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St. Petersburg CEO to step down

Bill Heller has had an impressive tenure as campus executive officer for USF’s St. Petersburg campus.

Since taking over the campus’s top position in 1992, Heller has led an institution that has grown to an enrollment of more than 4,000 students and will soon begin construction on its first residence halls.

In addition, Heller has created new programs and the campus’s master plan for future growth.

After meeting twice with Heller, USF President Judy Genshaft announced last week that he will step down as CEO, effective in August.

Heller said he will be leaving his post a bit earlier than he expected, but, in contrast to earlier reports, he said he made the decision without the help of Genshaft or other outside forces.

“Timing is important in these things. While one always feels he or she should stay right until the end, there is a time to look at the whole thing,” Heller said. “The decision is sooner than I wanted, probably, but one I made on my own, not without the conversation with the president, but one I made.”

Heller said if he had not chosen to step down now, he would have remained at the job long enough to see the new dorms built. He said his decision will promote unity in the future administration.

“The campus is going to have to fill a lot of positions coming up in the future and one of the things in discussing that with the president and all is who should be the one that does that,” Heller said. “Should those positions be filled by someone like me who is planning to step down in a year or so or should they be filled by someone who is ready to come in?”

In addition to professional concerns, Heller said his decision was based also on personal issues.

“I am, as my age will show, 66, and I’ve been in this position for 10 years. I’ve worked really hard. I’ve accomplished a great deal,” he said. “My wife retired as of Friday from an elementary school. She’s had 30 years of that. So we’d like to spend some time together.”

Darryl Paulson, a professor on the St. Petersburg campus, said the campus will miss Keller’s presence.

“He’s lasted longer than any other campus dean in the history of this campus,” Paulson said. “During that time, he’s done more than any other dean.”

In addition to adding new programs and new students, Paulson said Heller earned the campus friends and supporters in the community.

As for the timing of Heller’s departure, Paulson said he could not comment.

“I think it’s something that took people by surprise at St. Pete,” he said.

Paulson said he, like the others, was surprised by Heller’s decision. He said he has not had a chance to talk to Heller since the announcement.

“People that knew Bill well knew that he was getting to the point that he didn’t have a lot of years left in terms of serving. But this kind of came out of the blue. Something was in the works.”

Michael Reich, director for media relations at USF, said he did not know who initiated the meetings between Genshaft and Heller. He said, however, that Genshaft did not force Heller into a decision.

“They jointly agreed on the timing of it,” Reich said. “He’s put in 10 years at the university. He’s done a wonderful job at St. Petersburg.”

Heller said he will remain at the university, returning to the faculty. He said he is happy with the decision that was reached.

“It was tough to make, but I’m feeling better about it every moment. It’ll be good for the campus and the university,” Heller said. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m just changing jobs.”

Genshaft announced that upon Heller’s exit, she will appoint an interim CEO. A national search will then begin for Heller’s successor.

As Heller prepares to leave his job, he said he is proud of what has been accomplished during his tenure. He said he has enjoyed a supportive staff and a supportive community.

“No one would not agree that the campus is a lot better than it was. It’s become a good place to work,” Heller said. “The spirit of the place, that, I think I’ve been a part in creating, (students and staff) have enjoyed very much.”