"I am never going to be president of Missouri Southern State University," Nodler said.
Nodler, who is in a primary race with Springfield auctioneer Billy Long, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, and a host of lesser known candidates, said he had never sought the president's job nor any position with the university "and I will not do so in the future."
I will never be an applicant for a job with the university in the past and I will never be one in the future." Nodler said his statement covers any position with the university, not just the top job.
One of the criticisms that has been leveled at Nodler, both in comments on The Turner Report and on other southwest Missouri blogs is that Nodler pushed through legislation that would allow former legislators to be hired for positions in higher education even if they did not have master's degrees.
Not only was that legislation sponsored by another senator, Tim Green of Florissant, Nodler said, "but I voted against it."
The connection between Nodler and the MSSU president's position was first mentioned in my blog entry of Aug. 31, 2007 entitled "Rumors of Nodler as college president rock Missouri Southern," which included the following passage:
Word has spread across the Missouri Southern State University campus that the leading candidate for the vacant college president job is Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, former chairman of the Senate Education Committee and current Appropriations Committee chairman.
Nodler, of course, was the driving force behind the bill which resulted in MSSU receiving university status.
He also was the man who put Neosho attorney Dwight Douglas, the current president of the MSSU Board of Governors, on the board in 2003. Douglas is heading the search committee which will choose the successor to longtime President Julio Leon, who was forced to resign earlier this month.
Campus sources indicate that some quality candidates do not plan to submit their names because the word has spread that the fix is in. Of course, the same kind of stories circulated earlier this year about Kit Bond and Kenny Hulshof and the University of Missouri position and did not pan out.
Nodler received a bachelor of arts degree from Missouri Southern and was named the university's outstanding alumnus in 2003. During his tenure on the Senate Education Committee, he has been instrumental in landing a considerable amount of money for university projects.
While no one denies Nodler has delivered the goods for his alma mater, the concern is his lack of an academic background. Longtime Southwest Missouri political observers will also remember that Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt made a short pit stop as president at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar prior to being elected to the House, a position Blunt first won by defeating Nodler in the GOP primary.
While Nodler insists he has never been a candidate for the position, he told Alexandra Nicolas, a reporter for Missouri Southern's newspaper, The Chart, (and now a reporter for the Joplin Globe) in September 2007, that he had been approached by people asking him to seek the position after former President Julio Leon was forced out.
From The Chart article:
Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) told The Chart today that he is not a candidate for the position.
"No, there's no substance to that rumor," he said. "I was just appointed chairman of the (Senate) Appropriation Committee." Nodler also said he is "obviously in a position to benefit Southern," in other ways, though he was encouraged to apply by members of faculty and the community.
The talk of Nodler becoming university president has heated up again in recent weeks as many see current University President Bruce Speck nearing the end of the line.
(Photo: Gary Nodler, left, MSSU Board of Governors member Dwight Douglas, and former MSSU President Julio Leon)