Here's a bit of a shocker:
Lu Hardin, the former state senator, state official and, most recently, controversial president of the University of Central Arkansas, has a new job.
According to the college website, he's been named the new president of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla.
My tipster says the school is well aware they'll face some tough questions on the hire but were impressed by Hardin (as most are). Indeed, UCA Trustee Rush Harding said he fully discussed the issues in the course of highly recommending Hardin and the school said it had fully researched Harding, but found him to be a "man of faith" who'd accomplished much at UCA. Arkansas Business has this report.
The website describes the school as a "Christian university" with a diverse student body. It requires students to meet a public service requirement.
More to come, but there's the scoop.
Hardin, by the way, won't miss a day of pay. The payout of his UCA severance agreement included pay through today, June 30. He got some $550,000 in a lump sum payout, plus continuation of more than $200,000 in state pay while he took leave at UCA through the end of the recent fiscal year. It was agreed-on leavetaking arranged after controversy arose over bonuses paid him to stay at UCA. Reporting since, primarily by the Democrat-Gazette, has uncovered a number of questions about Hardin's management.
I'm told the Florida school has about 3,200 students but has some undeveloped land and a yen to grow. It has satellite campuses in Orlando and Wellington. Hardin's religion and marketing background make him a good fit for a Christian mission with growth aims.
From the college news release:
“Lu is a person of great character and ability as well as a man of great faith. Throughout his career, he has been a strong advocate of Christ-centered higher education,” said R. Marshall Jones, Palm Beach Atlantic trustee and chairman of the presidential search committee. “Lu Hardin has vision and leadership to take PBA to the next level of excellence and make it a top-tier Christian university.”
The website quotes endorsements from former Gov. Mike Huckabee, business executive Sheffield Nelson and Mark Dance, pastor of the Second Baptist Chuch in Conway.