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USF leader makes debut in the capital

Judy Genshaft spends a day meeting lawmakers with the most control over state education spending.

By SHELBY OPPEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- The new president of the University of South Florida gets more done in one morning than most people accomplish all day.

But on her first visit to the state Legislature, Judy Genshaft may have set a personal best.

Breakfast at 7 a.m. with lawmakers and alumni. An introduction on the Senate floor. Lunch with the Women's Caucus. Countless handshakes for every legislator within reach.

"The partnership is critical," Genshaft said Tuesday. "(Lawmakers) need to know they can rely on me and I on them."

Genshaft, who was appointed March 10, won't officially take over at USF until July 1. By then, the annual legislative session will be over, so Genshaft started Tuesday to make the contacts she hopes will benefit her new school.

USF lobbyist Kathy Betancourt made sure Genshaft met lawmakers with the most control over state education spending, including Rep. Stephen Wise, the House Education Appropriations chairman from Jacksonville.

Apparently, Genshaft's resume preceded her. Genshaft, 52, has been the provost at the University at Albany, State University of New York, since 1997. She is also a psychologist, a respected scholar, the mother of two small boys and a radio show host.

"Steve Wise said he thought she was Dr. Laura," quipped Rep. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, referring to radio personality Laura Schlessinger.

In meetings with Republican Reps. J.D. Alexander of Frostproof and Heather Fiorentino of New Port Richey, Genshaft urged them to fight a proposed budget cut that would mean $6-million less for USF next fall. "This one makes my heart pound," Genshaft told Fiorentino, a USF graduate.

Genshaft also met with Rep. Tom Feeney, an Oviedo Republican expected to become the next House speaker. Genshaft assured Feeney that USF will be a strong partner in building a high-tech corridor across Central Floria.

After meeting with Gov. Jeb Bush this morning, Genshaft plans to fly back to Albany before noon.

Genshaft wasn't ready to compare the Florida Legislature with its New York counterpart. Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, who once worked for the New York state Senate, gave her a tip. In Florida, Brown-Waite said, "there are more lobbyists."

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