U looks to fill four open positions on governing board

Brad Unangst

The state of Minnesota is currently accepting applications for four University Board of Regents seats that will open in 2003.

According to the University’s governing 1851 charter, the 12-member board, which is the governing body of the University, will be elected by the state Legislature.

Applications are due by Dec. 2, with the Regent Candidate Advisory Council – the 24-member body responsible for screening and recommending regent candidates to the state legislature – conducting public interviews of the finalists in late January 2003.

RCAC chairwoman Rondi Erickson said that besides the sheer number of applications received, which is generally more than 100, the biggest hurdle for the council will be getting an adequate number of qualified candidates by the deadline.

“We always bite our nails to the last minute because we never know if we’re going to have enough of the right quality until it’s all over,” Erickson said.

There are no formal rules for what to do if there are not enough adequate candidates, Erickson said.

“We work with the media to make sure we are broadcasting the message that we need good, strong candidates to apply, and are doing as much recruiting as is possible within the confines of being a volunteer council,” she added.

Candidates are expected to have prior experience serving on a governing board and an understanding of Minnesota’s higher education system, particularly the role the University plays as a public research and land-grant institution. Other criteria include: being a Minnesota resident, having a record of civic involvement, and not having a conflict of interest between the candidate and the University.

The RCAC will forward between two and four candidate names to the Legislature for each open position by March 15. The joint Senate-House education committee will screen candidates for recommendations to the full Legislature, which will meet to elect the new regents in spring 2003.

The last time a regent election was to be held, the Legislature was unable to vote on the candidates.

In 2001, five regent seats expired, including three at-large positions and the lone required student position.

The Legislature did not meet jointly before it adjourned in May 2001.

Under the University charter, if the Legislature is not able to vote, the governor can appoint the members. In July of that year, Gov. Jesse Ventura named Frank Berman, Jean Keffeler, Richard McNamara, Michael O’Keefe and Lakeesha Ransom to the board.

The new regents will officially begin at the first board meeting following their election.

One regent is elected from each of Minnesota’s eight congressional districts, with four others selected as at-large candidates.

Currently, seats in the first, fourth, sixth and seventh congressional districts are scheduled to be vacant. Regents serving in those positions are H. Bryan Neel III, David Metzen, Chairwoman Maureen Reed and Vice-chair Robert Bergland.

Bergland said he will not run for re-election because campus is so far from his home in Roseau, Minn.

Reed and Metzen said they both plan to run for their open seats. The recent statewide congressional redistricting left Metzen a block and a half out of his current district. He said he’s considering all options that might allow him to run, including buying a house in the fourth district.

“I’m hoping to be back. Now, how? I don’t know yet,” Metzen said.

This is the first year Erickson will deal with redistricting, and she said she is unsure how it will affect the quality of candidates.

RCAC officials said Neel will probably retire after serving two consecutive six-year terms. It is customary for regents to not run for a third term, they said.

Neel was not available for comment.

University regents serve six-year terms, with one-third of the seats open for appointment each odd-numbered year.


Brad Unangst welcomes comments at [email protected].