and Jennifer Ferrera, invited him to apply.

Former Gov. Rick Scott appointed Hopes to fill a vacancy on the school board in July 2017, and he was elected for the first time last November, leading his opponent by 3 percentage points and securing a four-year term. He applied for the presidency at USF about two months later, though he was not among the finalists.

Hopes, whose term ends in November 2022, said he planned to retire in Manatee County, but he remained open to other leadership positions in public education. If Hopes were to leave for Gainesville, Gov. Ron DeSantis would have to fill the vacancy on Manatee’s school board.

“I feel there is an exceptional need for professionals with my background and experience to be more engaged in education,” Hopes said on Friday.

Hopes outlined his enthusiasm and credentials in an eight-page application, touting his experience in education, business and politics. He also praised Santa Fe College for its forward-thinking culture and its use of the “shared governance” model.

“It is for that reason, I am so very interested in the opportunity to serve as your next President and Chief Executive,” he wrote. “With a culture of shared governance, few if any problems are too large, nor goals too high, nor crises too catastrophic, because the organization is in it together, at all levels and has a culture and climate to bring the institution back into alignment should there be disruption.”

“Too often in academic institutions there are silos of interested parties,” Hopes continued. “With shared governance in place and operating, there is a plumbing system and a neural network to connect and communicate between those inherent silos and vested interests, for shared decision making and more.”

The next president will have a chance to shape Santa Fe College’s new, five-year strategic plan. The college also expects its next leader to raise money and construct a new campus in downtown Gainesville.

“As noted elsewhere in this search profile, there are significant racial and socio-economic issues that must be addressed in East Gainesville,” the college reported. “The Downtown Campus will be a key component in meeting those needs.”

Exasperated by an apparent lack of state funding , the college required its next president to have a “strong presence in Tallahasee and close connections with the governor and local delegation,” according to its search profile.

In the application, Hopes said he was no stranger to competing for limited funds, pointing to several decades of experience as a registered lobbyist. He also provided five references, including Florida’s previous governor, and Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota.

Hopes listed his experience as a science teacher, hospital administrator and researcher in the 1980s. He noted the birth of a lobbying career in the 1990s, and the start of CliniLinc, a health and technology company, in the early 2000s.

He also worked with former Gov. Jeb Bush as a leader in the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, and more recently with the Republican Party of Florida, as a member of its executive committee.

According to his resume, Hopes earned three degrees from USF, where he now works as an adjunct instructor. He also served on its Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2017.

Santa Fe College plans to interview semifinalists in August, and to choose its fifth president by October.

“Santa Fe is being transitioned at an incredible time in its history and I would like the opportunity to invest my remaining professional career, experience, education and skill into the continued trajectory to be the college that all others aspire to be,” Hopes said in his application.