CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The committee searching for a new UNC system president after current president Tom Ross was pushed out of the job hopes to name a replacement by the fall.
Tom Ross, a Democrat, is stepping down from his position leading North Carolina's 17 public universities after being forced out by the UNC Board of Governors at the beginning of this year.
The board has become majority Republican, but board leaders have denied that Ross's ouster is politically motivated. In a statement in January, the board said it had decided to begin the process of leadership transition and that Ross's resignation will be effective January 3, 2016.
During a meeting on Friday, the board member heading up the presidential search committee recommended hiring the Isaacson-Miller firm to help with the pursuit.
Search Committee Chairwoman Joan MacNeill said Isaacson-Miller has done more educational executive searches than any other firm in the nation.
The search committee's effort is under great public scrutiny after the epically awkward announcement that Ross would be replaced.
At that January event, Board of Governor's Chairman John Fennebresque - a member of the Republican majority - said Ross would step down, but never said why.
He went on to heap high praise on the work Ross has done as the UNC system president, as Ross revealed he wasn't ready to step down, but would bow to the will of the board's majority and do what was best for the university system.
On Friday, Fennebresque said he made it clear to the search firm representative about what they are looking for in the next president.
"Know a whole lot about North Carolina, the state, the system, the regions," he said.
Fennebresque also told ABC11 the search is likely to cost taxpayers at least $300,000.
He then bristled at being accused of wasting the money, when ABC11 asked if it was necessary.
"Out of a budget of 9.3 billion? Yes, it's a lot of money and it's the best money we'll ever spend, okay," he said.
The search committee is expecting the hunt for a new president to last until September.