Atwater’s FAU candidacy gets dominoes tiltingby John Kennedy | January 6th, 2014
With Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater named Monday to the list of 10 finalists for the presidency of Florida Atlantic University, talk swirled about who might be positioned to replace the Republican Cabinet member.
“Premature.” “Too early to speculate.” And “if” were the key words used by some of Atwater’s more prominent possible replacements, who include House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House budget chief Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, who has already talked openly about running for CFO in 2018.
“If it were to happen, I think everyone knows that I ran for CFO before and clearly have a passion for the job,” added Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who lost in 2006 to Democrat Alex Sink.
“But CFO is not really a place for a politician. You really want an effective manager there,” Lee said.
Lee has already been approached as a possible lieutenant governor candidate by Gov. Rick Scott. If Atwater were to be chosen for the FAU post, Scott would appoint his replacement — who presumably would immediately vault to frontrunner status in the November election.
FAU’s Board of Trustees will interview the finalists Jan. 17 and could make its selection then.
“A lot of things still have to happen,” Lee cautioned. “And certainly sitting down and talking with my family about this would be one of them.”
Weatherford and Gaetz both said it was too early to talk. But neither attempted to take themselves out of the conversation.
Gaetz said “there are a lot of links in the chain,” before getting around to a CFO vacancy. Ryan Duffy, a Weatherford spokesman, said the speaker hasn’t given thought to his next step beyond preparing for the spring legislative session.