Tommy Gregory Tapped to Become College President

TALLAHASSEE — Tommy Gregory, a lawyer and Air Force veteran who chairs the state House Judiciary Committee, was named Friday as the next president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, was chosen by the school’s Board of Trustees to succeed President Carol Probstfeld, who announced last year that she will retire July 1. The board also considered two other finalists after a months-long search.

“The college has great momentum to continue its successful path forward,” Probstfeld, who has served as president since 2013, said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with Tommy as I transition to retirement and to helping the college community prepare to welcome the new president.”

A news release from the college said the “next step” is to finalize a contract, with the goal for Gregory to begin the position on July 1.

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Gregory, who was first elected to the House in 2018, is the second lawmaker tapped to become a state-college president in the past year. South Florida State College trustees in June selected St. Cloud Republican Fred Hawkins to serve as the school’s president.

The finalists for the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota job took part in campus forums in late March, and Gregory touted his two decades in the Air Force. He said that included serving as an instructor and course director.

“I personally prepared 2,000 students for a variety of paths that they were going to accomplish in the military, including deployments,” Gregory said during a March 26 forum at the college’s Venice campus,

Gregory said a president of the college would have to be active in the surrounding community.

“I think the more that we advertise successes out there in the community, the more we attract students,” Gregory said.

Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood, was chosen Friday to become president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Colin Hackley/File

Gregory, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of Texas School of Law, said being a lawmaker “wasn’t in my career plan.”

“It’s similar, actually, to serving as the president of a college,” he said during the forum. “You’re serving the community. You’re meeting people and networking in the community to find out what the needs are.”

Gregory said being a lawmaker has given him extensive experience in fundraising and that his knowledge of the state budget process would help him succeed as a college president.

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The other finalists for the job were Martyn Clay, president of Hillsborough Community College’s Plant City campus, and Anthony Iacono, president of County College of Morris in New Jersey.

Gregory last year opened a campaign account to run again in November in Manatee County’s House District 72. No other candidates had filed paperwork to run for the seat as of Friday afternoon, according to the state Division of Elections website.

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