Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff talks about his future plans in the state, from his office at the Capitol in Salt Lake City June 29, 2011. He has since applied to be president of the University of Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — The search for a new president for the University of Utah took a new twist on Monday when it was confirmed that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff threw his hat into the ring for consideration.

Utah attorney general spokesman Paul Murphy confirmed that Shurtleff has submitted an application to the University of Utah Presidential Search Committee, which is managed by the Utah System of Higher Education.

Shurtleff is the first applicant to publicly confirm his desire to be the next U. president.

Since September, the search committee has been holding a series of public hearings to determine the qualities they should be looking for in a president. The search committee is comprised of members from the Utah Board of Regents, U. Board of Trustees, U. faculty and staff, as well as community representatives.

Currently the Utah Board of Regents has hired a professional consultancy firm that has been tasked with searching for qualified candidates. The committee is currently screening applications and is expected to begin calling candidates in for interviews.

However, higher education officials are not commenting. Utah System of Higher Education spokeswoman Holly Braithwaite said their policy is to keep the list of initial applicants confidential, including the numbers of applicants. Such a move is typical among universities, which want to protect applicants — many of whom may be current presidents at other institutions in-state, and out of state.

"He doesn't plan on talking about it," Murphy said, adding that Shurtleff wants to respect the confidentiality of the process.

It is expected that the search committee will produce a list of about a dozen finalists this coming spring. Those finalists will be made public before being subjected to public meetings by faculty and interviews by the full Board of Regents.

Last June, Shurtleff spoke to KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright about his future aspirations after beating cancer. Then, Shurtleff indicated he might run for Congress or perhaps another term as attorney general. He also indicated that he might take a break from politics.

"I'm just trying to decide what's next," Shurtleff said in June. He made it clear that whatever he did, he would not run against Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, or Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

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Shurtleff has a bachelor's degree from BYU and a law degree from the University of Utah. In addition to his tenure as attorney general, Shurtleff served as a Navy judge advocate general, as well as in private legal practice.

The U. is searching to replace Michael Young, who stepped down last May to be president of the University of Washington after serving seven years in Utah. Since then, the U. has been inducted into the Pac-12.

After a series of public hearings, many citizens and faculty noted they want a president with strong academic qualities who will be able to be firm with Utah lawmakers, seek to diversify faculty and students, and make connections with key private donors.